Interpreting My Dad

Some of my kids used to take my Handycam and record silly videos with it, designed for me to discover later. One such video from several years ago has become famous within my family and among a few friends. In this blog entry, I attempt to interpret the inside jokes that formed the basis of this skit, borne of the various childhood stories and vignettes I’ve told my kids. After you read this, watching the video should make more sense.

It starts out with my daughter, CJ, depicting me as a child saying, “Hey… Hey, Tracy! Broooookennnn chimmmm-neeeeeeey.”

Then CJ switches headwear to denote Tracy and says, “Oh, Christine, you know that makes me scared!”

First off, I never call my sister Tracy, unless I am talking about her to someone else. When I address her, though, it is ALWAYS “Trace”.

Now that we have that cleared up, here is the story on the broken chimney.

When I was four years old, and Tracy was three, we were walking through the back alley from our old house on East 7th Avenue in Vancouver, BC. We were with our dad, heading up toward Victoria Drive, to pick up take-out at Chicken Chalet. On our left, there was a church building with a gym in the back. It had big black letters up high on it that said “GYMNASIUM”. I think that was one of my first big words to read, as I could see it from my back yard, three lots away.

That one evening, we saw that the chimney on the back of the gym was broken. Pale red bricks were smashed and scattered onto the ground. It appeared that a car must have recently crashed into it.

Later that night, after our parents said goodnight to us, my sister and I were talking quietly in our beds. I mentioned the broken chimney. My sister sounded all freaked out as she said, “I don’t like that!”

I didn’t realize it was scary to her. I dropped the subject, but thought about it for awhile.

Then a few moments later, I said, “Hey, Trace…”

“What?” she said.

In an ominous voice, I said, “Brokennnnn chimneeeeeey.”

Suddenly, my sister screamed and started crying. Our dad ran up the stairs and into our room. He picked Tracy up to comfort her. She was crying and crying, all scared. My dad was trying to find out what happened, and through sobs, Tracy said, “Christine said ‘broken chimney!'”

I was afraid that I was going to get spanked, but at the same time, I couldn’t help but giggle a little at the whole thing.

My dad didn’t find it funny in the least. My mom came in and took over on consoling my sister. My dad turned his attention to me, yelling angrily about how it is not okay to scare my sister. He dragged me by the arm as I screamed and begged for him to let me go, down the top flight of stairs, through the hallway, around the corner of the kitchen, down the basement stairs, across the cement floor, past the old wood stove we rarely got to use because it coughed smoke, and into the dark, scary, empty room with flat grey carpet. He pushed me to the floor, slammed the door shut, and left.

As I sat there crying, my dad popped the door open and yelled in, with his Serbian-accented English, “I show YOU how it feels to be scared. You stay here all night. You don’t EVER scare your seester!”

SLAM! And he was gone again.

I sat there in the middle of that rough carpet, cold, alone, and in total darkness, hugging my knees to my chin, hiding my face, crying. It felt like I was there for hours, but it was probably more like fifteen minutes. It was long enough to scare me out of ever wanting to scare my sister again.

I can’t even remember my dad coming in to get me, but how it usually went when I was in trouble – a state I was in all too often – was that he’d leave me alone for awhile and eventually return to talk to me in a calm voice, chastise me in a reasonable manner, explaining why what I did was wrong, sometimes giving advice on what to do next time, and in the end he’d hug me. That hug always made me cry all over again, albeit silently, with relief, and I clung to him.

So, that’s the bit about “broken chimney”. But it got blended in with another story, which resulted in the line, “I put you in dog house, all night, with dead bird”.

I’m not sure where the dog house came from. It might be a reference to our old black and white Sheltie, Toby, for whom my dad built a dog house. Or it might be merely an ad-lib. But the dead bird does have a story.

This was in our new house, the one my dad built for us in Tsawwassen, a suburb of Vancouver. I was around eleven years old. I wanted to wash my feather pillow, so I carefully cut open a seam and unstuffed it. I didn’t want to mess up the house with feathers, so I did it out in the carport, putting most of the feathers into a garbage bag while I laundered the casing, but a few spilled out here and there.

That evening, my dad called me to come downstairs and see something. He pointed at a few clusters of grey and white downy feathers on the ground in the carport. In a sad voice he said, “C’desten…” (That is roughly how he pronounced “Christine”). “Small burd was keel.”

I stifled a laugh. My dad asked what was funny.

“That’s from my pillow, Dad. I unstuffed it to wash it.”

