Family Talk

We all have “family talk” that outsiders don’t get.  A much-used phrase in our family is, “I don’t like what I wanted.” was first uttered by my little niece, Chelsea.  She had a quarter and spent the morning begging her mother to walk her to a nearby store to put the quarter in a vending machine for a prize.  As soon as her afternoon nap was over, off they walked for her prize.  Upon popping her quarter in, a capsule with a lizard dropped in her hand.  She hated it and smashed it to the ground.

“Chelsea,  you’ve been wanting a prize all morning.  Why did you throw it down?”

”I don’t like what I wanted!”

That line comes in so handy.  You can use it referring to a car, a man, a job, or the new shoes that cramp your toes. Thank you, Chelsea.

My cousin’s husband provided another great phrase.  When he was frustrated with her, he’d pronounce, “Don’t go crazy, Sue!”  We use that one on each other at least once at every family gathering.

“It couldn’t be helped.” This one never fails to rile Mother. She used it often, usually after a big goof-up. It entered “family talk” after Mother made a ghastly mess hemming my brother’s new suit pants. It’s best to read that story in its entirety.

Another is “You’re gonna have to buy the coffee.”  My dad worked with a gifted liar.  The man’s reputation was so well-established that anyone who repeated one of his stories had to buy the next round of coffee.  On one occasion he came rushing by and one of the fellows called out, “Sam, stop and tell us a big one.”

” I can’t,” he replied.  A man just fell in Smokestack 9 and I have to call an ambulance.”  They rushed behind him to discover it was all a lie. He was just headed to the cafeteria.

”I just spent my last two bucks on toilet paper and didn’t even get to dookey!”  This one originated with my husband Bud.  We awoke in the night to hear water spewing from a pipe under the bathroom sink.  Sadly, over an inch of water was standing in the house.  It was awful.  We jumped into action, but floors and baseboards were ruined.  It was obvious we’d be disfurnished for days till life was back to normal.  After the initial water was syphoned and carpets removed we sat exhausted on bare concrete floors.  Bud sadly pondered the mess and remarked, “I spent my last two bucks on toilet tissue and didn’t even get to dookey.”  Since then, that phrase describes utter disappointment.

”You should have done it already.”  My niece, Haley, kept straddling the new mailbox her father was trying to install, ignoring her fathe’s orders to stay off it.  Finally exasperated, he warned her.  “If you don’t stay off that mailbox, I’m going to have to paddle you.”  That would have been a first.

She looked him straight in the eye, with all the wisdom of a four-year-old and said, “You should have done it already.”

”The head’s as dangerous as the rest of it.” said my sister as she warned us all away from the severed head of a rattlesnake. Very very people have been injured by the body and rattlers, for sure.

“You try to raise your kids right….. .” This is one of Mother’s favorites. When she met her mother-in-law for the first time, Mamaw gave her a chilly welcome. “You try to raise your kids right and then when the get old enough to help you out, they go off and get married.” Needless to say, it foretold a weak friendship. Since then, when Mother jokes about neglect by any of us, she dusts this phrase off.

“I didn’t want to be in the damn play, anyhow!” A young relative as coerced by his teacher to be in a school play by his teacher.

“Johnny, you have to be in the play. Your mama and daddy are coming. Your grandma’s coming. Everybody else is in the play.”

Finally, Johnny reluctantly agreed to a one-line part. All he had to say was, “Hark, I hear a pistol shot!”

“When his time came, he called out, “Hark! I hear a shistol pot!” He made a couple more attempts with no better luck.

Disgusted, he stomped his foot and proclaimed, “I didn’t want to be in the damned play, anyway!”  This comes in handy when we’ve had enough.

Mamaw was partial to her two-year-old grandson, referring to him often as “Ma’s little man.” His three-year-old sister was sick of coming in last. Planting her fists on her little hips, she waggled her butt and mimicked, “Ma’s little man!  Ma’s little man!  All me ever hear.  Ma’s little man!”

Mamaw early 1950s  She loved Ma’s little man.





Saddle Shoes and Pointy Bras

That is me in the despised saddle shoes.  I was too young to hate them, yet.

The first, longest lasting, and most redundant misery my was frizzy, old lady perms.  Mother did this so my sister and I would be social outcasts.  Vastly overestimating our sexual attractiveness, from the time we went into puberty until we got old enough to fight her off, she maliciously inflicted home perms on us.

She bought our underwear at the Dollar Store or the cheapest thrift store or fire sale around, should Grandma lag in keeping us rigged out in home-made torture underwear.  Long after pointy bras were unavailable in normal circulation, Mother managed to ferret out pointy padded bras in the cheapest stores known to mankind, never mind the fact that the stiff cups caved in if they were bumped.  I’d have loved some not-too badly-worn cast-offs from the lucky, poor kids down the street, but they laughed when they caught me going through their trash. I tried to hide when changing in gym to keep anyone from seeing my Grandma’s home-made drawers.  They were made without benefit of elastic in the waist and tended to lengthen your legs by several inches as the day went on.  Grandma didn’t worry a lot about soft, cotton fabric.  Coarse, woven prints were good for the soul.

I was stuck in saddle-shoes for years because they were durable and Mother had loved them in high school.  Never-mind the fact that no other kid would have been caught dead in saddle shoes.  Best of all, I was a total slob, not the kind of kid who would ever voluntarily polish a shoe.  Most of the time, I didn’t even remember I had shoes till the school bus driver was honking the horn outside our door and I was simultaneously looking for my books, trying to get a note signed (bad news) and looking for lost shoes.  My shoes were inevitably, wet, filthy, and most likely stinking from ripping through the barnyard.  Not a good look for black and white shoes.  A more forward-thinking mother would have dressed me every day in a slicker and rain boots, so she could have hosed me off.