How do you map an ear?

Riley waits for her snack after the softball game. See her blue and pink CIs?

I’ve previously talked about taking Riley to her mapping appointment at the HEAR Center. You’re probably wondering what that means. Mapping means programming. It’s a little like upgrading the software on your computer. Sometimes your computer slows down or needs a boost to do some new processes.

Same thing with the CI processors, which are the pink and blue devices you see Riley wearing. They contain tiny computers that need occasional updates.

The cochlear implant processors have to be readjusted at various intervals depending on how long a child has worn them. For example, when Riley first got her CIs, she had to get them mapped every month for the first couple of months. Then every three months for a couple of years. After nearly seven years, unless she’s having trouble with the CI, Riley’s map is updated every six months.

The audiologist hooks the processors to her computer and updates the software on them. This mapping sets the devices’ electrode stimulation levels in Riley’s cochlea so she can detect soft and loud sounds comfortably.

Over time, Riley will adapt to the settings. What was once too loud might become too soft as her brain’s auditory center gets used to the sounds. Then we’ll go back for another mapping session.

A Southern afternoon long ago

This short short story is just a compilation of memories from my childhood. I’m not sure if the people and dates actually match up, but this is a snapshot of a day in the life of two little kids in Town Creek.

Family circa 1980s
We were at some cookout somewhere on the river.

 

After School

by Tiffani Hill-Patterson (April 7, 1999)

Rrrrriinnnnngggggg. Finally. School is out. Time for a Coke and a candy bar.

I grab my books and wait on my little brother, Michael, to meet me at the end of the hall. I’m 10, he’s 7 and we both go to Hazlewood Elementary School.

“What took you so long?” I ask.

“Miss Davis made me stay after,” Michael says.

“Did you get in trouble for not having your homework again?” I ask him.

“Yeah, I’ve got to get a note signed, too,” he says, frowning.

“Oh, well, you probably won’t get a whipping or anything. They’ll just make you miss ‘The Dukes of Hazard’ tonight.”

Daddy is waiting for us at the end of the road by the school. Our house is right across the highway, but he doesn’t want us to cross the big four-lane by ourselves. So he meets us whenever he is off work to help us. If he’s at work, we walk to the babysitter’s because Momma works, too.

“Hey, y’all,” Daddy says. “How was school?”

“Fine,” we say together. But Michael hands Daddy his note.

“What happened with your homework?”

“I forgot about it. We had baseball practice and I forgot.”

“Well, I’ll let you off this time, but from now on you better have it done,” Daddy says sternly.

“Yes, sir. Can we go to the store now?” Michael asks as we begin to scurry across the highway. Traffic is heavy at this time of day in our little town. High schoolers who drive and parents who pick up their kids from school form a line that stretches about 100 yards from the red light and past our house.

“Not yet. I’ve got to go to the post office and go pay some bills,” Daddy says as we reach our road.

“Awwww. That’ll take forever,” I whine, walking up to the carport.

“Get in the truck and we’ll hurry,” Daddy says. So we all climb into the old gold Chevy, roll down the windows and turn up the radio. The post office is two minutes up the highway and City Hall, where Daddy pays the water bill, is a minute from the post office.

We pull up to the post office and climb out of the truck.

“Daddy, can I open the box?” I ask. Daddy picks me up and tells me the combination of letters as I turn the knob. I get the box open and out tumbles the mail – a Field & Stream, a couple of “duns” as Daddy calls bills and a Marvin Morgan Furniture circular. I love getting the mail.

Daddy gathers all the mail while Michael and I stare at the FBI “Most Wanted” posters behind the glass casing. We memorize the faces, just in case.

Back in the truck we head down the street to City Hall so Daddy can pay the water bill. He never understands how it can be so high. It’s probably because Michael and I run the hose outside for so long, squirting each other to death.

Michael and I play with the radio a minute, and then Daddy walks out the door. Uh-oh. Mr. Hoover stops Daddy to talk.

“Look, Michael,” I say, nudging him with my elbow. “Now we’ll be here all day.”

