‘Every family has its own language.’
Well, I guess I owe you all an apology again. I played hooky last week, and I don’t even have a fun reason. Last time I blog-skipped it was because I was out West playing with my Mom. Not this time.
Nope. This week I blame my goofoffedness on the fact that I had to travel unexpectedly into the City to deal with a sudden onset of flashing lights in my left eye. Those of you who are equally ancient will recognize the danger of a detached retina here. One would think, being married to an ophthalmologist and all, that I could just hop up on the kitchen table and have Dr. Dude sort it out. But no. One needs special gear to peer into the depths of an eyeball. Also, he’s not a retina specialist. So there’s that.
I’ll spare you the sturm und drang and back and forth, but suffice it to say that my eye is fine. Or as fine as a 72-year-old eye can be. I swear, once I turned 70 (See “Skirting the Issue” for a breathless account of my fab birthday bash), everything started to fall apart. I’ve started to identify with our ’98 4Runner or even our ’91 Honda — ’cause I’m always in the shop.
But back to the subject of the week, the Language of Families. My theory being that every family has words or catchphrases that they use with each other — sometimes to communicate, but more often just to crack each other up — that Outsiders simply don’t get.
Like, my Aunt Shirley used to call the soft tissue holding your teeth in your mouth your “gooms” (rhymes with “goons”) because she thought a medicalesque part of your anatomy simply couldn’t be just “gums.” My Mom and her sister Marilyn (both nurses) thought this was hilarious, and started calling the darned things “gooms” every chance they got, even when Aunt Shirley wasn’t around. Especially when Aunt Shirley wasn’t around.
So “gooms” entered the Peterson Family Lexicon, along with “grocerots,” which was what my Aunt M. called “groceries.” Not sure why, but she always did. And then the rest of us of the Peterson Persuasion did, too. (Cousin Marcia, I bet you say “grocerots,” yes?)
The Petersons were Swedish (duh), like practically everybody else in their neck of the Northern Illinois woods (er, farmland). Once, when my Great-Aunt Florence had been chatting away to a neighbor for a while, her Swedish must have gotten “stuck,” because she remarked to someone that she was very tired and needed to go get “rosted ooop.” (Go on, say this out loud. Which we Peterson descendants do. A lot.)
Aunt Florence is the source of another bit of lingo that became a family catchphrase. Want to get a Peterson to snort milk out their nose? Just go “baw baw baw” in a really harsh, strident tone. That was how one of Aunt Flo’s neighbors used to rock her baby to sleep. I wonder if it was the same baby who, when asked its name, its mother replied, “Oh, for now we’re just calling him Squacky.” This is true. I swear on a stack of gooms.
How about your family? Do you speak your own language? Even if you don’t, I sure hope you take time out every day to crack each other up. Then you can go get “rosted ooop.”
Amagansett, New York. June 2023