Friday, December 7, 2007


[Reminder: Some of my posts, including this one, are memoirs of my abusive childhood. In this post I'm relating events that happened in the summer of 1956, after I became 7. The links to the right can be used to follow backward through the memoirs, or to restrict viewing to other kinds of posts.]

Late in the summer the people in the unit downstairs, whom I didn't care for, moved out, and were replaced by a new family that had a gorgeous redheaded daughter my age. Her name was Bar-bar-a, a name that trips off the tongue like a dachshund. What's a dachshund doing in my simile? I just remembered they had a dachshund.

The name Barbara, as you probably know already, comes from ancient Greek, meaning "speaker of a ridiculous language (i.e. almost any language other than Greek)." Barbara told me this herself. For some reason, I found her explanation of her name extremely hot. I devoted a lot of time to her, and to her dachshund, to learn more wonderful facts of any nature that she might know.

One of the things that she knew was how to whistle. I tried to learn how to whistle from her, but her instructions, "put your lips together and blow," didn't work for me. It was very frustrating. I wanted to whistle along with her. We would have that much in common. From that small start, who knows?

[Left: This picture of Lauren Bacall will have to do the work of a photo of Bar-bar-a.]

In desperation I asked my Mother to teach me to whistle. My Father was in the room at the time, and said, "What? You shouldn't need anyone teaching you how to whistle! You whistle great! You've been whistling since you were a baby!"

I said, "I don't know how to whistle. What gave you that idea?"

He said, "Don't give me that nonsense. You can whistle like a bird. I've heard you do it a million times!" He was starting to lose it.

My Mother jumped in and said, "Dear, don't you remember? The operation?"

"What about the operation? What does that have to do with it?"

"They got rid of the Hawaiian music, dear. Did you think that was all that would go away? He can't remember how to whistle."

My Father got a pained look on his face. Seeing that, my Mother laughed at him and said, "You always wanted him to be like you. Now he's like you. You can't be a musician because of what happened to you. Now you've made him just like you."

"Shut up! You agreed to it, too!"

"But I knew what I was agreeing to," she said.

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