Monday, February 24, 2014

Before You Came Along

When his little brother was about to be born, my oldest grandson asked me if his parents would still love him as much as they did before. He had been the only child in the family for seven years. I knew he didn’t want platitudes; he wanted an answer that would assuage his doubt.

I asked him which parent he loved more.  When he struggled, I intervened. I told him it didn’t matter if he had a favorite.  I asked him which grandmother he loved more, me or his other grandmom.  Once again, I stopped him before he was forced to answer.  Did he love both his parents, both his grandmothers?

He said yes. 

The heart is a muscle that stretches to accommodate all the people we love. It never runs out of room.  I shot names at him, all family members and family friends.  Do you love them all?
He nodded. 

That is how your parents will feel about you when your brother is born.  They will love you as much as they loved you before your brother came along, but they will make room for your brother and love him too.

That was years ago before he became the oldest of four boys.  Come June there will be five in his family when his little sister is born.  I understand my grandson’s dilemma.  Will he be loved as much as he was before four other siblings came along?

My answer is yes.  Each child is distinctive and amazing.  Some of the grandkids have been mine since birth; others crawled into my lap after their parent married into our family. I like to spend a bit of time with each one, alone from the others, so that they know just how special they are to me. We talk, we giggle, we sit in quiet silence.  They ask me questions or advice that they cannot voice to either of their parents, and I answer them but always encourage them to consult their parents as well.

Before each grandchild came along, I never realized how easily my heart would stretch to make room for them. The heart grows with each person we learn to love.  That is probably why we hurt when they are gone.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Nerd Girl

The postcard invites her to join the High School Reunion Committee - SHE is needed to make this year’s party a success!

Hiss!  Boo!  Bah!

Yay, let’s bring back all the old memories, the old hurts. Let’s see who remembers The Wallflower Dance Queen; the Girl-Who-Spent-Every-Friday-With-Her-Parents while the rest of her senior class went out on dates, to the football games, and to the prom; the one and only Girl-Who-Never-Knew-The-Joy-Of-Wearing-An-Outrageously-Large-Homecoming-Corsage. 

Yes, let’s rub it in.

No matter that she survived all that angst and had a successful career and is now in an amazing relationship with her husband, “they” found her, the high school “cool kids” who shoved her aside because she was a nerd, because she was smarter than they, because she refused to act dumber than her football-player boyfriend. 

Dang Internet! Stupid Google.   

The Committee-Who-Needs-Her-Desperately-To-Make-This-Year’s-Reunion-A-Success is meeting at a local bar. (How appropriate.)  Anyone with memorabilia from the “good, old days” should bring it to the meeting. (Go Bulldogs!)  If she has kept in contact with any of the other classmates, she should invite them to attend the meeting also. (Oh, yeah, sure, she’s going to call her ex-best friend, the back stabber who stole her football-player boyfriend and later married and divorced him.)

She can hardly wait for the meeting.  It’s logged into her Calendar on her iPhone. No, wait.  That’s not true. Those memories are in the past and she doesn’t plan on reliving them.  She takes great care and rips the postcard into a million tiny pieces, bypasses the recycle bin, and throws them into the trash can.

That’s what she thinks of The Committee-Who-Needs-Her-Desperately-To-Make-This-Year’s-Reunion-A-Success.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Spanglish 101

The moment I step into my mother’s house, something happens to my brain.  My conversation switches back and forth between English and Spanish. There was a day when I could speak Spanish throughout the whole conversation, but since I only use it at my mother’s, I have forgotten some of it and I struggle to remember certain words.
My husband called this mixture of my two languages Spanglish and I took offense.
My parents took great care to teach me and my siblings how to speak Spanish correctly when we were children, and often when I speak it with someone other than my family, they notice that I speak differently than most locals.
I take pride in that, except I do struggle with my Spanish, and my husband is right – if moving back and forth between the two languages is Spanglish, then I do speak it, but don’t tell him that.
What I am really doing is code switching and it is a common phenomenon among all bilingual speakers, regardless the language. Any two languages that have some syntactical similarity are open to code switching. What I try to shy away from is mistranslating or adapting/hybridizing words that do not exist in either language. I call those Spanglish words, and they are what my parents tried to weed out of our Spanish lessons.
Spanglish to me is when someone thinks they are speaking in Spanish by adding a common Spanish noun ending, like the letter O, to a word and it is instantly Spanish. Words like car + o = carro, or bird + o = birdo. Stuff like this is funny (to a point.)  
Examples of each:
          An English N-V-N sentence:     
                    I bought a ticket.
          Correct Spanish translation:
                    Compré un boleto.
          Correct Code Switched version:
                    Compré un ticket.
          Incorrect Spanglish/hybridized Spanish version:
                    I bought un tiquete.  Or Compré un tiquete.
The USA is made up of many cultures, ethnicities, and heritages.  We come with many languages.  As our first languages mixes with American English, it assimilates into a mixture of both.  In my case, (HoneyBunch is right, darn it!) I speak Spanglish.


Monday, February 3, 2014

One Dollar Off

I am a coupon clipper.  I have been for forty years.  If using grocery coupons was an Olympic event, I would place in the top three.
I clipped my first coupon the day I started my own household, but back then I was a total amateur. I clipped every coupon I found and bought stuff I never used. It was obsessive and wasteful.
When the babies came along, I realized I had to learn to be thrifty, so I asked both my mother and my mother-in-law to help me collect baby coupons.  I swear on a stack of Proctor and Gamble products that every paper diaper the younger two used was purchased with a coupon. It saved me hundreds of dollars. I was learning by experience.
I perfected the art when the kids hit their teenage years.  I was able to direct the money I saved on hair products and pimple medicines into food dollars (though I also coveted coupons for cold cereal and frozen pizzas). I became so obsessed with coupons I ripped them out of the magazines in the doctor’s office.
I was good, real good.  I was now professional level.
When my three left home and I found myself single again, I gave myself a respite from coupon clipping.  I took a sabbatical. I strutted through the grocery aisles like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, throwing grocery items willy-nilly into my cart, not a care in the world.  I timed the moment the cashier asked, “Do you have any coupons?” so I could smugly answer in a loud voice, “No, no I don’t.”  
But I came back. I became a born-again coupon clipper when I married HoneyBunch, not because I needed to count my pennies, but because as a one-time professional coupon clipper, it made sense. There are whole aisles of the grocery store I no longer shop. I don’t own a pet. I gave up sodas and chips, and at my age, I have no need for feminine products. That’s a lot of coupons I no longer clip, but there are also products I use every day – high-fiber cereal, household detergents, and toiletries. It made sense to spend a little time clipping those coupons and save myself a few dollars every time I go to the store.

Professionals don’t quit. They ride off into the sunset, a flaming torch in one hand, a dollar coupon in the other.