Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Word play

I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, 
on Tuesdays.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

In recent days, there have been several moments where I have found myself puzzling over words, and I decided the mini-stories behind the words would make for today's slice. I'm not sure that these snippets have any real connection, except for the word play involved. Just a fun write!

1. Daughter-in-law's parents

I puzzle over what to call my daughter's in law's parents. There really is no word in the English language. There is something about these long phrases -
daughter-in-law's parents,
relative by marriage,
that seems distant, formal, keeping someone at arm's length. They all feel stilted. Funny, I don't think I wondered about this at all for the first years of my son and daughter-in-law's marriage...I mean, we were all new to one another, and I found the terminology fine, normal. However, something has changed with the grandbaby - she has brought us closer. I don't feel any distance to the 'other grandparents,' except for the fact that I have to say OTHER grandparents. I mean, whoa - a grandchild - we are forever connected to one another now. We equally love her. We are equally devoted to her. We need a better term for one another, something shorter and kinder, something that is easy to say. My Google search revealed that other languages have a term for this relationship:
Spanish "consuegros,"
French "belle mere,"
Malay "besan,"
Yiddish "machatunim."
There are probably many others. Isn't it funny that English doesn't have one? Could I make one?
I started playing around with possibities - how about "mamadil" (mother of daughter-in-law), and correspondingly, of course, mamasil (mother of son-in-law), daddydil (father of daughter-in-law), and daddysil (father of son-in-law). Or maybe you could follow the same pattern in reverse: dilma, silma, dildad, sildad.
I was sharing this wacky train of thought with my son and daughter-in-law at brunch one morning over winter break, at a restaurant, when my daughter-in-law exclaimed "pecan roll!" I looked at her with great surprise and delight - yes, that's a silly and unique suggestion for the word! But, a mere moment later, I realized, she was simply nudging my son to order these for the table. We all had a good laugh at my confusion.
So, now, I find myself thinking of her mother as pecan roll.

2. Evening.

I was reading some inconsequential article in the newspaper about a cooking recipe, which noted the need for 'evening the ingredients.' This got me musing about how rarely I say 'evening' in this way - how I almost always think of evening as that time after my long school day, that time when the sky darkens, that time before bed. However, to 'even' things is to make balanced or leveled or same...I think of a teeter-totter, how it goes up and down, and there's this lovely, rare balance in the middle, when the seats are evening. Evening. What if I thought of my evenings as a time of balance? That is the magic of the very best evenings, isn't it? When we regroup, catch our breath, reflect on the day, put our feet up - ah, the great evening. Tony and I have taken a step towards 'evening' with a new year's resolution to sit together at dinner with the television off. There is no TV news blaring at us. For too long now, I have felt as if I needed to 'catch up' on the news when I got home from teaching. [Ha, 'evening news' - there's a contradiction in terms...I am by no means calm and balanced after watching.] Now, instead, we light candles and sit together at one end of our table, and talk. Or, go quiet together. Connecting, after our long day apart. Evening. This is a very nice, inspiring way to look at this time of day in this new year.

3. Uh-oh.

Frog is fourteen months old now and has discovered the word/sound/utterance "uh-oh." She notices when things drop or bump, when we struggle to get a diaper on her, or a tight shirt over her head, and she and we will say "uh-oh!" Now she has claimed it for herself as she eats. When she is full and no longer wants to eat, she starts flinging extra pieces of food or the spoon down onto the floor with a rowdy "UH-OH!" Her parents had warned us about this new 'trick' of hers. It did not take long to see it in action. One night recently, Tony and I were eating dinner with her, alongside her, taking turns feeding her and feeding ourselves. She seemed to be slowing down in her eating, and I was slowing down in giving her food, trying to avoid the "uh oh" show. She gave an insistent "mmm-mmm!" which I took to mean "I do want more," so I put a couple chunks of sweet potato on her high chair tray. Immediately, she grabbed one, threw it to the floor with vigor, and exclaimed "UH OH!" Tony and I looked at each other and then looked right at her and said, practically in unison, "It's not 'uh-oh' if you do it on purpose." Poor Frog! She didn't like that - her eyes watered and her jaw quivered. When had her grandparents ever reprimanded her? Then she grabbed the other chunk of sweet potato and threw it to the floor.
No 'uh oh,' though.

4. Patient.

Whenever I visit Dad (age 90) in his nursing home, I take stock of his decline. He has Parkinson's, and this means a whole host of other things - weakening muscles and increasing immobility (he is confined to a wheelchair now), dementia (his is mild, but growing), depression, and ever increasing inability to talk or to recall specific words. It's a pretty horrid disease, the way it ravages a once strong body and mind. On my most recent visit, I was there for his lunch time, and assisting with his meal. We were nestled in the back of the dining room, at a window that looked out onto some beautiful trees. It is my favorite place to sit when I visit him - it cheers me, and, hopefully, cheers him a bit. That's my minimum goal, typically - to cheer Dad a bit. He can be very quiet and sad these days. There he was with that lunch, wrestling with his fork, trying to 'catch' a bite of chicken (and I had cut up this chicken into small, manageable bites - much like I do with Frog. Yeah, it's depressing). As he played 'cat and mouse' with his fork and food, I noticed and (inadvertently) said aloud - "Oh, you don't have anything to drink...I guess they haven't brought drinks around yet." I scanned the room to see if other residents had been served. He stopped eating and said - "You can get up and take care of that yourself." (That was SO one of his parenting lines - 'quit your complaining and just do it'.) I teased him back, with a big smile - "Oh no, I am very PATIENT. I learned that from my Dad - he's a very, very patient guy." He stared right at me for a moment, we locked eyes, and he said "THAT was NEVER said about me. No way. No one ever called me patient." And he chuckled.

1 comment:

  1. So many thoughts: 1. Yes, English has so many limits. English could learn from other languages how to be more concise and accurate; 2. Evening would be a wonderful OLW. I like the idea of balance, and dinner time has always been a time of togetherness for us. It’s so important. The atrocities of Trump will await dinner; 3. I giggled. Poor Turtle. She’s experimenting w/ language. So important; 4. I see the duality in “patient.” Aging is sad and cruel. I’m reading more books about the end of life in an effort to have more control when that time arrives.