My Mother was a woman of vernacular. She had ways of saying things and words to say them. Over the course of our lives together, it became apparent that not everyone shared these words and expressions. In conversations with others, I’d often say things that would get puzzled looks, or giggles.
The Boston “dropped R” only enhanced and amplified the effect of conversing with her. You might get something like “Hi! Howahya? You comin ovah tommorah? Jaysus Christ, it’s wicked hawt. Christophah! Christophah! I saw a patient at the hospital last night with a broken leg, bone sticking out. Skeevatsah!”
I grew an appreciation for the cadence and dance of conversing with her over the years. She “nevah” used punctuation, but ended most phrases with a “ya know?” Which was pregnant with reflection, concession, and a hint at sought validation; though mostly rhetorical.
My Mother doted on my sister and I to an extreme. Most especially, at Christmas. We were spoiled. It was her thing. It is one of the lasting memorable characteristics of her personality, along with her speech patterns that I remember fondly.
Well, a story she was particularly fond of retelling, or enjoyed hearing others tell of it, was that of “The Great Cabbage Patch Kid Doll Carnage of 1983”
The Cabbage Patch Doll Craze of 1983 was a national phenomena. My sister had it in her lusty child sights. I didn’t care so much about it, except a passing acknowledgement that it was “a thing”, G.I. Joe was more in my wheelhouse. I really don’t recall how it became known to us, but somehow without internet, the message got out. Stores didn’t have them to keep up with the demand. Clandestine shipments, ravaged shelves, my Mother had contacts everywhere, searching high and low for one of these damn dolls. I repeat, this was before internet, yet she managed a network of contacts through landline telephones, a calendar date book, and the yellow and white pages. I’m pretty sure she also enlisted help from the Hood Milkman, Meyer the owner of the Family Shoe Store where we got our bobos (generic shoes mocking name brands), and the entire St. Francis de Sales Parents Guild Association.
As days fell from the calendar, so did my Mother’s hopes of presenting the perfect Christmas morning for my sister.
She was wicked desperate.
I don’t know how, but one of the many leads she had, developed into her taking a bus to Manhattan with my father sometime in December before Christmas 1983. It was a precision operation that involved getting to the correct store, waiting in line, and having the right money for the purchase.
When I think of my father being dragged from his weekend slumber to traipse down to Manhattan on the chance of a hope and a prayer that they might get a doll for my sister, I heartily laugh. I don’t think he was a believer. Ma was, though. My sister’s Christmas joy depended on it.
His only consolation was perhaps a few hurried stops at a bunch of New York Street Hot Dog vendors, so he could stuff a Sabrett’s Hot Dog in his restless maw. Not my mother, she was not to be distracted from her mission.
The Blues Brothers were told by God that they had a mission to complete. Conversely, my Mother told God, she had a mission to complete.
So after the long bus trip, the long city blocks, the foot long hot dogs smothered in relish, they finally arrived at the correct place at the correct time. The line was long, but not impossibly long. Somehow, others knew about the shipment, much to my Mother’s chagrin. They padded along. advancing another few steps. At the pace of one complaint and anxiety at a time. My Mother spent her time in the line giving the gooch and stink face to anyone coming back down the line with a sizable box like brown paper bag in their mitts. Each person coming down the line displayed a satisfaction that my Mother hadn’t tasted as yet, and she grew antsy.
Down the line. People in. Bags out.
Blood pressure rising.
After what must have seemed an eternity to my parents, they finally crossed the threshold and made their way to the counters.
Behind the counters were little brown men screaming and yelling at a fevered pitch. New York was and is the melting pot of America, so it stood to reason that my parents would meet up with some people they were unfamiliar with, having spent most of their lives in an insular community.
So the moment of truth occurs:
Sales clerk: So whatchoo, want, lady?
Ma: How much ah, fah the Cabbage Patch Dolls?
Sales clerk: one hundred dolla.
My Mother turns to my Father, “did he say $100 dollars?”
My father nodded. She didn’t intend on paying $100 dollars for a doll she thought was could be bought for less. Although, desperate times called for desperate measures.
She turned back to the sales clerk and said:
Fah each? Awhr fah two?
The clerk looked stunned, then started talking to his associate. My mother, thought she was not heard. Both sales clerks looked bothered and started gesticulating at my mother. Again, she said:
Fah each? Awhr fah two?
Well that just about did it. The sales clerks said:
Get out, of our store, filthy lady! How dare you talk to us like that!
My father getting a hold of what was going on realized what my mother had said, and put together that they thought she was offering “favors” for the dolls.
Dad: They thought you said you would eat them for two dolls, Kath.
After a good laugh, and some explanations, my Mother reluctantly paid the $100 dollars for the doll.
So 1983 was one of the best Christmases ever for our family. My sister got her doll. My Mother got to see the expression of joy that came of my sister receiving the doll. We all got a story to tell, and two Indian/Pakistani gentleman in Manhattan who had a harder time understanding my Mother’s Boston accent than she had in understanding them, were canonized saints for not having thrown my Mother out of their store before she had the chance to drop her r’s, and some cabbage on some Cabbage Patch Kids.
In my Mother’s version of the story, she believed that the gentleman got it wrong, but if you knew my Mother, you would have heard what they heard, as she had a phenomenal Boston accent. It was wicked pissah! Ya’ know…
A friend texted that her morning train was delayed due to wet leaves on the tracks.
I’ve heard most if not all the excuses the transit authority uses for poor service, but I agree with my friend: this is a first.
It would seem slippery Leaves would lubricate the movement of wheels on a track, but maybe that is not what is needed.
Still, it seems like a pretty bullshit reason.
Yet, the boxcars full of commuting cattle was delayed indefinitely.
I mean, eventually it moved, but not before thousands of texts, and emails, and false promises were made.
Hell, if I was on that train, I would have been inclined to call in sick.
And just for fun, I’d tell them that I can’t come in because there are wet leaves on my bedroom floor, and in the hall, and in the bathroom, and down the stairs out the door, and all the way to the train.