Thursday, October 05, 2006

Words, Feathers and Sport Cars

Born in Europe after the end of WWII, my husband's first language was Ukrainian. When he was still a baby, his family set sail for South America, where they learned to speak Spanish. No sooner was he fluent in Spanish than they decided to move again, this time to New York ,and more linguistic challenges. He was in about first grade and one day a teacher called him "stupid", because he did not yet know enough English to understand her. He did understand what "stupid" meant. I can't imagine what he felt that day, at the mercy of that thoughtless, cruel woman, but it made him resolve to learn to speak English so well that no one would ever call him that again. He has a great ear for languages and accents, and in addition to fluent Ukrainian and Spanish, he has a working knowledge of German and French. He doesn't speak Italian, but after growing up cheek by jowl with so many Italians in Brooklyn, he understands it pretty well [or maybe it's the hand gestures!] And let's not forget that he can curse fluently in Lithunian.

I think what my children probably remember best are the litanies of incantations, in strange tongues, that Dad would let fly as he struggled with flashlights and wrenches under the hoods of our various cars. Then on a trip to Ireland one year, he kissed the Blarney Stone! Coals to Newcastle! Suffice to say the man is never tongue tied. While I think, hours later, of perfect snappy comebacks, they roll off his tongue with exquisite timing, exactly when he needs them.

Today I was reminded of one of his favorite quips [ not coined by him, but funny just the same]. I was filling up at the gas station and a really cool sports car pulled up at the next pump. Out struggled an old geezer of about ninety, bald and wrinkled, with a sizeable paunch. "What a waste", the OB would say! I pulled back out onto the road, and the old geezer in the cool car followed, then moved into the left lane and passed, but kept his signal on, and on, and on! And the OB's voice echoed in my head, "If only I had that car and he had a feather up his a__, we'd both be tickled to death!"


Lily said...

The nuns would be shocked now at the inner workings of your mind.

Anonymous said...

funny to find out the little things that have such a major influence on who we become and how we react as we grow older...hmmmm. i guess that'd be some form of family history heh? /unowho

meggie said...

I love that story!