Saturday, July 21, 2007

Meet the rest of the family

I'd like to introduce two important members of the family, who have managed to stay uncharacteristically quiet until now. They are Molly and Freddy, my puppets (I have to whisper that or I'll be in for more therapist bills - they think they are real people).

Molly and Freddy, and Charlie the Clown, who is hiding under their chair, have played leading roles in my work in communicating. I've used them with deaf babies, to introduce basic sign language and to show them how hearing aids fit. I've used them to tell stories and for role play with older children. I take them on summer camp, where they make far more effective catechists than I.

They have helped shy adults to overcome their inhibitions in training sessions.

Molly and Freddy are wise and witty and wonderful storytellers. I wish I had a fraction of their communication skills.

When I retired, last year, I missed the children, parents and teachers who had been part of my life for so long. I think that blogging has become a substitute for that daily interaction with people. I have felt the same sense of privilege in being welcomed onto someone's blog and sharing anecdotes and opinions as I did in being welcomed into homes and schools. But it is far easier to blunder in virtual situations than in face-to-face meetings.

Molly and Freddy don't use words. They communicate through sign and gesture, big smiley faces and outlandish dances. There are no barriers of language, race, gender or age. There are no misunderstandings, they don't take offense and they never hurt anyone's feelings. What they have and blogging lacks, is a great physical presence. Here's one of their stories:

There was a little boy who called out for his mother in the night because he was afraid. She came into his room and looked in the wardrobe but she couldn't find any monster. But the boy was still afraid. She looked under the bed and there were no monsters there, either, but still he was afraid. She told him the angels were watching over him, still he cried. She said the presence of G-d was all around but that did not console him either. "I want something with skin on," he blurted out.

Here are some of the most important signs that Molly and Freddy teach - I hope my words can convey their gestures. Please try them and you'll understand:

1. Close your right hand in a loose fist. Rub it against your chest in a circular motion.

That means 'I'm sorry.' Molly and Freddy would tell you that it shows your heart is sore.

2. Hold your left hand open and flat in front of you. Kiss the fingers of your right hand and perform a wiping movement across the left hand, away from your body.

That means 'You're forgiven.' Molly and Freddy would say it is a combination of kissing it better and wiping it away.

I love sign language, it has an immediacy that the written and even the spoken word lacks. It's the 'something with skin on it' which we all need.

(David, I'm sorry I mistook fellow-feeling for rebuke. The heart is sore.)


  1. Crinny:
    I've been expecting you to recognise that as one of Daniel O'Leary's stories. Well, Molly is a flagrant plagiarist (ouch! she is trying to get the keyboard from me to change that to 'fragrant')and she never acknowledges her sources.

    I spoke to Daniel about that some years ago and he said he never acknowledged his, either.

  2. Monix, is that you on the right in the classroom photo?


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