LEARNING A LANGWICH

Learning (or, in my case, trying to learn) another language provided high entertainment for those around me.

In English, I rarely if ever used a word in the wrong way. I was a serious reader very early and had a big passive vocabulary. By passive, I mean I knew a lot of words, but had never used them in conversation. I know what they meant and how to spell them, but not how they sounded.

I had no idea that Too-son and Tucson were the same place. Or that ep-ee-TOME was epitome. I remember those two examples well because of the extreme amusement they caused around me. I was all of 8-years-old. Adults weren’t as nice to kids back then as they are now.

language school

I was much more entertaining in Israel. I am sure that my fumbling attempts to learn the language, having caused extreme hilarity, probably played a part in my never actually learning Hebrew.

My first big discovery — very early in my life in Jerusalem — was that Zion (Zy-un) means penis. Properly in Hebrew, it’s tzee-own. So if you say (fondly) that Israel is the Land of Zion, using your good American pronunciation, you will reduce Israelis within earshot to tears of laughter. They can be a rough crowd.

To add another layer of problems over the difficulty in just getting the words out through my teeth which were clearly not designed for all those gutturals, many words in Hebrew are very much like one another, yet have hugely different meanings. Sha-ah is an hour. Shan-nah is a year. So there you are saying “My Hebrew isn’t all that good, I’ve only been here for two hours.”

After a while, I mostly spoke English and used Hebrew words as needed when I could fine no English equivalent. Eventually, I came home to where almost everyone could be expected to understand most of what I said. Without laughing at me.

You might ponder this when you meet immigrants who are trying to learn English. I mention this only because, having been on the other side of this experience, a little kindness to people trying to work through a difficult life transition while learning a new language (and culture) can go a long way to make them feel less lonely, threatened, excluded, and generally miserable. Just a thought.

WHAT FAMILY DOESN’T HAVE ITS UPS AND DOWNS?

Eleanor of Aquitaine, “The Lion In Winter” (1968): “What family doesn’t have its ups and downs?”

Marilyn asked me to write something last night because she was running low on creative juices. I agreed but wasn’t sure what to say because I wasn’t in the best of creative or emotional places.

Yesterday, Marilyn posted a piece featuring photographs of my familyBingo! The light went on.

Family!

Garry Kaity Divot RiverBend

We are in the midst of dealing with our respective families. It’s difficult and challenging. We love them all but brokering some of these situations often leaves us in “loud conversation” with each other. Which is not fair. It isn’t even our drama.

We don’t have Mom and Dad, Gramps or Gramma, Uncles or Aunts to consult for help. We’re it!

July 1963

July 1963

So, I look at the old photos of my family from long, long ago. I wonder how they dealt with these things. They look so young and carefree. I know things were not always easy for them as my brothers and I grew up. I still recall “loud conversations” between Mom and Dad.

1990 in Ireland

1990 in Ireland

I wondered why they didn’t resolve things easily as they did on those family TV shows where father knew best and Ozzie was always at home to deal with family stuff. I even once asked my Mom why our house wasn’t like Donna Reed’s home. You can guess how she replied to me.

Family!

I look at my granddaughter Kaity ready to go off to college. I’m proud of her and wish all the good things in life for her. Like so many grandfathers before me, my memories of a younger Kaity fill my mind. Why didn’t the clock stop?

Why didn’t the clock stop for Marilyn and me when we were younger and healthier with some of those beloved family members still around to talk to us.

Silly and naïve questions, I know. We’re the “old people” now. Family begins with us. It’s disconcerting.

ONLY THE BEST WHILE I KEEP THE REST

toasted english muffin

I just learned — hot off the presses — we are sending a capsule into space. Deep space. The deep, dark outer reaches of our galaxy. For some peculiar reason, we think other, non-human intelligent life forms will be interested in our culture. They will want to see our artifacts, gadgets, widgets. The best examples of what makes us great. Imagine that.

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What to show them?

You’d have to include the cell phone. Probably an iPhone, clearly the quintessential techno-gadget of our generation. Or maybe one of the new Android tablets that’s sort of also a telephone, or is it a telephone that’s sort of a tablet?

Kindle and iPad

What about a loaf of sliced bread? Everyone always says “It’s the best invention since sliced bread!” Thus sliced bread must, in some way, be a classic piece of intelligent design from the people who gave you the Edsel and the Bunny Hop. The open bar and happy hour. How to you package up those high points of culture?

Do you include a few drunks in the capsule? How about a box of White Castle sliders? How about at least one politician?

A toast!

I know I’m not thinking clearly. I’m missing so much. So many great things. Monumental achievements we could package in the guise of a small gadget by which any advanced civilization would be instantly recognized peers, equals, and perhaps, superiors. I just can’t think of them right this minute.

Don’t forget to include a cold six-pack of beer. It will be the intergalactic male bonding moment when they all chug it down together.

SERENDIPITY PHOTO PROMPT 2015 #16 – SMALL TOWN SUMMER

SERENDIPITY PHOTO PROMPT 2015 #16 – MID SUMMER IN A VERY SMALL TOWN

It’s Frisbee Wednesday again. How time flies! Last time I looked, it was barely spring. Then whoosh, summertime. Now, summer is beginning to wind down. The flowers that bloomed in the spring (tra la) are fading away, holding their collective virtual breath for the riot of color and energy that is Autumn.

