Tara Marie’s inspiring tale through a world of hardship
By Daniel Londono
Photographer: Ashley Fritsche
“I remember desperately wanting everyone in that cafeteria to know that “I am Deaf too!”
The raison d’être of this column is to highlight extraordinary people and their extraordinary circumstances. These are not the stories of those that were pushed and fell backward without complaint and called it a day; these are the stories of those that were pushed, got back up, and pushed back.
Tara Marie has such a story. Born in Boise and the oldest of six children, at the age of six she was diagnosed with progressive hearing loss and fitted for hearing aids. She was given a dim prognosis by doctors. Struggling academically and dealing with a heavy dose of social isolation, Tara dealt with it as best she could, through sheer grit and power of will.
With true poignancy, she writes of her early years: “Even the love of my family and the acceptance and encouragement I got there was not enough to compensate for the dark cloud of anxiety that would follow me as soon as I walked out the front door each day. I was trying so hard to be the leader of all my younger hearing siblings like my parents asked me to be…I turned to my younger sister to be my ears and help me interact with others that were trying to talk to me, we were joined at the hip in self-survival, and I cannot remember her ever complaining about it. I do not know how I would have survived without her. I imagine my desperate dependency on her and the many times she probably sacrificed her own identity in order to help me survive in mine probably still impacts her to this day. What a shadow she must have felt doomed to cower beneath her poor deaf older sister that got all the attention and pity. Our relationship has been strained for years over the deep trauma of this disfunction. I miss her.”
Tara’s parents accepted an invitation to visit a residential deaf school. This changed her life. “I will never forget walking in the two-stall bathroom in the elementary wing of the campus and standing in front of the mirror looking myself straight in the eyes…a hopeful smile crept across my face as I reached up and pulled my hair up into a ponytail for the first time in several years. I still remember my parents’ faces when they saw me walk back toward the cafeteria, standing a bit taller, my hair pulled tightly back to reveal my ugly brown hearing aids. I remember desperately wanting everyone in that cafeteria to know that “I am deaf too!”
After graduating from ISDB and attending Utah State, Tara met her first husband with whom she would have five children. “My husband and I divorced when our youngest was barely 3 years old. I found myself a single mom with no career or college degree, a profound hearing loss, and 5 little hearing children looking up at me to lead the way. Looking back I realize how similar this situation is to the one I found myself in during my childhood days as the big sister of five younger siblings who also looked up to me to lead the way.”
Tara persevered and started her business, ASL Expressions, “which has been a tremendous blessing and allowed me to earn a living doing something I love very much,” she tells me.
When telling me about her relationship with the Treasure Valley, she writes, “I have been teaching community ASL (American Sign Language) classes for over 15 years, I am on the State Independent Living Council and serve on several advisory boards that discuss ways to improve the lives of us Deaf and hard-of-hearing community members. One of my favorite parts of my experience in the community the last nine years since I started my company is getting to work with senior citizens and those who are losing their hearing later in life and feel themselves becoming increasingly isolated from the sound-based world.”
Tara appreciates every single day she has and possesses an extraordinary zeal for life. It would be hard to think up a challenge she hasn’t overcome or a hurdle she hasn’t leaped.