Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A note to the boy who came to the book signing

Dear precious boy,
You came to the book signing in Glen Ellyn this weekend and I didn't get your name. You were accompanied by a woman who served as our interpreter. You were signing and I was lip reading. We are both deaf.

I showed you my hearing aid and tried to explain that I am like you. You smiled at me and nodded your head. You handed me your book to sign and watched me write my name. Then we had a short conversation.

I looked you in the eye and explained slowly and clearly, "when I look at the pictures, I can hear the sounds in my mind." Your interpreter quickly signed these words. You paused for a minute and then with a big smile said, "me, too."

What I want you to know is that nothing will mean more to me than your smile. No matter what happens with the book as the world reviews its contents, your critique means the most.

This book is for you and your journey that lies ahead. Always remember, that what makes us different, is what makes us special in this world. And you are one special person.

Your friend,

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My big sister

I have always idolized my big sister.

From the time we were small children, I have always done whatever my big sister told me to do. When she went through her "horse" stage, I was her horse. She would make me go under our little play table and she would feed me oats with sugar on them. I would eat them like a horse, complete with neighing, etc.

When we were in my grandfather's vegetable garden, she told me to take a bite of a hot pepper. She told me "you will like this". I should have noticed she had a naughty smile on her face. She enjoyed terrifying me with her "un-nun-nuh" monster chant. We had a special sister hand routine that we did before we went out to see what Santa had brought to us on Christmas morning.

Dad would give us each a bag of M&M's as a treat. I would gobble mine up, she would suck on hers one at a time. Her bag would still be full and mine would be empty. One at a time, she would take out a candy, stick it in her mouth and suck on it, which drove me nuts. She always ended up sharing what was left of her bag, if I howled enough.

I'm sure we had our fights, but it wasn't often. Mostly, it was the younger sister (me) studying the older sister (Deb). I would sit on her bed and watch her apply her makeup. Straightening her curly hair was amazing. She would tape her bangs down at night with this pink stretchy stuff. Then she had to go straight to sleep because her eyes were taped shut. She could wear neon yellow vinyl pants and a pink velour mini dress like a runway model. God, she was gorgeous.

Everything she did was exceptional in my eyes. She had the lead in the school plays, she always had a boyfriend and a knack for making great friends. Deb was so smart. National Merit Scholar, Magna Cum grades were mediocre. But, I didn't care. She was Deb and I was Marty. It was never competitive, it was just sheer adoration.

The years passed and come to think of it, she paved the way for me in so many ways. She taught me how to live in downtown Chicago. She taught me the art of getting a bargain and how to decorate my apartment. She counseled me on the many, many jerks I dated through the years and helped me with just as many heartbreaks.

When I moved to Manhattan, she taught me about ABC carpet, Zabars and where to get a great bagel. She gave me her flash map and her little coin holder for subway tokens. Even though she was in LA, she was never far. She was still my big sister, helping me find my way. I was so lonely in New York and she knew this. Even though money was tight, she sent me this beautiful blouse in a box with a note that said "thought you would like this". She knew I needed a lift and she knew exactly how to do it.

She stood by me when I married Mark. After I had a miscarriage, she cried with me and assured me that everything would be ok. She proved this true when she held my preemie baby daughter. Through the good times and the sad, we are always there for each other. And we have plenty of both.

Life has had many twists and turns for my sister. She was a very successful actress, even played a lead on Broadway. Watching her sign autographs by the stage door, well, how cool is that? But the Broadway actress is now teaching children in the LA Unified school district's drama program. My sister is like a rock star when she comes to the schools, the children adore her. In my eyes, this is the height of her career, where everyday she brings such important learning and inspiration to children that often have nothing.

She has been divorced for many years now, sharing her life with her two teenage daughters. I only wish she was near. That is the one biggest regret that I have with not being able to hear. The sound of my sister's voice, the stream of conversation that has been a guiding lifeline for me. We text, we email, but the conversation is difficult and the distance gets very real when life throws a curve ball.

So, thank you Deb. Thanks for being the perfect big sister. Know that all these years, my admiration and love for you is steadfast. Truly one of life's greatest blessings is the love of a big sister...and all she can teach you about living.

Monday, November 1, 2010

As I celebrate, can't help but think about my Dad

When I was a child, the carnival would come to town. It was a night of magical sounds and colorful lights. My Mom and Dad would take us to this big event on a summer night. All we had to do was walk up the street from the apartments where we lived in Glen Ellyn. It was a huge treat! It was a big deal! My favorite ride was the Tilt-A-Whirl.

Publishing my first book is much like a night at the carnival. I have been looking forward to this day, the official "day" when 100 Sounds to See is a real book. What an exciting day this is!

But can I be honest? What I am really feeling is a tremendous longing for my Dad. My Dad was a gifted man. He was a writer, a singer and community theatre actor. He never ran any companies, or made much money. He lost his scarf and gloves every winter and his car was always a mess. But, he was the perfect father, the perfect protector. He gave me everything I ever needed in this world to be ok.

He made me laugh at his bad jokes and took me to the ball park to watch the Cubs. He shared with me his love of hockey and football and taught me how to skip a rock. He couldn't watch a sad movie and brought my Mother coffee in bed every day of their marriage.

God, I miss him. It has been almost twenty years and I sit here and sob as I write about my Daddy. He would have loved seeing me become an author. If I have any talent at this, it is certainly from Tracy Engle. He was a guy that could write a jingle on command and a poem for any occasion.

So, this day...for me, it is all about you Dad. You always made me believe I could do anything and now I am doing the one thing that I always admired so in you...writing. Now, in your memory, I will stop the tears and start the celebrating! Just like those summer nights so long ago at the Carnival, a huge treat and a big deal!

(image copyright William Huber)