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But not yet. The whole month of August remains which we must traverse. Then, a week and a bit of September will pass until we whirl into prime time and the trees show color.

HEART OF TOWN: THE PARKING LOT

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Last night, we watched “The Quiet Man” on Turner Classic Movies. After the movie, Robert Osborne did a wrap up. He talked about the citizens of Cong (Ireland, County Mayo) where the movie was filmed. How the local folk were so excited to have a movie company in their midst, it was difficult to keep them off the set. They were always peeking out of windows, hiding behind buildings, trying to catch a glimpse of the stars. It was the biggest — only big — event to happen in Cong.

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We visited Cong on our honeymoon in 1990. They were still reliving the grand days when John Ford came to town with his cameras and crew. Most important, he came with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Nothing else ever happened. Or ever will.

I said to Garry: “Nothing has ever happened in Uxbridge. Not a film, not an episode of a television show.”

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“We had one pretty juicy murder,” he pointed out. Ever the reporter, Garry keeps a mental tally of murders in the commonwealth. Catalogued by town.

“Okay, other than that one murder. I don’t think anything has ever happened here more memorable than the day the bank card readers went down.”

“That was a traumatic day,” Garry agreed.

A fly photo-bombed my picture!

A fly photo-bombed my picture!

To further my point (or perhaps, beat it to death), we went to Hannaford today. It is our grocery store. It’s where it all happens. Where we gather to discuss upcoming weather events and the price of things. Garry wanted to pick up a newspaper and replace our depleted supply of kitchen cleanser.

I wanted to snap a few pictures.

We succeeded at both.

JUST SAY NO

Watching a rerun of The Virginian. The story? A young woman is visiting Shiloh while taking a hiatus on her relationship. It’s supposed to be a six-week separation during which she can discover if she really loves the guy. But he shows up and starts to pressure her to marry him right away. She’s reluctant. She promised her father to not see him. She’s disappointed in her beau for pushing her.

It’s a common story, one which I’ve lived personally and watched so many others go through, holding a hand while they agonized through their “apart” time.

One of the very few things my father told me that turned out to be true was whenever someone is pressuring you for an immediate answer, say no. Because when they are pressuring you, they’ve got an agenda. So, say no.

It simplifies stuff that might otherwise seem complicated.

You need my answer right now? Then I will have to say no.

The property won’t last if I think it over for a couple of days? No, thank you.

The price will go up before I have time to decide if I really want it? Hell no!

All those other candidates are waiting in the wings, so you need my answer right now? Uh uh. Nope.

I wish I’d followed this advice from a lot earlier in my life. For all the times I said yes and lived to regret it. Jobs I accepted because I was scared to keep looking. Relationships I got into — then had to get out of — because I was too insecure to stand my ground. Things I bought from high pressure salesmen — real estate, cars, and who remembers what else?

Saying no would have saved me years of misery … and a great deal of money. All I had to do was say no.

All you need to say, is NO.

COME AGAIN?

It happened again. Someone’s left a voicemail message, but all I can make out are a few words. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I recognize the voice. Maybe not.

roku and headphones

We used to leave messages on our answering machines telling folks to speak slowly and clearly, but most callers thought we were being funny. Leaving a coherent message was apparently a joke. These days, we get lots of incoherent messages. Usually, with caller ID (and now with a caption phone), we know who called and can retrieve the number, but not necessarily. If it’s garbled enough, the caption phone won’t get it either. It’ll just say “Incomprehensible” or “muffled” or something else that means “sorry, no idea what he/she said.”

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“Garry, your brother called. No idea what he said. Call him, okay?”

“Hey, Jim called about something. Call him when you have a moment.”

“One of your cousins called. They left a message but I can’t make it out.”

My favorite: “Someone called. Maybe it was important. They left a number but I can’t understand it.  Guess it wasn’t important enough.” Note: If it really is important and we don’t call back? Pick up the phone and call again. Seriously. If it’s that important, make sure we got the message.

wires and blue sky

If you leave a message, speak up. Clearly. Repeat the phone number. Don’t forget to include your name — in case we don’t actually know you as well as you think we do or can’t recognize your voice.

Don’t mumble.

While we’re on the subject, how about those cell phones, eh? On which you can’t hear anything? From either end? I miss telephones on which you knew you had a connection that wouldn’t drop and on which you could hear what someone said to you — and know they could hear you.

No wonder texting is so popular. No one can understand what anyone else is saying.

MOM WITH CANNOLIS

Mom came to visit in a dream, a most welcome visitor. I hadn’t seen her in a few months, but she looked great. After a quick hug, she told me she’d brought a surprise.

Of the all the things I expect the deceased to bring when they visit from the beyond, fresh baked goods are not high on my list. Mom handed me a box. Brown cardboard tied with thin string. It looked as if it came straight from my favorite Boston bakery. I thanked Mom and untied the box, carefully setting the string aside so I could play cat’s cradle later. In the box were a ten gorgeous cannolis.

Cannolis

Oh yummy. I dug in, well into my third cannoli (Note: Food eaten in dreams has no calories, so always gorge on dream food) when Mom said that she was glad to see me again and drifted off. I woke up missing my mother and wishing we had a good bakery nearby. Then again, maybe it’s just as well we don’t. Dream food has no calories, but the stuff from real bakeries does.

Once upon a time, I dreamed of far away shores. Now I dream of Mom and cannolis.