As we prepare to celebrate our Country’s birth, we are slowly emerging from more than a year of isolation and loneliness due to the COVID virus. I am finding that change more difficult than I had anticipated. The last few days experiences illustrate my dismay. They brought out a return to my childhood way of speaking. Some of the expressions are common and I think a few exclusive to my family. Nevertheless, they are reflective of the colorful language of my youth.
When we moved to Minnesota in 2011 after living in the Ozarks 25 years, we encountered the dour Norwegian/Swedish style of hospitality. We found that “Minnesota Nice” existed and we were greeted pleasantly, but they had no time for strangers. I decided it fit the description of the Platte River in Nebraska during the Gold Rush: “A mile wide and an inch deep.” Calm Scandinavians make the “stiff upper lip” Brits look like they are having a hissy fit. A mild “Uff da” is often the response to a dramatic moment.
I had a medical appointment last week. Thinking I knew exactly where I was going, I went to the Park Nicollet 3800 building. As soon as I got off the elevator, I realized my mistake and called to let them know I might be a little late. The receptionist was gracious and told me that I had plenty of time to get there. Somewhat rattled, I drove to the 3850 building only to find that I was still in the wrong location. I needed to go to the 7th floor of Methodist Hospital. As I sped toward my goal, I thought “I’m nervous as a runaway mule.” I laughed and wondered if anyone would understand that.
Later that day I started to prepare for a second appointment and could not find a piece of equipment I was supposed to bring with me. After tearing the house up, the box was found in the garage. I never managed to get it into the house. It is very hot in Minnesota this year and after all that effort, I thought “I’m hotter’n eleven bears.” I remembered being teased about my speech habits when I worked at the University of Minnesota many years ago. My colleagues made up a chart of my sayings including: “Hot as a depot stove”, “she could (do a task) slicker than fly legs” (my Mom was fond of that one). Another she liked was “Silly as Kate Mullin.” I asked who Kate was, but she had no idea, she learned it from her Mother.
My father was creative in expressing himself also. He teased someone for looking “as wise as a tree full of owls”, or was “crazy as a peach orchard boar” (in old days, free-range hogs would eat fermented peaches and get drunk), someone stingy was “as tight as Dick’s hatband”. I am guessing he was no more known than the unfortunate Kate.
One of my favorites was “He has enough money to burn a wet mule.” I later read it was attributed to Governor Huey Long of Louisiana, certainly, he was a colorful character.
All in all, my mishaps and reluctance to re-enter society reminded me that I come from strong and clever people and there is no need for me to “toss my curls and stamp my feet” in frustration when things don’t go as planned. A quiet “Uff da” will do.
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