Deaf Club

People say that it takes a village to raise a child, I say, it take a Deaf Club to raise a CODA.  I grew up the hearing child of Deaf parents.  When I was born, the Deaf community rejoiced, the neighbors speculated and the extended families worried.  “Don’t teach her sign language or else she’ll never learn how to talk”, my Aunt Jane warned again and again.  But Mommy and Daddy trusted their instincts and the first sign I learned was milk; my 2 fists rubbing up and down on each other as if milking a cow.  Mommy still boasts, “Nobody thinks that Deaf can raise a hearing child.  But my daughter could and sign and understand perfectly when she was nine months old.  You that know that hearing children don’t talk until they’re two years old.  You tell me.”

The New Jersey Silent Club was an old storefront with N.J.S.C. carefully painted on the picture window in gold and black letters.  When my parents and their friends pushed open the heavy, wooden doors they were no longer the “Deaf one”.  They became Samuel the machinist, Lucy the flirt, Joan the mother of five, Bob the drinker or Flo the club accountant.  Deaf club was where Mommy fell in love with Daddy, where Daddy played penny poker most every Friday night, where we celebrated our holidays, watched subtitled movies on a giant sheet tacked to the wall and where I could go to the bar and get a cherry coke for free because I had a tab.  It was our union hall, our classroom, our corner tavern.   It was the heart and the soul of the Deaf community where I was petted and spoiled by people who didn’t think of themselves as disabled or broken.  They believed that they were just another culture with a different language.

Whenever I meet a Deaf person in a Starbucks, or on the El  we talk and connect like we are part of the same family, the same tribe.  And I always feel like I’m back at Deaf Club.

Arlene Malinowski


6 Responses to “Deaf Club”

  1. 1 Lynne 02/09/2011 at 05:47

    I love this. And I get it totally – the memories of being part of an extended family and community…Glad that Mommy & Daddy trusted their instincts.

  2. 2 codadiva 02/17/2011 at 04:03

    Deaf club will aways be the memories I cherish. For us, D.A.D. I remember playing in the coat room. The best was during winter when we could hide between coats.

    I too “must” greet another person that is Deaf in a public place.

    Great entry.

    • 3 arlene malinowski 02/17/2011 at 16:58

      Beautiful- hiding in the coats- Fantastic! Please update me on what you’re doing. I let an email of yours slip through the cracks. sorry

  3. 4 George Kerr 02/17/2011 at 16:01


    It is amazing that at our age we look back on childhood memories and wonder how our parents did what they managed to do and how this world we exist in today is so different. I was deeply moved by you story, and learned something about you I never ever knew. I think it is a celebration of what we truly are as humans and as a family.
    I look forward to reading more of your blogs and hope you do not mind if I happen to put my two cents in once in a while.


    • 5 arlene malinowski 02/17/2011 at 16:56

      Hi Sweetie- George! Remember how you were always tryin to get with the girls! Makes me laugh- and thanks for following my blog- I’ll let you know my next post. Hoping to get 2-3 in a month. Be well.

  4. 6 Dorothy Biddle 02/10/2012 at 14:17

    Oh, I am just reading this about the Deaf Club. I remember going with my mom all the time to the Deaf Club….we hearing kids had a ball! we could do justa bout anything we wanted to, because our parents were too busy socializing, signing…
    We lived in Detroit so I remember that Deaf Club and of course now, here in Pittsburgh, P.A.D. Lots of memories at both, parties, events, bingo…

    I will never forget taking my husband to the Deaf Club in Pittsburgh for the first time. He could not believe how quiet it was!!! He entered a new world!

    Dorothy Biddle

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