Just Call Me

Grandma called me Christine Jeanie Karen.  She went through different name lists for others in the family, but the route to “Karen” was always the same.  I often wondered, but never asked, how I fit on this particular list.

Christine was my great aunt, rarely seen, but much remembered thanks to Grandma.  The same starting sound best explains why our names were linked.

Jeanie was my mom’s cousin, maybe fifteen years older than me.  Another rarely seen relative.  She and I were the only blondes in a brunette and black haired family.  That’s the best I can do to make any kind of connection with Jeanie.

I remember this fondly now, largely because I find myself struggling with family names, too.  The first syllable of my daughter’s and sister’s names rhyme.  Anyway, that’s my excuse for repeatedly calling them by the others name. The children I work with and my nieces and nephews often suffer through being called a siblings’ name – by me and others.  I knew better than to name my children with the same starting letter sound, but failed to apply that rule when we named our pets.  Luckily Dixie, Dogg, Daisy and Dexter don’t complain when I get their names wrong.

As the old saying goes, “I don’t care what you call me – just don’t forget to call me for supper.”  Maybe that should be our family motto.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Power of Names

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I’m Smarter Than I Text

Call us grammar geeks or snobs; our family takes the use of correct grammar and spelling seriously. If I find I’ve made an error when it is too late to correct it, it bothers me for days. My geeky ways have made it impossible to accept the abbreviations and shortcuts so popular in texting.  I have scoffed at those who use 2, or B, to save the work of entering a two letter word.   Now it is time to humbly sacrifice my judgmental ways. 

I am new to texting as we (gasp!) use our cell phones on a very limited basis due to poor reception at our country home.  My adult children assured me they would communicate more often if we texted, so I have tried it a few times. 

This weekend we found ourselves unexpectedly heading to the city where our daughter and son-in-law live.  My husband was driving and suggested I find out if they could join us for a meal.  Chilly, I tried texting with my gloves on.  Nope. I gingerly removed one glove, but it was still slow going. I kept rephrasing my sentence to avoid the use of the shift key (and my gloved hand) to access apostrophe’s, question marks, and the like. Texting shorthand suddenly seemed like a good idea. I finally gave up to use both hands and got our message sent.  A response came quickly, and that is when my real troubles began. 

Evidently, for me, wearing sunglasses instead of my “readers” to operate my phone is as detrimental as wearing gloves to text.  Somehow instead of retrieving my daughter’s responding text I opened an old conversation between us and read:  Leaving lake now.  Mahattan 4ish?

We’re in the snow and ice region so I was surprised they’d been at a lake, though it was possible. But I knew of no town or restaurant called “Mahattan”, and it was 5:30.  As I am pondering this aloud, I accidentally sent this same message to my daughter, thinking I have accidentally sent a blank message.  So I text “Confused by Mahattan 4ish.”, to which my daughter responds: “Haha! The lake confused me.”

What? Wasn’t she the one who brought up the whole lake and 4:00 thing??? And what was Mahattan…

At this point I realize that the message I was responding to was not from my daughter. It was indeed my first ever text to her. Sent last July when we were heading from a lake in Missouri to Manhattan, Kansas. (N! see the problem a little spelling typo can create?!) I not only read this as from her, but sent it to her, missing somehow her actual response to our offer of a meal together.

I am laughing and trying to text an explanation to send her when my husband says, “You just need to call her.” As in, you really shouldn’t be texting. Just then my phone rang, my daughter having come to the same conclusion as her dad. And the mystery of the lake and the need for time travel to meet at 4:00 was solved.

The family is still making fun of me for “yelling” (texting in all caps) last summer to say, “NO TO WAMEGO. NO OZ.”, when asked if I had ever been to the town of Wamego or their OZ Museum. I’m sure jokes about leaving the lake can’t be far behind.

I’ll keep working on texting skills and drop my criticism of those who do it more successfully than I with fewer key strokes. And if someone invites you to Wamego, B sure 2 go.

