The secret language of families

I'd imagine that most families have sayings and references that mean nothing to the rest of the world. I know my family had plenty of them when I was growing up. When I was a junior in high school I wore black a lot (you know, a reflection of how horrible my comfortable suburban life was and how tortured I was by it). My stad would always ask me, "Who do you think you are? Johnny Cash?" To this day, whenever I wear black, I can hear his voice asking me if I'm about to belt out "Folsom Prison Blues" or something.

You had to have a sharp wit to grow up in my family. We made fun of each other endlessly and mercilessly, even at one point having a game called "Who Am I?" where one of us would mimic another family member and you had to guess which one it was. If you pretended to sleep on the couch with your mouth open, you were my middle sister. If you pretended to fly into an apoplectic rage over nothing, you were my baby sister (she's got the redhead temper going on and all). Don't worry, I got my fair share of ribbing, too. I grew up in Springfield, Virginia. A lot of my friends lived in a sub-division called Saratoga, which was fairly distant from our house (too far to walk). One time I needed a ride and when my mom asked where I needed to go exactly, I responded, "Saratoga."  However, apparently I infused some degree of teenaged exasperation into my voice and it came out more like "Saratooohhhhga."  To this day, my mother will still answer the question of "Where does so-and-so live?" with "Saratooohhhhga! God!"

If you lived in my house as a teenager and had anything resembling a boyfriend, and if you dared utter the words "I'm not hungry," (something you might say if, well, you weren't hungry), you would get this in return from my mother: "Oh, let me guess - you're livin' on looooooove." I still have flashbacks to the time I came home the night before Easter with a hickey on my neck. My mother followed me around all day on Easter Sunday asking, "Are you SURE I can't get you some concealer?"  Nothing was sacred in our house and nobody got away with anything. Once my middle sister wore the same pair of pants a couple days in a row and we made up a rap about them. (I still know all the words to "Party Pants" - ask me sometime!)

One time our family was in Myrtle Beach, browsing inside the Gay Dolphin $.99 gift cove. It was set apart from the main Gay Dolphin store (I think it was across the street) and, as you can imagine, was full of complete and utter crap. There was no one inside the shop at that moment except our family of five and a lone cashier. My youngest sister, who was around three at the time, apparently couldn't handle looking at spray-painted shells glued together in fanciful arrangements for another second. "CAN'T WE JUST GET OUT OF THIS DIRTY OLD PLACE?" she said loudly. Ever since that fateful day, any time we're leaving a store, a party, or just about anywhere at all, it's perfectly acceptable to say that it's time to part from that "dirty old place." We don't really attempt it with anyone outside our immediate family, though. The joke doesn't translate well.

When my original set of parents were still married, my dad would hold down me or my middle sister and not let us up until we said, "Captain Crook!" My sister and I thought every family did this. Later, she held down a friend of hers and tried to force a "Captain Crook!" out of her. Having never heard of such a thing, the friend knew right then that my sister was a lunatic.

Growing up, we also drew a lot of inspiration from Dr. Suess.  We even had a cat named Fud Fuddnuddler, a character in "Oh Say Can You Say."

There are so many things
That you really should know.

And that’s why I’m bothering
Telling you so.

Somehow we got stuck on a particular poem in "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish." We came to associate it with complaints. If you had one complaint about something, fine. But if you tried to tack on a second, you heard in reply:

My shoe is off
My foot is cold
I have a bird
I like to hold
My hat is old
My teeth are gold
And now my story is all told

So now, in honor of my mother, I present to you, a reading of said poem. This one's for you, Poosha Kasha!

Comments

radioactivegan said…
So many great stories! I'd love to hear the words to party pants :)
Melissa said…
It's so funny I read this tonight... J & I read One Fish, Two Fish tonight before bed... :-)

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