22 November 2005

Memory Lane ... Tuesday

The comment that my mother sent in for the post about profanity reminded me of this memory of her parents (my grandparents). Read those comments to get a feel for my mom's attitude about profanity and words that hurt because then you'll have a better understanding of the house that I grew up in. But maybe I'll describe a little of it here too.

Because neither of my parents especially believe in God they do not ascribe to the theory that they should keep His name holy. So I heard his "name taken in vain" fairly frequently (shall we say). It is a well known family story that when I was three I thought the family dog's name was goddamndog (all one word). Because I heard this and the "JC" heard spoken in times of high emotion frequently, I picked it up and so also used them as words spoken to express emotional distress. I didn't know any better and thought them better than sh!t or the F word and all of the other curse words, for which I and my friends came up with an elaborate system of hand signals, only one of which any of you would now recognize.

When I was 9 I went to visit my mother's parents for about 3 weeks. Now (as you know from my mom's comment) they had somewhat different standards than my mother. So before I left, she sat me down and told me of how it would hurt their feelings if I were to go around saying g-d and j-c all the time. So we came up with what we thought were acceptable alternatives, "jeesum crow" and "goll dang it" or "golly" or "darn it". And off I went to spend time with my beloved grandparents. And I did love them; almost worshiped them. I thought they were wonderful and they returned the favor.

So I was very, very careful to not disturb them and their tender ears. I did not want to hurt their feelings with my harsh words. I didn't know why those words would hurt them, but I was not going to test those waters. I carefully used jeesum crow, goll dang it and all. But one night, not long after I arrived, my Grammy came up to kiss me goodnight as I was reading my book before bed. She sat down on the side of my bed and said, "Now, darling, your grandfather and I know how hard you are trying to please us. And we know that your parents do things differently than we do. But when you say those words, jeesum crow and goll dang it, we know what you **really** mean and that hurts us, so please don't say them any more."

I was stunned.

I mean ....


Okay, I really didn't think that because I was only 9, but I would have if I'd known about it. I did NOT know what to do. I just remember thinking a 9 year old's version of, "She's pulled the rug out from under me." Now I had NOTHING. What was I supposed to say? What words was I supposed to use to express emotional distress??? She never did tell me that and I still don't know.


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