In August 1994, in my previous life, my sister MessCat joined our family on vacation. We stayed in the little park home at the “campground” in Florida. It was called a campground, but everyone stayed in some kind of mobile/modular home on a little plot of grass across from the canal. Many had boats docked right across from their lot and most were year round residents. My in-laws who owned it were seasonal. We went down for a week each year, usually in August.
We had a great week, filled with cheese grits and fish, boating and gator tail, manatee watching and swimming in the gulf. There were late night UNO games on the screened porch and sleeping in and lots of sun exhaustion-induced afternoon naps. Shampoo and sunscreen were the perfume of the days. I can still smell that and the scent of the canal…..and listening to the sound of boat motors and frogs singing after dark.
On that trip MessCat told me about how college was going for her. It was her last year. She’d come across some interesting information and had been testing it out. Apparently, something she had heard or read said, if you repeat one thing over and over–an exclamation of sorts–others will start repeating it as well. She was well on her way to having, “That’s crunchy!” spoken by half of her campus. She expected the saying to be used by nearly all by the time she returned from vacation. All because one person repeated it over and over. And it stuck.
We decided to try it. She reminded me today that the line came from the poem from “So I Married An Axe Murderer.” (Woman…..Whoa man) We started saying “whoa man” about all kinds of things. Something surprising (whoa man, did you see that?), something good (whoa man, this sandwich is good), something that hurt (whoa man!), when we wanted someone to stop (whoa man *hand up*)…..and so on. If we could find a way, we did. My 8 year old little Bud was an amused observer, I think. MessCat might tell me differently, but I don’t think he ever blinked about it. The other adult though, it was sinking into his brain without him even knowing it. Until one evening, as MessCat, my Bud, and I were Reversing and Skipping Turns and changing colors, he came in from the canal, walked across the porch, and nearly fell off the two steps going into the house. “Whoa man!” he said, as he struggled to regain his balance.
We promptly lost it. MessCat and I nearly fell off our seats laughing so hard. Even my Bud joined in, though I’m not sure if he knew what was so funny or not. Or maybe two adults rolling around with laughing tears is funny enough on its own.
What occurred to me in the wee hours while I was asleep last night, was that this is happening right now. People keep saying things over and over. And then others start to repeat it. And others and still others. More and more. Until everyone is saying it, and very few–as evidenced by my need to call MessCat this morning to ask about the origin of the exclamation–really remember why.
It is not lost on me that the child was the last one to join in with the catchphrase, but eventually he did. Becuase he was hearing it from all of the adults in his life.
It’s odd, isn’t it? I haven’t thought about that trip or that incident in a long, long time. But for some reason it crawled back out last night from where it has been tucked away, interrupted my sleep, and demanded to be revisited and told.
We–me, you, all of us–need to be cautious about what we are speaking and giving life to. Someone is bound to repeat it. For whatever reason. And if that someone is a child…..
we have to be more careful. We…..I…..need to be more focused on speaking light into life. And love. And beauty and joy. And of course, laughter.
And if darkness tries to come creeping in…..
Love and light to all.