The OZ Museum in Wamego, KS

The OZ Museum in Wamego, KS

Emerald City

Emerald City

Look out for the poppy field.

Look out for the poppy field.

A Standup Grandpa

To meet my grandpa’s approval, you could be thin, good looking, rich, a fellow Christian, or none of those things.  Only a sense of humor was required.  Often opinionated and gruff,  humor bridged his connection to others.

Visitors to his home were greeted with “Sit down and make yourself homely” and dismissed with “Well, I’d better get to bed and let you good people go home”.

We children collected jokes, gifting him with endless “knock, knock” variations, just to earn his smile.  He rewarded our weakest efforts, giving a joke in return. 

Whatever the holiday, our family feasts ended the same way.  While we were still at the tables, Grandpa would stand up at the head and do about twenty minutes of material.  Many were long, involved stories, meandering to the punch line.  Family members comprised most of the audience, so many of the jokes were familiar old favorites to them.

The adults laughed in anticipation as each joke began, getting more hysterical as he moved from story to story.  Observing from the kids’ table, the laughter-to-tears of aunts and uncles entertained us as much as the jokes, but I still strained to listen for the one joke I never heard him finish.

  As grandpa wrapped up one long story (about how the farmer finally figured out he could tell his two horses apart because the white one had longer ears than the brown one..) it happened again.  Grandpa said something about two men in a boat while all the adults howled with laughter.  Then he grinned and sat down.  Foiled again, I wondered why they never let him finish this last joke…

Years after Grandpa’s death I had the chance to visit with a cousin who spent many childhood years living with or near my grandparents. A great story-teller and comedian in his own gentle way, he told me a few of his favorites from Grandpa’s collection.  His retelling of the old jokes prompted my memory, and I asked him if he’d ever heard the end of the boat joke, expressing my frustration at never hearing the whole thing.

He gave me an odd look, and asked what I remembered of it.

“Something about two men in a boat, and one of them was the Captain.”

He grinned Grandpa’s grin.  “There were two men in a boat, and one of them was the Captain.  No…no…the OTHER man was the Captain…”.  In chagrin I realized I’d heard the whole thing all along.

I think of this joke every time I hear someone needlessly correcting the details of a story, and I smile, remembering Grandpa.

 

Gene Shopping

I left home in a downpour this morning after looking in vain for my umbrella. I thought, “I probably left it at work – I hope my sister didn’t take it by mistake.” And I smiled at the thought of our nearly matching duck head umbrellas. Mine’s navy. Hers is forest green.

We bought them separately and it was some time before we discovered our similar tastes were showing again. I don’t know another soul who owns a duck head umbrella.

Sis and I have ended up with other similar items over the years, never our intention. We had enough matching outfits forced on us in our growing up years. It is not too unusual that we each purchased the same style winter hat (mine black, hers red) but the identical art deco turtle lamps are harder to explain away.

Are there shopping genes? Is it nurture or nature that draws us both to a love of baskets and candles? But it gets stranger than that.

Five years ago my sister and I were preparing to fly to Kansas to visit our dad. Her almost two year old daughter would be flying with us, for what we all knew might be a last visit. Dad had been fighting pancreatic cancer for over three years and was running out of ammunition.

I knew a long flight and layover would not be easy for a two year old. I went shopping for ways to help entertain her.

As we boarded the plane, I told my sis “I brought a new picture book so she has something new to look at, a My Little Pony with a comb so she can keep busy combing its hair, and a little stuffed puppy that fits in a little doghouse-shaped purse. I thought she’d have fun putting it in and out…” And my sister started to laugh.

Our books were different, but she had also purchased a My Little Pony and a dog/doghouse combo. We had purchased the same three items, using the same reasoning as to how they would entertain her on the plane. (In the long run the snack food we each brought may have been the best entertainment…)

I think it’s in our genes.