Lake Nostalgia

From soggy memories...

Anna Voy

Anna Voy
December 31
My name is Anna Voy and these are my stories. I grew up, the youngest of four, in a small lake community in East Texas. My family wasn’t like yours and I can guarantee that. I’m not implying that my family has the market cornered when it comes to being weird. We all have dysfunctional families, but no one’s is dysfunctional in the same way. I feel I can pretty safely assume that my family’s weirdness is unique and is fully responsible for shaping me into what I’ve become. I’ve grown up to be somewhat adjusted, however I keep my quirks intact, fully aware that they are a product of a strange and warped childhood. Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: I don’t consider myself abused; rather I view my childhood as a series of strange adventures played out in unconventional ways and perceived through the layers of conditioning that we all inevitably pick up from those who raise us. On sunny days my mind trails back to these soggy memories and I almost swear I can smell the moss of the lake and hear the sounds of the motor boats as they speed rebelliously by the “Caution” buoy. These are the stories I remember…


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NOVEMBER 12, 2010 12:57PM

Speaking Adult

Rate: 27 Flag

       Children are nothing if they are not literal. My mom once told our neighbor Donald, “See you later.” When we returned home after their long conversation, I all of a sudden began questioning my mother about when we’d see Donald again.

“I dunno,” she said as she nuked a cup of coffee.

“But you told him we’d see him later. Is he coming over?” I asked on the edge of confusion.

“No, we just stood there and talked for half an hour. I think we’ve seen enough of each other for the day.”

“Then why did you say ‘see you later?’” I asked restating the question and desperate to get answers.

With a wave of her hand she answered, “Oh, that’s just a figure of speech.” Apparently exhausted from the long conversation with Donald she headed to her room to put up her feet and enjoy her decaf coffee.            

It would have been good if she would have hung around to answer more of my questions, because at the age of ten I didn’t understand the logic of “figure of speech.” Adults were always saying things they didn’t mean and it usually ended up in a lot of unhappiness and confusion. My tiny brain strained to understand the purpose in telling someone you’d see them later if you actually had no present intention of seeing them in the near future.

This went back to the other phrase I didn’t understand: “how are you?” Seemingly when asked this question I was supposed to say something like “good” or “fine,” but by no means was I supposed to actually divulge anything specific about how I was really doing. Kids by nature do not know these rules until we are taught and upon that day we turn into people who say things we don’t mean and censor our answers to that which is appropriate. Probably one of my favorite parts of being a child, and the part that I have long missed is the right to be inappropriate. I long for a day when I can answer someone’s “how are you” questions with a monologue about a burn I recently received from a hot glue gun and a craving I haven’t been able to shake for cinnamon rolls. Alas, the adult in me is too refined for such shenanigans and so I usually only reply with the phrase, “I’m pretty awesome,” which to my defense I think is a bit of a rebellious answer.     

I learned early on that adults don’t just say things they don’t mean and censor their answers, on occasion they also say the opposite of what they mean. One day, hoping to have an elderly lady alter some clothes for me, my mother had stopped over at this seamstress’s house. I was instructed to “hold still” while the ancient woman slid needles around the cuffs of my pants. Her hands shook dangerously from time-to-time and I closed my eyes hoping to leave the woman’s home without any punctures in my body.

Apparently, not worried for my safety my mother bustled around the seamstresses’ living room eyeing the woman’s 1920’s furniture. In the middle of the room was one of those round couches that one might see in a powder room. It was appropriately pale pink. Curtains hung from the tops of the ceiling and draped lavishly along the plush carpet. Everything had thick fringe and tassels, even the pillows that overcrowded the winged chair beside the piano. I had never been in a house like this and I pictured that the woman hadn’t changed a thing since she bought all the furniture seventy years ago. Maybe my mother thought the same thing, but that’s not what she said. Instead, in a high pitched voice, which later I would learn was indicative of lying, my mother began gushing about each and every piece in the seamstresses’ house.

“Oh my, your home is so unbelievably beautiful! Is this china, here in the cabinet, Haviland? I have some of that, but I can’t use it or otherwise the kids would break it.” She stomped over to the round sofa, which I found fascinating and desperately wanted to bounce on. “I absolutely love this! I haven’t seen one of these since I was a child. It is sooooo beautiful.”

The lady smiled as she looked up at my mother and then quite unaffected she resumed her shaking and pin pushing.

“And the wallpaper in here really brings this place all together. I would have never thought of putting such an intricate and bold pattern on the walls, but you’ve really made it work! I’d love to do my living room just like this one!”

This wallpaper, in fact, did not work. It was a deep burgundy color and had large green and yellow leaf patterns throughout. The only thing I could think that it matched was the yellow tassels that hung from the table runner that spilled off the piano and hung inches from the blue carpet. I shrugged my shoulders in confusion to why my mother was tracing all over this woman’s house and squeaking like an overexcited school girl.

Half an hour later as we drove across the bridge to the other side of the lake where we lived, I questioned my mom on her strange behavior.

“Do you really want to make over our living room like that ladies?”

“Oh, heavens no!” My mother exclaimed blowing cigarette smoke out the open car window.

“Then why’d you say all that stuff about her furniture?” child-like ignorance more pronounced than ever.

Honey, I was just trying to be nice. That place was awful. I’ve never seen something so tacky in all my life.”

“Hmm…” I thought, rubbing my arm where I’d been stuck a number of times with a sharp pin. “So the reason why you said all that is so she’d like you?”

“That’s redundant,” my mother stated much to my confusion. “Reason why. That phrase is redundant. You don’t need both of those words together. It’s not necessary.”

I rolled my eyes since I always hated having my grammar corrected. I could be in the middle of telling my most important secret and that wouldn’t stop my mother, the wanna-be English teacher, from pointing out my verbal error.

