Sunday, May 18, 2008

Mangled Words

My father often wanted to know if I left my brain in my school desk. "How can anybody get straight A's and be so dumb?" I don't know how many times I heard that question, and I never had a good answer for him. I never even had a bad answer for him. I'm not sure he really expected an answer, though. Sometimes he was really funny. Sometimes he just thought he was.

There was one area where he was right on the money, though. My vocabulary often outpaced my need for it, and I sometimes used words that had no relationship to what I thought I was saying. I'd like to give a few examples.

Dad and I were watching a basketball game together. I was probably in second grade or thereabouts. Mom came in and asked Dad to run to the grocery store for her. (Mom didn't drive until she was 37.) Dad told me to watch the game carefully and tell him what he missed when he got back. (Never expect a little kid to actually follow a basketball game.)

He got back and wanted to know what was going on, and I told him that nothing had happened. "Everybody is crawling on the floor." He looked, and sure enough, everyone was crawling on the floor. The announcers were laughing, but not explaining what had happened. My dad looked at me. "Somebody in black bumped into somebody in white, and his contract eyeball fell out. Now they're all crawling around trying to find it." The next thing I knew, my dad was in the kitchen laughing with my mom, and I heard him ask, yet again, does she leave her brain in her desk at school? Later I found out that the correct term would have been contact lens.

Another example would have been one evening meal where we were asked what we did at school. I was really excited when it was my turn. I loved my current teacher, because she read to us, and I loved books. I'm sure my eyes must have been sparkling when I announced that our teacher was reading to us from "The Idiot" and "The Oddity" written by someone named Homer. Dad actually snorted. Every single time he repeated that story to someone, he'd ask if they thought I left my brain in my school desk. "Do you believe this girl gets perfect marks on her report cards? Unbelievable!" I eventually read The Iliad and The Odyssey, and loved them as much as when that early teacher had first introduced them to me. So what if I messed up the names? If I had said it right, it wouldn't have become one of those memorable family moments.

The only time I ever remember that I stupefied Dad to the point where he didn't even insult me, though, was when I asked him how come Davy Crocket had died twice.


"Well, he was killed at The Alamo, right? But first, according to the song, he was killed in a bar when he was only three."

My dad turned gray really early.

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