My dad laughed and was relieved. He always loved animals.

It’s just a little story, but it has resulted in something my family and I often say whenever someone uses the word “small”.

One might say, “Would you like a piece of pie?”

The answer might be, “Sure. Just a small piece.

If so, it would follow with the one offering pie saying, “Small burd was keel.”

And the conversation would carry on as if nothing unusual was said.

Then there’s the part in our video where SF is pretending to be my dad driving along, talking about how when he was a kid, they played with sticks and mud. And potatoes. Supposedly he played with, or rather ate, potatoes. All day. ALL DAY.

He never actually said any of that, but the tone was about right for his basic manner. Impatient. Gruff. And he did talk about potatoes a lot. We’d be eating potatoes at dinner, and my dad would say, “I loooooove potatoes.” Just like that. Elongating the word “love”. So, that image comes to mind for me whenever we have potatoes, and I’ve told my family about it a time or two.

Then there was my dad’s frequent use of swearing in Serbian so my sister and I would not know what he was saying (though, as with most kids whose parents have a different language, my sister and I became adept at using those strings of words, and believe me, Serbian swearing is long, detailed, melodious, but nasty in interpretation.) SF made up some foreign-sounding words, but they sure weren’t Serbian. She doesn’t know how to sound Serbian, having not grown up with my dad, but her attempt sure made me laugh.

And the mention SF made of my dad saying “my old country, Yugoslavia”, yes, that was something he’d often say. “The old country” was how he referred to it.

It cracked me up that SF would pretend to be my dad turning on the radio and finding a song from Yugoslavia. That wouldn’t actually happen because:

  1. The only time I’ve ever heard Yugoslavian music on the radio was on Vancouver’s CJVB, a cosmopolitan station in the 70s, during the Saturday afternoon “Serbian Hour”, which I think was more like two hours, but whatever…
  2. My dad would not be driving while listening to that because he was usually drinking by that time on a Saturday.

Still, it made for good humour, and I also love how SF made up those strange words that don’t sound anything remotely like Serbian.

Lastly, there’s the segment at the end, where CJ is pretending to be my sister, saying, “Oh, Dad, stop singing!”

I think that part is twisted out of a story I often told that involved me, not my sister. One time, in my late teens, I was involved in a book. I sat in my room reading on my bed, and my dad barged in drunk on a Saturday afternoon (I know it was a Saturday afternoon, because it was daytime, and his only drinking times were Friday night and Saturday afternoon – one or the other each week, but rarely both consecutively) rambling on about something. I have no idea what it was, for I was engrossed in my book.

I kept asking my dad, politely, to please be quiet so I could read.

My dad would say, “Oh, sorry. OK.”

He’d walk away, only to return a minute later, picking up right where he left off.

I got exasperated, closed my book, carried it with me to the living room, and sat on the couch to read. He followed me, talking the whole way.

“Hey, Dad, I’m really trying to read here. Can we talk about this another time?”

And again, he’d say, “Oh, of course. Sorry.”

He’d walk away, and return again, starting up the talk, over and over. It was maddening. He was sufficiently drunk that I decided it was safe to get firm with him and say, “DAD! STOP TALKING!”

My dad was not the kind of person one would order around when he was sober, but when he was drinking, he was a whole different man.

That very last scene in the video, where CJ is back to her role of me, with blue swim goggles (not sure why the goggles, but I guess to differentiate from my sister, although we both swam a lot in our childhood), cracks me up every time as I can still hear “my dad” singing in the background: “Da doyyyyy… drrrrron ta daaaaa…”

Now, if you’ve not seen the video, and you want to, here it is:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjCI9LvYXys

I can’t resist finishing this with Paul Harvey’s line – hear it in his voice, if you know it:

“And now you know… the rest… of the story.”

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You Don’t Say Bob Dylan Can’t Sing

One evening in the mid 1990s, I was sitting around the living room at X’s parents’ old place in Ladner, BC. We were listening to Bob Dylan on X’s dad’s awesome stereo system.

X’s dad, Pete, exclaimed, “Bob Dylan is the best harmonica player! Eh? Ya know? Man, he’s good. Ya gotta love him!”

I said, “Oh, he’s OK. About average. Naomi’s been doing pretty good on her harmonica and she’s only three,” I said, gesturing toward my little girl.

Pete got ultra-ruffled and he defended his musical hero in a long tirade. X and I kinda rolled our eyes at each other in amusement.

