Connected to help one another.
Actress and author, Antoinette Abbamonte (what a brilliant name) is one all round sunny spirit and for a little bit our first IH deaf ambassador who has so far led quite an extraordinary life. And fortunately, she’s always up for a chat.
For her, it means intently reading the lips of her conversation partner, using a bit of improvisation and a whole lot of natural charm because striking up casual banter with a hearing person takes some navigation.
As Antoinette explains it, “I love being deaf. I feel like, yes! That’s who I am. I am excited when I meet people and we make eye contact. Often, when they realize I’m deaf I can tell they’re nervous, but we overcome it and make a connection. I love talking with anyone, if they’re not deaf, I’ll just try my best.”
She met her husband this way, eye contact in the dog park. They figured out communication, married and have two boys.
All the men in her Southern California house are hearing, while her parents and siblings are deaf.
“It’s kind of a challenge, living with a hearing family after living with a deaf family in 24-hour deaf culture,” she says. “Growing up, my whole family lived in Brooklyn in a house on a block with only one deaf family and we would always look out the window and I would see people point at the house. I guess we were the strange family on the block.”
She occasionally misses out on family conversations, explaining, “I can read lips because of my hunger for knowledge and I always take in as much about the world around me as possible. My husband learned American Sign Language and it took him three years. I read my children books in ASL. It’s their first language.”
ASL is said to be as hard to learn as Mandarin Chinese, so her husband should feel awfully good about taking a mere three years to learn it. Plus he has a wickedly sarcastic sense of humor, which Antoinette loves.
Antoinette works with families with deaf children, teaching ASL, finding the gratitude, love and trust. For those who can’t work with her personally, her book, Tree Wise, The Signing Branches, brings a little bit of her joie de vivre to anyone looking to connect.
I connected with Antoinette when she partnered with me as Ambassador in my company. That was just one too many hats for her at this moment in her life because
although it is still hush hush and she can’t reveal details, Antoinette tells me that she’s working on a television comedy about a deaf mother with a hearing son who is learning to sign. She’s appeared on shows including Switched at Birth, E.R., and The New Normal.
“The universe connects us so that we all help each other,” she says.