Before bedtime last night, my daughter Amelia was doing her usual interpretive dance routine and entertaining us with her best jazz hands followed by the deepest of bows and an enchanting flourish of her hand from brow to floor to signal its choreographic end.
Her avant-garde performance, matched only in its breathtaking awkwardness by Marty, the Dude’s ‘artistic’ landlord in The Big Lebowski, was accompanied by music she had chosen herself. Born Ruffians, if you’re asking.
It’s music she couldn’t really hear as she doesn’t wear her aids at night after her bath. However, like many things in her life, Amelia digs the need for tunes to complete the picture, the context for a show. People dance to music, and so does she, whether she can fully appreciate it or not.
It certainly doesn’t affect her enjoyment of dancing and she knows music, rejoices in it when aided, so her imagination and failsafe memory lend her the rhythms (well, motions) where her hearing cannot.
After about five encores, met with raucous laughter and hearty applause from the couch seats in-the-round, our exhausted tiny dancer opted for a story break to catch her breath.
Amelia picked up her big, interactive book, Peppa Pig on Pirate Island, with its picture buttons to be pressed for character sounds and music that children can play as the story unfolds. You know, Peppa giggles on cue, there’s a jaunty pirate theme and on it goes.
Then something happened that we did not expect, that we had not seen or heard before. After a few seconds of pressing the sound buttons, our girl spoke and signed, “Need hearing aids. Can’t hear it.” She was not annoyed, it was simply a matter of practicality.
We just sat in stunned, wowed silence for a second, because this was the very first time Amelia has ever asked for her aids and explained why. That she needs them to hear.
She knows what they are and doesn’t like to be parted from them but I’ve been waiting to see when she would become aware of just what her aids are for. What they mean beyond mere objects we put in her ears every morning.
Last night was the night for a revelation of that anticipated cognisance of necessity.
Her Dad rushed off to get them as I sat, spellbound by my daughter’s sudden self-realisation – this emerging understanding of being without hearing. Of the connection between her aids and sound. Of being deaf.
As an audience, we could not have been more gripped by the scene playing out before us. She’d trumped herself in the post-dance segment of the evening’s activities.
Amelia nodded approvingly as the aids were finally inserted and switched on. Then she sat down again and pushed another Peppa-related button. Her voice was clear and true as she announced, “Now, hearing!” Yes, my beautiful girl. Now hearing.
What a moment this was for us and for her. I wonder all the time about when Amelia will begin to understand that she is deaf and what this means to her life and her identity.
There are many more layers of this process to come for her and I have a feeling none will be as matter of fact as this one.
So last night represented an important first – the first time Amelia seemed to know that her ears do not operate the way ours do and that she would need something extra to let the world of sound in.
She’s so used to enjoying books, movies, music without the aural reach provided by her aids but this time, it wasn’t enough.
Amelia may have chosen to dance as usual to music mostly lost on her ears but she’d have her Peppa Pig pirate tale with the sound, thanks very much.