Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pass The Poisonberry Syrup, Please

“It is familiarity with life that makes time speed quickly. When every day is a step in the unknown, as for children, the days are long with gathering of experience . . .”
George R. Gissing

                Yesterday I ate a waffle with boysenberry syrup on it. I asked my daughter if she remembered that she used to call it “poisonberry syrup”.  Miffed, she said, “Well, I had never heard of ‘boysenberry’, Mom!”  It’s true; she never had. Ally, because of her central auditory processing difficulty, is known for the Malapropism. To this day, if she mishears something, she simply translates it into something remotely understandable to her and goes from there. But she is not the only one of my children to make these blunders and what they do not fathom is that I still laugh about them because they are such fond memories.

                For instance, there is the infamous Muu Muu Incident. Tony has always been an eavesdropper, but unfortunately he would often hear parts of separate discussions and somehow merge them in his head. One chilly Saturday morning my husband was making biscuits.He told me that he was making them and that he was also making sausage and gravy, and that we could have either gravy or jam on them, and then he asked me about the muu-muus he had bought for me to wear around the house. “Oh, they’re wonderful,” I said. “Very warm.”

                Tony had only heard fragments of what we were saying. “Hey, Dad,” he asked, “are the muu-muus for us kids too, or just you and Mom?”


                “The muu-muus. Are they for us, too?”


                Exasperated, he asked a third time. “The MUU-MUUS.The ones that are warm in the oven. Are they for us too?”

                Freddie chuckled. “Son, what do you think muu-muus ARE?”


                To this day, muu-muus are another name for biscuits and vice versa. The incident sparked a series of jokes about Muu-Muu Man and his sidekick, Biscuit Boy, who fight evil armed only with spatulas and butter. Tony finds it much funnier now than he did then. At the time, he became incensed when, after he said he was tired and we asked from what, Ally piped up, “Saving the WORLD!” in a singsong voice.

                But Ally has done and said her share. Unfamilar with the concept of a port-o-potty , she asked if “the potties in the porters ever overfloat.” My husband promptly made up a song called “The Potty in the Porter” to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell.” It was suitably gross and the children, who were five, eight, and eleven at the time, shrieked with mirth and later drew a series of illustrations to go with it. Ally used to draw things and then decide what they were. My favorite was “a duck thinking about France”. It turned out that she thought France was a kind of food.Once, when asked at our adoption support group to illustrate “trauma”, she drew a flower under which she wrote, “I AM VARRY HAPPYE.” I explained to her that trauma is not a flower nor a happy thing. She replied that she knew that, but she wasn’t sad or traumatized so she just drew what she wanted. Raina had drawn a little girl crying. “Now, before you jump to any conclusions, Mother,” she said, “I just drew that because I knew they wanted some sad weepy picture. I’m not actually traumatized.” So much for psychology.

                My kids hate being analyzed. If they do something dumb they don’t want us to try to figure out why they did it, because sometimes people just do and say dumb things. There was no deep psychological reason why they thought it would be a good idea to tie the wagon to Tony’s bike, put Ally and the dog in it, and then try to ride the bike downhill in violation of all the laws of physics. It didn’t end well, but like many things I didn’t know about it until years later. The older two paid Ally off with candy to not tell.

                I don’t know why I didn’t notice when Ally shaved off her eyebrows and drew some on with marker, but I really didn’t. I guess I was too busy worrying about why Tony popped the head off a Barbie doll, drew a face on the tiny little ball that remained, and posed it naked on the edge of the bathtub. Or maybe it was because I was slowly going mad thinking we had poltergeists, since things would go missing and then reappear in different places and NOBODY did it. Or maybe I was distracted by my husband’s incoherent ramblings about mermaid hair in his soap and the action figure stuck in the drain. These days it is bobby pins and hair ties that get stuck in the drain, and the paint that used to get spilled on the carpet has been replaced by nail polish that is impossible to get rid of.

