Hayley’s growing up, becoming more independent than ever, and travelling halfway across the world with her friends…
Sunday early evening, at the computer
“OMG it’s soo amazing, we’re having a wicked time! Love you x”
Hayley’s messaging me from across the Atlantic. She’s eating breakfast (pancakes with maple syrup and bacon) and I’ve just cleared up after dinner (ham, egg and chips) at home.
She’s gone off on a five-day trip to New York with her college and I’m scrolling through a stream of photos she’s just posted up on Facebook – iconic cityscapes and landmarks, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, the Empire State Building, American traffic cops mailboxes, ‘don’t walk’ lights at traffic signals, and of course endless snaps of food they’re about to eat, have just eaten or would like to eat…
When I shelled out for the trip back in September when she started college, I thought it was tied in with her Hospitality and Catering course, was all about the gastronomic delights on offer.
But when Hayley said their itinerary included eating at Planet Hollywood and the Hard Rock Café, I was surprised. It turned out the trip was open to all at the college, whether hairdressing, engineering or floristry students.
I didn’t mind though, because to be honest it marked such a turning point in Hayley’s life.
She was massively keen to go because of course it was billed as the opportunity of a lifetime.
But the other reason she was so hell-bent on going was that her friends had put their names down and she so desperately wanted to go with them.
Regular readers might recall that Hayley has struggled socially throughout her school life from the age of eight when she was diagnosed as deaf. It wasn’t just the obvious things, the hearing aids, the ‘otherness’ of being the only child in school who was deaf.
It was a subtle mix of things to do with deafness that combined and conspired to set her apart. Having to sit in a certain place in the classroom so she could hear the teachers and see their face to lip-read, rather than with a group of friends. Time off for hospital and audiology appointments and surgery to remove the cholesteatomas that grew aggressively in her ears.
Never quite being in on what was required next in class, where to go, what to do, though she watched her classmates eagle-eyed to try to keep in the loop.
Always being one step behind in the conversation, processing slower, not getting the joke or getting it one beat too late, all the struggles of trying to hear and make sense of everything in the noisy, fast moving din of the playground, everyone talking and shouting at once and on the move so that things were lost on her.
Having to be taken out of class for extra sessions to work on phonics and her word retrieval difficulties.
Yet Hayley was always so sociable, never stopped trying, but it so often didn’t go well for her and only got worse at high school. She spent a lot of the time feeling lonely, sad and isolated.
College proved a different story, a clean slate where she made friends, proper friends, with likeminded people who shared the same interests.
And the fact that at the other end of the college year they’re still good mates and experiencing the joys of New York together is testament to that progress.
Please note image is not Hayley