Oklahoma School for the Deaf

The kids squealed with delight when they saw we had arrived at  Mary’s new school!


We took a tour, and Mary and the rest of us all got interviewed by the admissions team.

Mary was – for the first time ever – very shy and didn’t say hardly anything! I fought to get her to wave at the kids and teachers, and she barely smiled.  She had been so excited thus far, that I was surprised to see her nervous.  It makes sense, though, and she really was still super excited!


The kids headed back with Nathan to make his violin lessons and their appointments, while I took Mary on a Mama date during the time we waited to see if she was accepted in the school or not.


When the call came that she had been accepted, I cried.  She squealed with delight, and couldn’t wait to call Nathan and the kids to tell them.  Then she ordered cheesecake, for Grandma Nine (neen), my mother, which made me laugh and cry all over again.


We went back to the school to do her admissions paperwork, and to set up her room.

She was super brave and went to recess with her class while I did paperwork, already making friends before I even got her officially enrolled.


When we finally finished the mountain of paperwork, it was time to take her to the dorms.

Scared Mary was gone, now that she has three new best friends already. Confident Mary was back, and she lead her way to the girls’ dorm “because I have been there before now, and I already know where it is.”  She marched ahead with her arm swinging in cadence with the admissions counselor, who will be her new nurturer away from home, who will help make sure she is happy and comfortable, who promises to let me know if Mary needs anything at all.

Except Mary doesn’t need me, at all.


I watched her walk like that, and felt a million things go through my mind.

I felt a million memories pierce my heart.

This must be what it’s like to leave your grown child at college.

Except she’s seven.

I realized all the things I ever wanted to tell her should have already been said, because suddenly it was too late.

I don’t know if I got it all poured into her, and only time will tell which pieces she will keep.

Pray, always pray. Read your scriptures.  Work hard in school. Read every day. Play every day. Dance in the sunshine. Make friends, good friends. Think about sacred things, and make people smile. Don’t let anyone touch you any way you don’t want, and scream and kick and bite if they do. Speak only things that are truth, that are reflection, that are kind.  Be bold and brave. Hold your ground in a class of boys, and stay true to yourself in a dorm full of girls. Paint. Draw. Find clay. Smile, Mary, smile! You are here to set your hands free, so let them fly: sign all the time, sign all you know, learn more and bring it home to me.

I stop there because this is her life, and not mine.

Since she is almost 8, she gets to be in the oldest room of the wing for the youngest girls.

She had made me promise to help her set up her room, but now the counselor urges me to leave and let her transition.  School is over, and the girls rush in to chat with the dorm mother with hands flying, and I watch Mary’s eyes light up in excitement. She will come to life here, as we have never seen.


My heart starts to pound and my skin gets hot and my breath gets fast and my eyes start to burn as I realize it’s time to go, as I realize she wants me to go.

There is no final moment as I had imagined, and no unpacking her things with tender stories.

There is barely a goodbye hug, as girls swarm her with the language I want her immersed within, on this day that is her baptism into Deaf culture.

She is okay as I leave, ready to show off her things, and ready to play.

I am sobbing, but she is okay.

She has flown my nest even though I just barely had her safely tucked away.


My car is silent now, still without tiny hands practicing, and quiet without her constant prattle.

I wonder who will read lyrics with me, who will tie up the children with jump ropes for me, and who on earth is going to load the dishwasher.  Who will be my growing up girl who is almost my friend?

There are some parents who argue that they could not handle letting their child be gone four nights a week.  

I know what good comes from a world without barriers, and wonder how can they not send their deaf or hard of hearing child, even for a time?

I wonder how they spend all that extra time together? Signing? Interacting in their language? Or watching television without the captions turned on? Are they aware how fast time goes, and how critical every moment matters?

This is not an easy thing for me.

But it is the right thing for her.

I often pray for the softening of my heart, and this may be why I must endure so many kinds of heartbreak.

But I know the promises given in Malachai of hearts turning toward parents and children, and I understand these to be the very promises of the temple.

And sometimes the best way to give, or even to make room to receive, is to let go of all you fight so hard to hold on to for yourself.

I don’t want to send her away.

I do want her hands to fly.

Deaf school is where children (who want their hands to fly) go to be born into the culture to which they belong.

These are the grounds in which Mary will discover she is a swan, and that she never ever was an ugly duckling.

And this is real motherhood: to let your daughter become.

“God and mother, partners in creation, in love, in sacrifice, in service, are as one.”

~ Thomas S. Monson

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Comments are closed.