                Who can comprehend the mind of a child? Raina thought those things that you plug things into were “shock-its” which actually makes sense, but she also liked “corn critters”. I’m not sure what she thought was in the corn fritters. Ally believed that the Statue of Delivery had a pizza box in her hand, and that some Native American had been working on the railroad, “all the WIGWAM day.”  She is still the Lyric Butcher. If she doesn’t know the words, she just makes them up-or HUMS. A lot.

                Often during a day’s play in the backyard there would be odd occurrences and people would come in to get strange things. I decided that some things were best unknown and were maybe not my business, but I did get upset when the girls threw CD cases into the fan and destroyed them while “playing secret agent”.  I never did figure that one out, any more than I have been able to figure out Ally’s cryptic answer to the question of whether her socks matched: “Well, one of them doesn’t.” At least they don’t talk backward anymore. I have to admit, that really did drive me nuts, and they knew it.They also knew that I hated the idea of wasting food, which was why they threw the pimento cheese sandwiches into the far back of the yard and then watched them decay and get eaten by ants over time. Fascinating nature study.

                One day Ally came in to get a broom and my curiosity got the best of me. “Why do you need a broom?”

                “To sweep up the broken glass in the shed.”

                “Broken glass from what?”

                “The broken aquarium.”

                “There’s no broken aquarium in the shed.”

                “There is now.” BAZINGA.

                It turned out that Raina had been trying to get something out of a keeper that was on top of a very tall stack of keepers. She decided that it would be a good idea to stand on the old aquarium in order to reach it. Putting ninety-five pounds of pressure on an item made entirely of glass will cause it to shatter, a scientific discovery Raina made all by herself. Kids have to learn these things. They also have to eventually learn to put on their own Band-Aids, which Raina did that day-she sneaked in and did it herself because she didn’t want us to know that she had once again done something kind of dumb.

                Another time, Tony came running in yelling that a tree had fallen on Raina. My husband was not home at the time. I ran screaming into the yard, expecting to find my daughter dead and smashed beneath a fallen oak. Instead, I found her lying on the ground yowling like a scalded cat with a very small tree limb across her leg. I asked Tony why he exaggerated, and he said, “Well, from the way she was yelling, I just assumed it was a whole tree.” 

                Ah, childhood. A time of innocence. A time of magic. A time when your brother and sister throw your toy into a tree, make you climb up to get it, refuse to help you down, and laugh at you when you pee your pants. Poor Ally. Although she was REALLY annoying, the way she would take everything Tony said and make it into a song and sing it back to him, or lean over to whisper something to Raina and then lick her ear. It’s a good thing that when the social worker, unable to deny Tony’s issues, assured us that the girls were “no trouble at all”, we took it with a grain of salt. There is no such thing as a child who is “no trouble at all” except in books.

                Nowadays we look back and laugh. Memories are wonderful things, and we have more to come. Just the other day, Tony hit a traffic cone with his car and it flipped up and smashed his side mirror. Weird things just HAPPEN to that boy. If he gets the job he’s interviewing for today, at the Hush Puppy store, we will probably call him Shoe Boy or something. Teasing each other is how we show affection. That’s how we roll. Alyssa still often falls for Freddie’s ridiculous “facts” that he tells with a straight face and so does Tony. Raina is a little more savvy and she will just shake her head and say “No, it’s not.”  But he gets her every now and then and is delighted when it happens. When the kids were younger, if I saw them doing something dangerous, I would say, “I had a friend who did that. Know what happened? He DIED.” After awhile, though, they realized that I would have had no friends left if this had been true every time, so now when I start that they just say, “Yeah, yeah. We know. He ate too many potato chips and he DIED.” Oh, these cynical, coffee-drinking, music-obsessed teenagers of mine. Where did those three cute little kids go? I think they have a very bad case…of growing up. It’s sad, but it happens to everybody. I kind of miss the  muu-muu days, complete with a rabbit in a tutu stuffed down into a doll stroller next to an angry but resigned Pekingese in a onesie. Those were the days, indeed. Now please pass the poisonberry syrup.

“Then they do
And that's how it is
It's just quiet in the morning
Can't believe
How much you miss
All they do
And all they did
You want all the dreams
They dreamed of
To come true
Then they do.”

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