OK, that is the part of the story that starts the song, but there are two other tales to tell.

The earliest bit hearkens back to 1986, when X and I were in the back seat of his parents’ Toyota Camry, driving down a road in Point Roberts, Washington, having just left his Nana’s place – that is, his mom’s mom. X’s mom was in the passenger seat, and Pete was driving.

X and I each had a can of soda pop. After I drank the last sip of mine, I tossed the empty can out the window. X’s dad slammed on the brakes, screeched to a halt, zoomed the car backwards, and angrily ordered me to get out and pick up that can.

Hey, I was 19 and stupid, but he didn’t need to freak. Fine, I got out, picked it up, and never littered again.

Then there’s story number three, which was the day after the harmonica incident. All it entails is that X told me his dad really hates it when people spit in the sink. I’d just spat in the kitchen sink but washed it down the drain with running water immediately. Still, X said, “You’d better not let my dad see you doing that.”

“Ya don’t spit into the sink,” I said.

That got me thinking of Jim Croce’s song “Don’t Mess Around With Jim”, the chorus of which says,

“You don’t tug on Superman’s cape,

You don’t spit into the wind,

You don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger,

And you don’t mess around with Jim,

Ba doot dooda-da deet deet’n dee-dee dee…”

Long being a fan of putting my own silly words to sections of songs, I started playing with it. X, who rarely laughed at anything I did, actually got in on the humour and was cracking up right along with me.

“You don’t say Bob Dylan can’t play harmonica,” I began.

“You don’t spit into the sink,

You don’t throw pop cans out an open window,

And you don’t mess around with Pete.”

That didn’t have the correct amount of beats, so we changed the first line to “You don’t say Bob Dylan can’t sing”, which isn’t historically accurate, but now you know…

(And read this part in the voice of Paul Harvey)…

The rest of the story.

Written upon peer pressure by my buddy, Shakira B. O’Neil (not her real name), who not only taught this song to her son who is now a history professor, but has also been peer-pressuring me into going to the Bob Dylan concert in Kelowna, BC, this coming summer. Maybe I’ll go, and tell Bob about the song.

Melons and Instagram

I saw this on my oldest daughter’s Instagram last night: ↓

01 -original pic

I commented to her, as shown below – me being Squirrelmix: ↓

02 -  comments

Then, I went to my own Instagram and posted this picture: ↓

melon mama (2)

Today, I look at Instagram and I see this by my daughter: ↓

04- N pic

And her comments/hashtags that were under the pic: ↓

05 - comments

That’s all. Have a great day!

Siggy

Unscrabble

While under the influence of a stiff cup of Traditional Medicinals “Nighty Night” tea (in an attempt to undo the three cups of coffee I’d had a few hours earlier), I engaged in a game of Scrabble with my 17-year-old daughter, SF, and my 13-year-old son, PJ.

We were off to a crappy start when SF couldn’t form one single word with her seven letters. I even tried helping her, and said, “OK, we’ll bend the rules this once so you can dump your letters and start again.”

SF managed to form a lame word that yielded something like four points. (Actually, it was five.)

PJ then took his turn and also formed a lame word, though he did get 16 points from it.

I took my turn, sure that my astonishing Scrabble skills would kick in, but my word failed to excite my taste-buds and was only worth 12 points.

We played one more round each with no joy in our hearts as our words sucked big-time. We complained vociferously and I began to dislike what had once been my favorite game.

I suggested, “How about we ditch all the letters and start fresh, but this time, we can only use words that aren’t real?”

My kids eyed me dubiously, but we decided it couldn’t be much worse than the existing stalemate we faced.

I wrote the rules at the top of our new game:

1. It can’t be a real word.

2. It has to be pronounceable.

3. A “Q” has to have a “U”.

4. You can use proper names.

The game suddenly became fun!

PJ was busy texting on his phone and soon lost interest, to which SF said, “Oh, come on, PJ. How hard can it be to not think of a word?”

SF took over for PJ and finished his letters for him, while I wrote down her quote as the slogan that should appear on the side of the Unscrabble box.

We ended our trial and error of Unscrabble with whopping scores of 293 for SF, 133 for PJ, and 215 for me. Every letter was used, and we enjoyed the game fully, not having to waste time following the strict rules of real Scrabble. Furthermore, compared to what can often become a tedious and drawn-out game, this game went quickly. I think a half hour of playing this way is not an unreasonable expectation.

Unscrabble board Unscrabble score2