“Yeah, Mr. Hoover always talks too much.”

After listening to The Oak Ridge Boys sing “Elvira” on the radio, we finally see Daddy shaking Mr. Hoover’s hand and walking to the truck.

“Can we go now?” Michael asks.

“OK,” Daddy says as he cranks the truck. “Where do you want to go? Clayton’s or Mr. Reg’s?

“Mr. Reg’s,” we yell.

Mr. Reg has a punchboard that you can play for a quarter. We love to punch out that piece of paper, hoping to win something.

We go home, get out of the truck and walk through the backyard to Mr. Reg’s. It’s easier to walk than drive and park at Mr. Reg’s. His parking lot is on the corner of two highways and it’s barely big enough for one car. So we walk through our grass, stop on top of the grate to look down the water drain, jump up and touch the Joe Wheeler State Park sign, and finally step into the cool, damp store.

“OK,” Daddy says. “Tell Mr. Reg what you want.”

“I want a Coke and a plain Hershey bar,” I say.

“I want a Dr Pepper and a Whatchamacallit,” Michael says.

“And I’ll take a Coke and a bag of peanuts,” Daddy says.

“All right,” Mr. Reg says and hands us our food. “That’ll be $2.50.”

As Daddy pays for the goodies, we grab the drinks out of the cooler and stick them under the bottle opener and pop off the caps.

We walk back to our yard and settle under our big oak tree next to the highway.

Daddy dumps his peanuts in his Coke, and Michael and I tear open our candy bars. We play the car game – the red cars are mine, the blue ones are Michael’s. And that chocolate tastes so good.

Jonathan Tyler and The Northern Lights

Kim and I headed to Crossroads in the pouring rain to hear Jonathan Tyler and The Northern Lights. I have been waiting for this day for more than a year now.

We got there early and headed for the bar and a drink. We camped out in a booth near the sound board and waited. It wasn’t long before I spotted bassist Nick Jay and introduced myself. We chatted for a moment then he went to change clothes for the show.

A few minutes later, out of the corner of my eye, I see a guy walking up to the bar. Yep, it was Jonathan Tyler. I waved and went to say hi. Bless his heart, he remembered our conversation on Twitter, and he came over and talked to me and Kim.

Soon we were hanging out at the pool tables watching JT, Nick, Jordan Cain (drums), Brandon Pinckard (guitar) and Jimmy (tour manager) rack ’em and break ’em before showtime. The guys were easy to talk to and seemed genuinely interested in what we had to say.

Once onstage, joined by fabulous vocalist Mo Brown, the band did not disappoint. Opening with a cut off their upcoming album Pardon Me, slated for release in April, they got the crowd, though sparse, moving. From my post leaning on the stairs, I could see folks bobbing their heads, tapping their toes and doing that little shoulder shake we all do when we hear something we like.

They played two of my favorites Slow Train and Gypsy Woman, and though I’m sure I looked a fool, I couldn’t help but dance while shooting some photos. Good music always makes you move.

Their music? Gritty, honest, soulful, Southern, bluesy rock. But listen yourself. And don’t let Jonathan’s soft-spoken, sweet voice fool you. This man can sing, with power. JTNL are not some little bar band hoping to make some cash. They have played with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kid Rock, AC/DC, even drawing a huge crowd, and an unheard of encore, at the Austin City Limits Music Fest.

After the much-too-short set, Kim and I finally met Mo and Brandon, took advantage of photo ops and the merch table, and shared a round of shots with the band. Maker’s Mark. (And I managed to stay upright.) We got the scoop from poet, playwright, author and singer-songwriter Mo, chit-chatted with the dudes and watched a few games of pool before it was time to load out.

All in all, it was one of the best music experiences I’ve ever had. Not only are they great musicians, they are nice, asking about our lives and including us in the conversation. Now that’s how you connect with fans … and keep them.

Jonathan Tyler and The Northern Lights are going to make it big. Right now, they’re touring the country, and if you get a chance to hear them, take it. I promise you won’t regret it.