Thursday, June 2, 2011

Lessons (not) learned

When I was in maybe second grade I remember pondering something at school, and continuing to ponder it enough that I felt compelled to raise the question at the dinner table:

"what's a lea light?"

I remember thinking it would have to be some qualifier about the strength of the light, or the length of the shadow.

"And what's a dawnzer?" I remember having no formulation of a guess at all, but obviously 'dawnzer' was a way of describing the 'lea light,' and I was definitely one of those kids who hated not understanding a good vocabulary word. And 'dawnzer' sounded like a rockin' vocabulary word. I would win so many points with that in Boggle**, as soon as my parents would just confirm that it wasn't a proper noun. Why weren't they explaining yet?

**(Confession time: my name is Robin, and I was a precocious Boggle nerd.)

My brother played with his ketchup. My parents looked at me blankly.

"You know, 'the dawnzer lea light?'"

Nothing.

"'Oh say can you see by the dawnzer lea light?' My teacher said everyone in the whole country knows that song and we're learning all the words right now to sing at the assembly. Don't you know that song?"

It's never awesome when your parents chortle at your sincere musings.

Luckily, this lesson popped quickly into my head when L asked a question as we listened to the refrain "let's go everywhere, man!" from our current favorite CD.

What's a wereman?

I was on this! I was right there, ready to give a solid explanation without once giggling, even though, girrrrllll, I know that feeling. But E doesn't like ketchup, and anyway, we were in the car, so she interjected and mucked everything up:

Oh! That's like a goblin. There's weremans and vampires and they like to bite you and eat your blood and they live in the forest and like the moon and not the sun.

Oh, boy.

"That's werewolf, love, werewolf. And how do you know about werewolves and vampires?"

L: What's a werewolf?

E: They bite! And drink your blood!

L: Like mosquitos?

E: No! Way bigger! And hairier!

L: I don't want to listen to a song about big biting things!

"Girls. Girls! It's not a werewolf song. The words are 'let's go everywhere' and 'man' – just, next to each other. 'Let's go everywhere, man!' He's inviting his friend to travel with him. That's why he lists all those places."

I hit rewind so we can listen to the song again. And I realize that the meaning is easily obvious to me because I know those words are place names. But maybe to her, to both girls, they all sound like words that mean 'werewolf' and 'gnome' and 'goblin' and whatever else their minds can envision.
Khartoum, Rangoon, Cancun, Saskatoon
Kowloon, Cameroon, Brigadoon, to the moon
The chorus starts again and I watch her face in the rear-view mirror. All she hears is 'wereman,' I'm sure of it.
Saigon, Amman, Dijon, Yokahama
Tijuana, Grand Bahama, don’t forget to call your mama
But I'm mistaken.

Okay, Mama. I heard it. I understand everyfing, she tells me in her sweet three-year-old way. But I can't help him!

"Help him with what, love?"

He wants to every wear but I can't get him any clothes because he's stuck inside the music so he is stuck naykee! And he might be cold!

And despite everything I know, I can't help it: I giggle.
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