Tag Archives: family

“The Slightest Thing To Do to a Baby” (and other family phrases)

Families are just a kind of tribe and, as such, have their own languages. Sometimes we say things to each other, quoting something or someone, and the listener will say: “what’s that from?” Meaning it sounds familiar (or familial) but she can’t place its origin. Even explaining this makes me wonder if it would make sense to anyone outside my family (hello, Janet!) Or, conversely, I’ll use a family-understood phrase, only to baffle my non-family audience. Once I said, apropos of I can’t remember, “I’ll be nappin’ like a baby by lunchtime.” And then to the baffled listener I had to say: “That’s not a thing, I guess?” When I told this story to Lily, she laughed, and understood, but also couldn’t place the phrase. Consider this a lexicon to a tribal language. Perhaps you have your own?

  1. “That’s the slightest thing to do to a baby!” Said anytime you object to something someone has done. Origin: unknown.
  2. “Tired as a person.” Said of dogs, usually. Origin: unknown.
  3. “Although not in my garden…” While this sounds specific to horticulture, it can be used as an all-purpose prevarication. Origin: Block Island, circa 2009, because it came up after many hours of playing Apples to Apples.
  4. Loving or hating something “to bitsies, bodies and bones.” Translation: a lot. Origin: unknown.
  5. “Family dance!” Said when one family member makes a ridiculous suggestion of what the family might do together. Origin: Jamaica, circa 2008, when Steve suggested the four of us dance together at a reggae bar. Teenagers were aghast.
  6. “You gotta get the money!” Said when someone needs to wrangle funds that are rightfully theirs. Origin: Brooklyn, circa 2015, when Lily was ripped off by her Air BnB guests.
  7. “Sick as a pig.” Said when you’re sick. Origin: maybe Lily or Oli as a child, misstating “sick as a dog.” Or maybe it’s a British thing, read in a book.
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Asked and answered

This is what press secretaries say when reporters repeat questions — usually because the press secretary has declined comment. I would like to say this when family members with failing memories pepper me with the same questions usually about logistics, what my children are doing and the status of a divorce affecting a sibling. But I won’t.

where I get my information about press secretaries

where I get my information about press secretaries

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don’t mention it

Does this happen in your family? In every family?

“Jokes” evolve around the foibles or character quirks of each and every family member. Janet’s a terrible driver. Susie’s a picky eater. Patty is hyper-organized; requested filing cabinets for her 7th or 8th birthday. Diane takes awful photos, just awful, eyes closed in every one.

But then the years go by, as years tend to do, and the quirks fall away. I’m not saying that other, more serious character flaws don’t develop, but these particular issues abate or disappear except — pay attention here — in the minds of the family members.

Today: Janet’s a good driver; Susie has published a dozen cookbooks; Diane looks like this in a photo (not a model but not terrible, am I right?). Patty, whatever, she is the subject of this rant so she’s still organized but also at fault as you soon shall see.

 

Overdue for a Keratin treatment but my eyes are open anyway.

Overdue for a Keratin treatment but my eyes are open anyway.

 

This goes on Facebook, where all good family feuds take place these days, only to be tagged by Patty: That can’t be my sister, her eyes are open.

Then, this morning, Patty uploads a photo of our mother, eyes closed, with the caption: Annette Lilly, pulling a Diane diCostanzo. To which I want to reply: “really, again?” and “why post a photo of anyone with their eyes closed?” and “by the way there’s a space between the di and the Costanzo.”

I had a similar, in person, rant aimed at my sister-in-law (whom I love) and my mother (she of closed eyes; I also love her) who spent a day with me, gently ribbing me about my inability to take a good picture. At once point I rebuked: “how do you think I’m supposed to take a good photo if every time the camera’s put in my face someone reminds me what bad pictures I take?” That didn’t hit the mark so I unleashed a full-on tirade after my mother, jokingly, said in advance of taking my photo: “put your sunglasses on so no one can see that your eyes are closed.”

Oy.

Families.

Spleen emptied but still I wonder: why do the people who know/love you best insist on not letting go of old, hurtful jabs like these? They’re not funny, they’re no longer true, and they make people feel bad. (But not as bad as the spleen emptied by in this letter from someone named Aunt Gladys whom I never met and that’s probably a good thing.)

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unhappy easter

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Why do people always look so miserable in family Easter photos? Is it the weak April light? The church clothes? The ham?

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