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Alandra's Lilacs

The Story of a Mother and Her Deaf Daughter

Tressa Bowers

Publication Year: 1999

When, in 1968, 19-year-old Tressa Bowers took her baby daughter to an expert on deaf children, he pronounced that Alandra was “stone deaf,” she most likely would never be able to talk, and she probably would not get much of an education because of her communication limitations. Tressa refused to accept this stark assessment of Alandra’s prospects. Instead, she began the arduous process of starting her daughter’s education. Economic need forced Tressa to move several times, and as a result, she and Alandra experienced a variety of learning environments: a pure oralist approach, which discouraged signing; Total Communication, in which the teachers spoke and signed simultaneously; a residential school for deaf children, where Signed English was employed; and a mainstream public school that relied upon interpreters. Changes at home added more demands, from Tressa’s divorce to her remarriage, her long work hours, and the ongoing challenge of complete communication within their family. Through it all, Tressa and Alandra never lost sight of their love for each other, and their affection rippled through the entire family. Today, Tressa can triumphantly point to her confident, educated daughter and also speak with pride of her wonderful relationship with her deaf grandchildren. Alandra’s Lilacs is a marvelous story about the resiliency and achievements of determined, loving people no matter what their circumstances might be.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press

Title Page, Copyright page

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pp. iv-v


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pp. vi

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pp. viii-ix

Two years ago, my daughter Alandra asked me how I really felt about her deafness. The letter I began to answer her question evolved into this book, as we realized that it might help other parents in our circumstances if they could read about how Alandra's deafness has affected our family. ...

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1. Reconciliation

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pp. 1-4

The door to my hospital room banged open, startling me awake. I had dozed off. I hadn't wanted to fall asleep but had anyway. My husband Sug (short for Sugar) was next to my bed crying, two nurses stood behind him. In panic, I asked, "What's wrong?" but I already knew what had happened. ...

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2. Homecoming

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pp. 5-19

It was the first week of May 1967 when I first brought my daughter home to my mother's kitchen. The whole family, even my maternal grandmother and my great-grandmother, gathered in the kitchen to witness the homecoming. The reunion of five generations of women...

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3. The Race Begins

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pp. 20-26

During the next few weeks I put aside my worries and got right to work. As I tried to find information about deafness, financial help, and education, Linda became my best resource. She told me that every day a deaf child goes without education is like three days for a hearing child. ...

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4. The Sounds of Silence

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pp. 27-37

Sitting at the kitchen table I told my mother about my encounter with the crazy woman at the bus stop. She didn't know how to make me feel better, but agreed that at least Landy wouldn't have to listen to such ignorant people. Then she advised me to ignore people who said things to purposefully hurt me. ...

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5. Total Communication

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pp. 38-46

The state of Illinois provided education for deaf children beginning at the age of three, so after Landy's birthday in 1970 the state stopped paying for her to attend CID, which was in Missouri. Now Sug and I had a choice to make. ...

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6. Stuttering with My Hands

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pp. 47-52

The residential school did everything possible to keep the lines of communication open between the parents and their children. The teachers helped the children write letters home-I still have many and cherish them the same as I did the day I received them-and encouraged them to read their parents' letters aloud during class. ...

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7. Home Signs

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pp. 53-60

One night in 1975, Sug came home and told me he would give me a divorce. We often mentioned divorce during our frequent battles, but he always insisted he would never let me take Landy with me. After ten years, the only thing we had left in common was our love for our daughter. ...

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8. A Difficult Undertaking

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pp. 61-67

When I took Landy back to school that fall, it felt strange to be doing so as a single mother. I would now be driving to the school from a different direction and traveling seventy miles one way. Although there was a program for hearing impaired students in our town...

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9. Our "Normal" Life

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pp. 68-76

Six months after our marriage, Tom found a job with a transportation company that maintained a hub in Kansas City, his hometown. He had worked at various companies over the years as a transportation manager; although he hated the work, the pay was good....

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10. Half Hearing and Half Deaf?

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pp. 77-92

I put a tremendous amount of pressure on Alandra to maintain her grades. I was afraid if the deaf students in public school did not progress as well as residential school students, the government would snatch the program back and send the kids to the residential schools again. ...

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11. Her Rightful Place

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pp. 93-103

I am sure many parents would agree that the teenage years are filled with miscommunications and sometimes no communication at all. Even more problems arise when language barriers are added into the equation. Alandra and I had the normal spats typical of mothers and daughters but usually we communicated well enough to just fight it out....

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12. Our Too Cool Daughter

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pp. 104-115

Alandra's sixteenth summer arrived and with it came her driver's license (long awaited by her, and much dreaded by us). I was commiserating with some co-workers who were also parents of teenagers, when they expressed their surprise that deaf people could get a license to drive. ...

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13. My Own Place in the Deaf World

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pp. 116-122

That fall we packed up Alandra's trunks and took her to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to send her off to Washington, D.C., home of Gallaudet University. I was relieved that she was actually going. I had feared that Alandra's taste of living on her own would ruin my plans for her future...

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14. Enter Chad . . . and Tyler

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pp. 123-132

Throughout Alandra's childhood, I always told her that she couldn't marry until she was twenty-five. When she was very young I told her it was against the law for a person to get married younger than that, and it was always a joke between us. When Alandra was twenty-four she asked if she could bring home a man for us to meet. ...

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15. I Finally Get to Hear Baby Talk

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pp. 133-138

The "No Trespassing" signs went up the day Alandra and Chad brought Tyler home from the hospital. It was made obvious that they wanted some time just to celebrate having a deaf child, not to mention simply enjoy their new baby. Chad very possessively calls Alandra "my wife" when speaking to me. ...

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16. A Normal Pair of Boys

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pp. 139-147

Today as I write, our little boys are growing as all children must do. My role in my grandsons' childhood is certainly different from my role in their mother's life. I am emotionally free from all the baggage I carried around when I was "the hearing mother of a deaf child." ...

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17. Smelling the Lilacs

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pp. 148-150

In a few weeks the new sign language class will start at school. My husband and I will be there, along with my mother, sister, and niece. Each of us has different reasons for joining the class. I want to be able to follow other people's signed conversations and I don't want to be lost anymore when an entire group is using sign language. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9781563681554
E-ISBN-10: 1563681552
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563680823
Print-ISBN-10: 1563680823

Page Count: 158
Illustrations: 20 photographs
Publication Year: 1999

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Subject Headings

  • Bowers, Tressa, 1949-.
  • Parents of deaf children -- United States -- Biography.
  • Deaf children -- Family relationships -- United States.
  • Parent and child -- United States.
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