More Than Words
(Page 3 of 4)
One day while we were visiting a plant nursery a grayhaired lady spoke to Adrea about the violets. “They’re African violets. See those fuzzy leaves? You can’t get those wet. So you have to be very careful when you water them. They like to be warm, but not right in the sun.”
It took me a moment to realize this woman was talking to Adrea, who was fingering the African violet leaves. Did she know the lady was speaking to her? I came closer. Adrea’s face was down close to the plant. Touching a hairy leaf to her cheek, she was smiling. She startled when I got in front of her, and signed to me, “Aren’t these so sweet?”
I answered her, “This woman is telling you about them.” I heard the surprised ooh of the flower lady. “They like warmth, but not direct sunlight. You can’t get the leaves wet at all.” Adrea responded immediately to the frailty of the plant, taking her hands off and then gently petting the pot. “Want to get some?” I asked. She nodded furiously. So this would be her flower, her fox, her little prince.
At home she looked up the plant in our botanical book. African violet. Nothing appealed more to Adrea than the perfection of that beautiful name for these warm, caterpillar-like plants. She drew a picture in her thick sketch pad. African violets with pink and purple flowers, jade green leaves with gray fuzz on them. The picture is propped against the window in the living room, the three plants lined up on the sill in front of it. Adrea uses my mother’s old creamer with cracked blue and white enamel, fills it with water, and lifts the tender warm leaves, tipping water beneath them.
At the Hearing Center, the kids work in pairs or do individual writing projects at small tables. When the teacher wants their attention, she stomps her foot on the floor. Twelve heads turn up. To end playtime we flick the lights. Sometimes the hearing teachers smile at each other because of thunder cracking, or fire truck sirens, or cursing from the street that occurs unbeknownst to the children.
At the Bronx Zoo, they were drawn like magnets to the incessant roaring of the lion. Twelve deaf children, turning their heads looking for something, they did not know what. They were lured away from the soundless seals by the reverberation of a roar. The roar of a lion that is nowhere to be seen, a roar of such magnitude is to be felt.
Adrea tells me, “I know when a dog is barking at me. It sounds like this”; she throws her hands up in my face, flings all ten fingers before my eyes. She can put her hands on the big speakers at home and dance to the rhythm. In my office, she’ll touch the radio to see if it’s on. At home, we’ve connected lights that flash when our doorbell rings. On the telephones there are light bulbs that announce a call. I try to imagine when Adrea is older, her being home alone, seeing those lights blink.