Tuesday, December 29, 2009

sort of like that Hank Williams tune

My Aunt Karen used a word the other day during our phone conversation that I’d never heard. It didn’t surprise me that she used it – she called it a “Gerty-ism.” Gertrude was my maternal great grandmother and apparently she was nuttier than a fruitcake. Not nutty in a crazy way, I assume. I like to think she was just odd. A Gerty-ism is something like a superstition, like “don’t tell your dreams before breakfast or they’ll not come true” or “if your ear itches, someone is talking about you”. Families all over the place have these superstitions, but for some reason Gertrude Andrews also made up some crazy ass words, too. My Aunt Karen was “ganushing” (gah-noosh-ing) which apparently means she kept crunching crumbs and sprinkles, which had fallen to the floor during cookie baking, with her bare feet. I get it. I ganush all the time – but in my house it just means that I’m a terrible slob. Seriously, what is the point of sweeping and mopping the kitchen when it’s just going to get dirty again within the hour? That’s why we have a dog.

I wish I had met Gertrude Andrews. I don’t know much about her, but I like to think we’re a bit alike. For years she was a guard at an all women’s penitentiary in upstate New York. I run an all girls penitentiary right here in my home. Anyway, my point is that over the holidays I’ve been thinking about the sorts of family traditions and values that we’re passing along to my girls. Like the one where I wait until the last minute to pack my bag when we go to visit my in-laws in St. Louis. This is the tradition in which we arrive and I realize quickly that I have packed seventeen different outfits for the children and five shirts for me. That’s it. Count ‘em: five shirts and NO fucking pants. So, my choice is to wear the pants I wore on the car ride here where we slid across I-70 on the ice and I nearly shit them three times, OR, go buy new pants. Seriously, people. This happens EVERY time we go to St. Louis.

We’ve been watching old home movies this week. And just as I wish I had met Gertrude Andrews, I wish wholeheartedly that my children could have met my grandparents or the people in my husband’s family who are no longer with us. I wish my Grandpa Bloom could have “Uncle Berted” my kids (the tradition in which he let his 5 o’clock shadow grow enough that he could rub his cheek against ours and make us holler in pain), or that my Grandma Jeannie could have had a burping contest with my Zoe, who would totally give her a run for her money. And my kids could learn all those made up words, like “ganushing” to teach their own children when I’m no longer here to teach them good stuff – sans pants.

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