fauxklore (fauxklore) wrote,

Memories - Seasonal and Un

Last night when I was driving home from the dentist (and a stop for grocery shopping on the way), I noticed one house that had very elaborate holiday decorations up. It reminded me that every year we would drive around to look at people's Christmas lights. There was one house that always went all out. When those people moved, the people who moved in did nothing. If I remember it correctly, they pretended they were Jewish, even though they weren't. One of the ironies of this whole thing is that I think we usually did this drive-around when Mom picked us up from Hebrew school.

Not particularly seasonal, but thinking of being in the car with my mother driving reminds me of a silly little thing she used to do on the rare occasions when she'd drive us to school. See, my elementary school and junior high is right by the water and there is a sharp turn on the road there. So she'd always call out, "I'm going to drive into the water, I'm going to drive into the water." And we'd tell her to do it. Many years later when I lived at Venice Beach, she came out to visit. We'd gone out to dinner somewhere and I drove around the Marina and called out, "I'm going to drive into the water."

Giving my father equal time, my favorite seasonal memory of him had to do with his theory about the weather. He insisted that cold and snow were a Soviet plot. See, the Russians had these giant air blowers installed in Siberia ...

I was also reminded of my dad when I was reading some of Leo Rosten's "H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N" stories the other night. In particular, one story involves a new student who writes well, but can't distinguish between the "s" and "sh" sounds and always uses the "s". Kaplan mocks this student for being a Litvak. (Rosten was a Galitzianer, which is why I can dismiss his books on Yiddish as having no scholarly validity. Why, yes, my family roots are in Vilna and Kovno, at least on my father's side.)

Anyway, I didn't really realize my father spoke with an accent until I was in college. He just spoke the way he did. And he didn't have trouble with "s" sounds in English. I suppose he can't have had trouble in Yiddish, either, since he was fine with words like "shlemiel" and "shmendrick" and "shmegege." But he got the "s" and "sh" sounds confused in Hebrew. He used only one of those and, oddly, I can't remember which one he used. I remember noticing this especially when he led the seder every Pesach and thinking it was a sort of speech defect. After reading that story, I wonder if this was just how things were said during his youth in Kovno.

On another minor linguistic note, my father's favorite word was probably "capisce?" (Which is pronounced roughly ka-peesh.) Even though I knew perfectly well that he was fluent in Italian, I was probably close to 30 before I realized that this was Italian for "do you understand?" and not a Yiddish word.
Tags: family, holidays, language

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