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No longer deaf, I love the sound of a rattle

1st place $50

By Ariana Mendoza, Marshall MS (Long Beach)

Ariana Mendoza holds a picture of herself as a baby with her stuffed puppy rattle.

Photo by Anissa Berry, 17,
View Park Prep HS

People don’t understand that deaf people can hear also. Some of them have one deaf ear, hearing aids or a cochlear implant. The sad part is they can’t hear as well as normal people. But they might have the sounds that are important to them, like I have.

I was born deaf. I can’t hear at all. When I was 5, I had an operation for a cochlear implant so I can hear much better. Sometimes when noises are annoying me, I take my implant off. I went to many places so I can speak well. I started learning sign language when I was in the sixth grade. I stopped speaking at school, but I still speak at home. It’s really hard to be hard of hearing.

When I was a baby, my mother always bought me rattle toys. The stuffed red puppy with the rattle in it was my favorite. At first I didn’t know it rattled. After the operation, I was playing with it and I heard weird noises coming from the toy. I shook it over and over again and it rattled. I started to like my rattle toys. Sometimes my mom took my rattle toys away because they bothered her, but she let me keep my stuffed puppy. I love to hear the rattle because it was my first sound and now, every time I hear something rattle, it reminds me of my past.

My dad and step-mom are buying toys for their baby. My step-mom is four months pregnant. Sometimes I shake the new rattle toys. At that moment I feel like I’m 5 years old again. It’s a very joyful sound in my life.

The Pokémon theme song takes me back

2nd place $30

By Lubina Kim, Wilson HS (Hacienda Heights)

When I was 6 years old a personal alarm rang in my head every Saturday telling me to get up, grab a bowl of cereal and go watch Pokémon.

The Pokémon theme song is my favorite sound because it brings back nostalgia for my childhood. When I first moved to the United States from Korea in kindergarten, I had a hard time making friends. The language barrier restricted me from hanging out with anyone besides my family, but Pokémon helped me step out of my boundaries.

The song sounds like cheesy battle music. It begins talking about the determination of the main character (Ash Ketchum) and how he’s going to “catch ‘em all.” To anyone over the age of 10, the lyrics sound like total crap, but to me, it reminds me of my 6-year-old self. Pokémon was like an imaginary world I desperately wanted to live in. It was a dreamland full of unusually cute animals that can be captured and kept as pets. Instead of asking for ponies, I asked my parents for a Pikachu, an overgrown, obese look-a-like mouse with red cheeks.
During the summer my parents bought me my first pack of Pokémon cards. It consisted of 12 normal cards and one hologram. The cards evolved into an obsession for collecting.

I hit jackpot on my first set of cards. My hologram ended up being Raichu, the evolved form of Pikachu, and the card immediately attracted many of the neighborhood kids. I didn’t have much street smarts dealing with trades so I easily allowed myself to be sweet talked by a ninth grader. In exchange for my hologram he offered me a stack of his “best” cards. I hastily accepted and I ended up getting 50 lousy, bent energy cards with a value of nothing in the Pokémon world. Although I felt really bitter toward him, he ended up teaching me how to haggle and trade.

Recently I was sent a Smosh YouTube parody of the show’s theme song. As the opening notes of the song played I perked up and sang along. I haven’t heard the song in years and yet I had every word down. It made me realize how much I miss being a kid.

Applause is music to my ears

3rd place $20

By Jonathan Trinh, San Gabriel HS

When I was younger, I never realized what clapping was for. I mean, don’t seals clap? Seriously though, why are we smacking our hands against each other? It hurts. Surely, there must be more to clapping than just making a lot of noise. But what could it be …?

In elementary school, we would have little assemblies, as I’m sure everyone knows. And typically speakers would come to speak to the school about something important concerning the students. At the end of every speech, the whole student body would begin to clap and hearing that initial clap, everyone joined in. Not knowing any better, I had to go with the flow. However, I wondered, “Why are we making so much noise?”

A few years later the idea and purpose of clapping finally hit me when I experienced it firsthand—I was the person up there getting the applause. It was an awards ceremony and I happened to win an award. As shy and timid as I am, I made my way up to the podium, unsure of what I was supposed to do. In a matter of seconds, my fellow classmates began to clap. Uh-oh, do I go with the flow this time? Do I clap even if I’m the one standing up there? I guess I go by the motto, “When in doubt, FREEZE.” I froze and stared at the entire school. For some strange reason I suddenly felt an adrenaline rush. I realized at that moment that they weren’t just clapping—they were clapping for me.

The sound of hundreds of hands striking against each other is amazing. It was like a stampede of jungle animals sprinting right by me. Just knowing that they are all clapping for you is an extraordinary feeling. I felt so good about myself at that moment, like I could overcome anything that got in my way. That day I figured out that clapping was actually a sign of approval; my classmates recognized achievement and were acknowledging me for it.

Clapping—applause to be exact—has become one of my favorite sounds. Even if the applause isn’t for me, I still remember how I felt that very first time. Nowadays, I clap even louder for the person who is receiving the applause. You’ve got to hand it to them, they deserve the applause. And I feel I can understand the wonderful emotions he or she is feeling and how exhilarating it must be for all these people to applaud for you. I now associate applause with being successful, so I guess you can say that my favorite sound is the sound of success.

We received hundreds of essays from readers about their favorite sounds. Some of the most popular responses were “school bell,” “rain” and “my mother’s voice.”

We also got many unusual responses. Here are some of them:

crunching an apple
turning the page of a book
dog scratching at my door
leaf blower
my mom’s empanadas frying
my priest’s voice

Click here to read some more unique favorite sound essays

Next essay contest—What era would you live in?

If you could choose any time—past, present or future—to live in, what would it be? Maybe you’ve dreamed about what it would be like to live during a certain time period, like when dinosaurs roamed. Or maybe you wish you could have witnessed a historical event, like marching with Martin Luther King Jr. Perhaps you could see yourself living in Elizabethan England, the Old West or the peace and love of the 60s. Some of you might imagine what living in a future world would be like or maybe you love your life and the potential of the world at this time, right now. Describe your life in your ideal era and explain to us why you’d want to live then.


L.A. Youth 
5967 W. 3rd St. Ste. 301
Los Angeles CA 90036



Deadline: Friday, Feb. 20, 2009