January 9, 2010
Walter's Aunt Martha and Uncle Herman did not start out as native English speakers (German on the one hand, Polish on the other), but they caught on well and I never had any trouble understanding anything either one of them said. I remember the first time they drove over the couple of hours from Taylor to meet the infant Davis. They had never had children, but had proudly claimed all of their nieces and nephews (and their offspring) over the years.
Aunt Martha handled Davis like a pro, enveloping the bundle he was, and cooing into his sleeping face. Uncle Herman then took his turn. . . not quite as expertly, I recall. He held Davis in the crook of his elbow, but somehow, Davis's head ended up lower than his feet and in the ensuing moments started fretting a little.
Uncle Herman stared down at him, wondering whether his turn had lasted long enough to satisfy the dictates of politeness or whether he was stuck with a baby that was about to go off like a bomb. Aunt Martha nudged him firmly with her elbow, and as it dug into Herman's side, she hissed "Jiggle him, Herman, jiggle him." And jiggle him, indeed. Herman started bouncing Davis in his arms and surprised Davis into silence and perhaps a return to slumber.
That wasn't enough for Martha, however. She was convinced that Davis would wake back up and fuss if Herman stopped, even for a moment. So as we talked about the spring rains and the fine wildflower showing they had seen roadside on the drive over and how the cotton looked in the fields, she would interrupt the flow every once in a while with admonition to "keep jiggling" if Herman's will to jiggle flagged even a little.
I recall this story, because I had a chance to remember both of them Friday night. I have a pretty easy to pronounce first name and rarely have a chance to hear people mis-calling my name. Being with Aunt Martha and Uncle Herman was always one exception, because they tended to use German/Polish consonant pronunciation, so that Vickie and Walter came out Wickie and Valter. Meeting my new friend Evelyn Lacey on Friday night, introduced a new variation on Vickie: Mickie.
Pat and Dina Lacey, parents of the wonderful Will(iam), Evelyn, and Catherine had me out for family pizza night on Friday (and Catherine can stow away the pizza!). If any of you have ever watched the "Dance, Dance" videos that Pat posts, I am here to attest to their authenticity and energy. Pat, out of respect for my students' ability to find anything on the internet that might be construed as suspect about their professor's habits and hobbies, did not record our dance frenzy (or our wrestling moves), but let me just say that we had a joy-filled time and that Evelyn's face and relative primness of her body language below does not reflect the pace and delight of the rest of the night, as she continued to try to attract my attention for the next thing: "Mickie, my turn! Mickie, come here! Mickie, Mickie, Mickie!"
I also got to browse Will's Friday folder, where I saw his perfect spelling test and we engaged in a long a detailed conversation about his library book about snakes. I don't think he believed me when I told him about all the snakes we have at Leisure Lake, six of which were shown in actual color photos in the very book he had checked out of his very own school library. I think I am now a very exotic person.
Thank you Pat for picking me up and driving me back to Boston. Your family is the highlight of the trip, barely edging out my long walk through the winter wonderland of Beacon Hill, the Boston Commons, and the amazingly frozen Charles River (in my perfect, borrowed snow boots).
NOTE to Catherine: Thanks for the inquiry about the small violin and piano that we gave Adam and Nico for Christmas. I would say that the piano is about Barbie size, but the violin would be about cello size for a Barbie. They are both music boxes and have excellent detail. The violin even comes with a carrying case, so you can pretend like you are carrying a small machine gun a la Mugsy Malone. I found them at the Signals catalogue.