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Tuesday, April 1, 2014


It's adorable how kids will hear things just slightly wrong, or say them just a little bit strangely. My cousin Carole, for example, was able say almost everything clearly right when she started talking, I've been told. But she had problems with two words. Waffles were awfuls and tunnels were tungels. I have heard her say that she didn't mispronounce waffles, she was just making a statement of how she felt about them. She always thought they were awful. I'll allow it.

Thinking about the problems kids have saying or understanding things makes me think of some stories that Gram told me about Terry, her oldest granddaughter. When the grandkids were quite small, she was called Grandma Bessie. It was some years later, by the time that I came to Colorado, that it had turned into just Gram. So little Terry, who was maybe three years old, had always known Gram as Grandma Bessie, which came out more like Gammie Bessie. Terry started noticing that people say would say something interesting when they were taken by surprise. Someone would hear or see something, and say, "Heavens to Betsy!" Like most children, Terry learned from what she heard. But she thought she heard her grandmother's name. So one day, when she was caught by surprise, Gram heard Terry say, "Heavens to Gammie!" 

A very precious story that Gram told me about her late husband had to do with Terry, and with Hiram, Gram's husband, being in the hospital. I'm not sure of the dates or ages, but I think that Terry was perhaps four or five years old when her grandpa died. All of the kids loved their grandpa, and at one time he was hospitalized and could only have his wife as a visitor. I imagine that there were concerns over having children, or people who were regularly with children, as visitors. Kids tend to be exposed to a lot of germs, and can carry a lot of them even if they aren't sick. But Terry, who was probably three years old at the most, really wanted to see her Grampa. So Alice brought her to the hospital and they were standing outside, looking up at the window where Grampa was standing on an upper floor. Little Terry loved her Grampa, and really wanted him to be out of the hospital. She looked up at him waving from the window, and held out her chubby little arms. She called out, "Dump, Gampa, dump!" She was sure she could catch him if he jumped out of the window. A sweet, honest, child-logic moment, and very touching.

Another funny thing about kids is that they often manage to combine mispronunciations with bad timing by saying things very loudly in the wrong place. Gram told me that when their kids were small, Bill and Alice liked to sit toward the front of the church so that the kids could see what was going on. On one particular Sunday, Terry was having a tough time sitting still and being quiet. She was told once or twice to settle down, but things just got worse. Bill picked her up to carry her out to a crying area so that her noise wouldn't disturb everyone. Terry had tears streaming down her face even before her father picked her up. But when she realized that she had left her favorite toy, a stuffed lion, in the pew, she was devastated. As her father carried her down the aisle, she reached out her arms toward the pew and began to scream, "Treesie's dyin, Treesie's dyin!" I'm sure that there were other people who had to follow them out of the church - they were laughing too hard! The fact that they didn't know she was trying to say lion made no difference; they thought she was trying to tell everyone she was in big trouble. 

I think most of us, as kids, had words that we didn't understand or just couldn't pronounce properly. Heck, my Aunt Jackie (and Terry and Carole's aunt, too) had problems all of her life with some words. She almost caused a riot at Woolworth's when she was shopping there with Alice one day. She was looking at some fabric remnants on a table and called out to her sister, "Alice, come look at this Rembrandt!" So don't worry or get embarrassed if you or your kids say something that's just a little bit off. Remember, family gatherings are better when you have funny true stories to tell!