Well, I Swear

For a family that never used swear words. There were an awful lot of “I swears.”

“I swear to goodness if that dog doesn’t stop barking.”

“I could have sworn I put that pipe wrench away.”

“Well, I swear, the Hamptons mowed their front lawn.”

“It’s true.  I swear on a stack of Bibles.”

My parents didn’t like substitute or sound-alike swear words either. Darn its and dang its weren’t too bad. Goldarnits, were much worse.

Taking the Lord’s name in vain was an especially egregious infraction.  Bad words heard on school playground were best not repeated at home.  Sixth grade was where I first heard the “F” word.

“We never taught you those cuss words.  Did you hear that from someone at school?  Get your toothbrush and some Lava soap.”  Lava soap was the worst tasting soap ever.

Some of the local farmers habitually used swear words.  Their sentences were sprinkled liberally with epithets.  I found it difficult in later life to work around rough-cut construction types without some of their speech rubbing off.

Nothing prepared me for the colorful expressions spewed from the mouths of military drill instructors.  I was amazed by the variety of new usages for words banned at home.

“Get your xxxx together! You’re all ate up with the xxxxxxx!  You could xxxx xx a junk yard!”  Drill instructors more than made up for any possible swear word deprivation in my previous existence.

More Dad Jokes

Dad jokes were more a category, than an exclusive genre of humor.

Other people told “Dad Jokes.”  Favorite aunts, uncles, teachers and preachers, told “Dad Jokes.”  Preachers told them because they weren’t nasty or dirty.

They were corny, plays on words, terrible puns, paraphrases.  From various sources,  TV shows, pop culture–long out of fashion.  Slips of the tongue, held against you for the next forty years.

It was Uncle Elmer, or others like him.  You stayed still, listened, no matter how many times you’d heard the same things before.  Inside, silently screamed for mercy.

I’m full. You’re a fool?

I’m stuffed.  Well, you look real.

Leave me alone. Make you a loan?

Don’t want to talk?  Cat got your tongue?

The rain in Maine fell plainly on the grain.

You’re mixed up. Your nose runs and your feet smell.

The calf near a silo, Was his fodder in there?

Why did the boy call his girlfriend “Hinges”?  Because she was something to adore.

A schoolboy, asked to use “fascinate” in a sentence, My shirt has ten buttons, I can only fasten eight.

Most of the “Dad Jokes” stopped as time passed.  I would gladly endure more “Dad Jokes,” if it meant having the joke tellers back.

The “Ick” Factor

The “ick” factor influenced everything. What determined the degree of “ickiness?” It wasn’t written down anywhere, and could change at any given moment.

Some of it had to do with maturity. What was icky at age six wasn’t necessarily icky at age fifteen–or vice-versa.  Things could change from icky to not-icky and back again at any time.

Anything could be icky. Certain disliked foods could be icky. Unpleasant tasting medicine could be icky.  People could be icky–especially if they had icky habits. Of course the accuser’s habits were exceptions to the rule.

Bugs, worms, slugs, snails, snakes and other creepy-crawly creatures could be considered icky. Of course there were exceptions. The non-squeamish tantalized the squeamish–especially if they publicized their squeamishness and made scenes.

There were those weird kids on the school bus. The ones that caught flies and ate them for attention.  They weren’t lacking dietary protein–that anyone could tell. I won’t mention any more examples, because they would send sensitivity meters off the scales. Only to say, that as icky days go, this has been one of the “ickiest.”

Silence!

There’s not much noisier in the natural world than Great Blue Heron rookeries during mating season.  Cars being crushed would compare nicely.

Kids, in their unbridled enthusiasm, were naturally noisy.  Parents generally tolerated outside noises, unless someone started crying.

At bedtime, it was a different story.  “Knock off that racket and go to bed.”  It was best not to press the issue with dad–because soon came the dreaded, “Don’t make me tell you again.”

And if kid noises weren’t enough, there were other ways to make noise.  Two blades of grass moistened with just enough spittle, would shriek when blown through.  Balloons, playing cards in bicycle spokes, weren’t loud enough.  Pieces of wire, metal against metal, made a terrific motorcycle-like cacophony.  Which resulted in loose spokes and wobbly wheels.

The cloud of doom hung over my head when my younger brother or sister ran into the house yowling about something I’d done.  Nothing else to do, but wait for punishment that always followed.

Pity gift givers that gave us drum sets, clickers, whistles, or noisemakers of any kind.  They were likely to be confiscated.  Parents just wanted some peace and quiet.  Was that too much to ask?

Never Could Say Goodbye

Why did the process of leaving a family friend or relative’s house seem to take forever?  Little kids hated adult small talk, “My how you’ve grown.  What grade were you in school? You’re almost as tall as your older brother.”

Adult chattering never stopped.  Pitiful expressions, tugging at mom’s skirt, never made the process go faster. Going to your father for help didn’t work, either.  His standard response, “Go ask your mother.”  Which really meant, he knew from years of experience, saying goodbye could not be hurried.

Two generations later, blessed with more patience, the process hadn’t changed.  Only the players in these mini-dramas were different.  Grandma, family matriarch, cooked at home–did most of the cooking away from home.

For that reason, the head chef needed proper utensils, small appliances, to feel at home away from home–anything easily transportable.

Leftovers had to be divvied up.  Grandma refereed the process.  “Don’t take all of that–take more of this.  Your sister likes cranberries, you know.”

“Where were the disposable containers?  I can’t find anything in your kitchen.  Why do you keep things on  top shelves where I can’t reach them?  Better take a couple of pieces of this lemon meringue pie.  Your grandpa and I will never eat it–it will just go bad.”

Lost items, previously ignored, became priorities; followed by discussions of where said lost items could be; bouts of anxiety, then, retrieval of lost items–purses, sweaters, jackets, electronic devices.  When, items weren’t found.  “Well, I’ll pick it up next time–or you can mail it to me.”  The postal service would never go out of business on our account.

When visitors left our house, the process was mostly the same.  Grandkids added interesting twists to the goodbye process.  Internet savvy kids left behind connectors, adapters–strange to unhip grandparents, various clothing articles.  They sometimes took things home, not noticed, until weeks, even months, later.

“What happened to the Caladryl lotion?”  I asked, after getting into some poison ivy.  “Oh, one of the grandkids took it home–he had an itchy rash.”  That wasn’t going to help me at that moment.

Goodbyes and hugs took forever, because we never could say goodbye.

 

 

Late Bloomed

Cockeyed optimists

Little Miss Sunshines

Played in yards–with

White picket fences

Puberty knocked

Nobody answered

Social awkwardness

Became closest friend

Bony ankles popped

With every step

Mom was usually right

Which meant someone

Else was usually wrong

Southern fried pies

Blue skies forever

Revivalists, cynics

What else was new?

 

Dialing For Doilies (Trouser Truths)

Oh, Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz…

Oh, Lord won’t you buy me a color TV

Dialing for dollars is trying to find me

I wait for delivery each day until three…  –Janis Joplin–

 

Remember doilies–those white crocheted things on the back of your grandma’s couch and overstuffed chairs.  They would slide off and granny didn’t like little fingers playing with them.

There was an old TV show, called “Dialing For Dollars,” viewers competed to win cash.  I don’t think “Dialing For Doilies,” would have been nearly as popular.

Before I fire up the grill, more silliness for a Sunday afternoon–a grandfatherly conversation.

When I was your age, we wore real trousers–made from real fabrics.

Wore them with pride.  Snugged them up to our chests–like they should be.

Because we were real men–and that’s what real men did.