Families. Funny things, no?
Many families, especially larger families, come to develop their own unique cultures and channels of communication. It's a tribal thing, for the most part. At least, I think so.
When I think back on how we ate in those years! The sugar intake was appalling. Twinkies, Ding Dongs, RC Cola. Almond Joys, Cup o' Golds, U-No bars. A while back, Sister Paige posed a query to her siblings. Which had Dad preferred: Ding Dongs or Twinkies? I was of the Twinkie faction, which won out, I believe. But Ding Dong and Twinkie each had its advocates. The truth remains unclear.
Dad had a way of opening a bottle of soda (it came in glass bottles, in those days) so that we could all share it. Using a nail or a pocketknife, Dad would punch two small holes in the bottle cap, then pass the bottle among his kids so that everyone could have a drink. You had to suck the soda out through the tiny holes in the lid. This is what he called drinking a soda "Indian style."
I never could figure out why he did it that way. Why not just take the bottle cap off? I posed the question to Eric, and I think he may have come upon the answer. Sharing a bottle of soda with young kids is sometimes not the most appealing refreshment, yes? Sometimes, kids leave a little "something extra" floating in the bottle, you know? Drinking a soda "Indian style" was a clever way to prevent backwash!
Dad was a master communicator. He could talk to one person and at the same time communicate a message completely apart from his words to another with his body language or hand gestures. He set up ways for us, his family, to communicate with each other in the presence of other people without revealing ourselves. For example, he had a special whistle --two high quarter-notes --that our family learned to identify. It came to serve as a sonic beacon whenever we found ourselves in a crowded place, a market or a park.
We had our own special cant, which we call G-language. It follows the principles of Pig Latin, but beyond that, I will not tell. If you have a quick ear, you might catch on to it when you hear us speak. But the secret of the language only goes to family and a very few longtime family friends. We still use G-language today.
And there were other of these idiosyncrasies that we adopted specifically to identify ourselves. For example, in Dad's house, we ate "SANG-wiches" rather than "sandwiches." My paternal grandmother, Jennie Cariaga, had always pronounced the word that way. Probably because her first language was Spanish, and "sandwich" is a difficult word for native Spanish speakers. So that's the way Dad learned it, and that is the way it was taught to me and my siblings. For years after I learned the correct pronunciation (all the way into my twenties), I continued to pronounce the word incorrectly, just as Dad had done.
When I think of Dad as he was those 30 to 40 years ago, I picture him standing a head above all of us, head up and alert, shoulders tight, leading the way forward as we would troop through Kmart or Disneyland or the OIT gymnasium. He was the nucleus, we the wandering electrons. All his life, Dad had his children around him. I know he liked that.
Family eccentricities are marvelous things. Some are funny and good and positive. They warm my heart and make me smile.
And then there are those others. But that is another discussion entirely...
That crazy, ol' Tribe of Ross. I'll tell ya...