I rephrased my question, “So the reason you said all that was so the lady would like you?”

Pleased with my progress my mother smiled, “Exactly! I’ll teach you how to speak if it’s the last thing I do!”

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Oh good, an Anna Voy story : ) I remember those confusing adults!
"Oh what we teach our children...".r
Great story and glimpse into the past that shaped a lot of us. -R-
I absolutely loved this. Your mother needs to be played by Shirley MacLaine.
I love your childhood stories. This one was absolutely great. Rated!
Just Thinking, thank you. Love your support!

Hugs, me...I know, I know.

Christine, speech really does shape a child.

Cartouche, that's hilarious. I never would have thought of that, but that totally fits. Wonder what mom would think about that.

Mamakaze, thank you so much! I'm so glad you enjoy them!
Glad to see another post from you - I've missed them! I love your response to "How are you?", though I would totally find it acceptable if you told a story involving a hot glue gun and injury. That's a lot more interesting than "Fine"! R!
I absolutely loved this! Such an excellent example of how nothing, I do mean nothing gets past children. R
Art Linkletter used to say "Kids Say the Darnedest Things". Where do they get it from?
Anna, you're right... "pretty awesome"!
You write the best childhood stories... ~r
Alysa, I don’t have as much time as I did to spend on Opensalon. I really miss it and it’s good to have a day to spend here! I’m glad you find that response acceptable. I’m going to try it out on the next person that ask and see what they think!

Fay, you’re so right. Kind of scary, huh?

Scanner, I think they get it from their unconditioned mind. Oh to have one of those again…

Catherine, thanks. I think it’s a fine response too.
Congrats on the EP Anna !
Sorry ahead of time for all the spam....
A wonderful story! You bring the mind of a child back so well.
Inter- and intrapersonal differences in the rate our brains develop aspects of language means that there are some adults (some wonderful, intelligent adults) who still don't understand all of the uses of language. To me, they are refreshing in how they speak the truth, although they often get shunned by those around them. When a kid tells you your wallpaper is horrible, you can take it a lot easier than from one of these literal-language adults. Unless, of coure, you are secure.
Funny how you remember your difficulty, meaning it might have been a slow developing brain area for you, whereas some of us got it really young but still can't parallel park!

"I'm pretty awesome" is way rebellious.
Joan, thanks so much! Since that’s my specialty I’m really really flattered.
Just thinking, thanks again! And the spam just means I’m getting lots of readers, which is so wonderful.
Sophieh, a part of me thinks that’s because I never really lost it.
Cleotheo, you sound like you have a background in speech pathology. Hahah, I guess I was slow to develop and guess what…I can’t parallel park either.
Consonantsandvowels, thank you. I love being a rebel…in safe ways.
I smiled and nodded my way through this wonderful piece, Anna. I remember having these kinds of conversations with my mother, who was a slave to "appearances." It was always hard to know when she was telling the truth, or making an impression.

Yes. We of the 'other' gender went through this too. I love that you've found an answer to "How are you?" One that makes the question stand out as ridiculous.

My own answer, trying to do the same as you've done so well, is - "Better than excellent!" It doesn't work as well as yours - but I'm only a man.....

I hope it wasn't the last thing she did!
Lezlie, I'm glad you enjoyed the story. It is so true that with these kind of "keeping up appearance kind of people" you can never trust them...sad because they are good people if they'll be themselves.

skypixieo, I like "better than excellent." It is different and probably illicits a reactions.
Well, she sure as hell did teach you how to, write. But I suspect the irony is all yours. This is a hoot.
Eva, no my mother is still alive and doing. She still tries to teach me how to speak, but now that I'm an adult I know it all. What comes around...

Matt, getting a compliment from you always swells my chest. thanks!
This got me thinking about some of the cute things my own children thought I said or meant. Thanks for reminding me with this well-written post.
Terrific...and I remember that wallpaper and matching drapes...I think on a gray background! My reply to inquiries about how I am is, "excellent!" Its my effort to claim irreverence and inappropriateness with gusto! I loved this feast for the mind and heart and particularly enjoyed the descriptions! Many thanks! so well written and conceived! Happy EP!
Read and rated. I still havent (at the age of 28) learned to speak "adult".
Read and rated. I still havent (at the age of 28) learned to speak "adult".
The instant that kids learn how to lie well and recognize other people's lies, marks the demise of childhood.
Maryway, thanks so much! Glad to bring this to the forefront of your mind. Kinda of fun to think about, huh?

A Persistent Muse, I like that you do stuff with gusto…so much better than the alternative. Thanks so much for the comment.

Dmalrajabi, thank you! I’m still working on it too.

Susan, sorry…I have that effect on people.

Littlewillie, so true. None of us are born lying.

Bonnie, those are good ones. I have to admit I’ve been guilty of the second one a time or two. Here’s another good one: surrounded on all sides. It’s redundant.
I think you did learn a lesson, but not the one your mother intended -- People won't like you if they sense that you are insincere. I wonder if this kind of outrageously insincere patter has become transparent in the age of psychology? Does anyone of our generation even attempt it? It seems like something of a relic -- thankfully.
Oh my . . . another literal thinker after my own heart. I was constantly puzzled by "figures of speech" and polite lies . . .
Owl, I've lost my literal mind. I almost never say what I mean. The adult in me has taken over and usually can only communicate through sarcasm. Sad really.

Bell, that's an interesting thought. I would venture to say that it depend on the area and culture. In the south those people are always saying thing they don't mean and going on and on when they don't even remotely feel that passionate. On the west coast I would say people are somewhat more sincere, but somewhat bland. I'm not qualified to talk about the east. Just my thoughts. I encourage rebuttals.