Friday, June 16, 2017

Say what you mean and mean what you say by J.C. Kavanagh

Last month, I wrote a wee bit about my Irish-born father and his dislike for Canadian winters. He passed away over 20 years ago and I still miss him. In fact, much of my writing is done on his old, oak, leather-topped desk. Cheers, Da!

This month, I'll share a couple of stories about my lovely mother - who will be 86 this year. She grew up in Dublin, Ireland and moved to Canada to start a family, almost 60 years ago. Like my dad, Mom discovered that settling in Canada was a big adjustment – the heat in summer, cold and snow in winter, and intense thunder and lightning storms in the spring and fall.

My cheeky mother, 1958
But the biggest adjustment for me Mather was not the weather – it was her choice of words. And their meaning. Or rather, their wrong meaning. She meant well. She just didn’t say it right.

“Will you kindly knock me up at 7 tomorrow morning?” she asked the landlord of her rooming house shortly after she arrived in Canada.

Fred, her landlord, stood there in shock, the redness of his blush matching the ginger of his hair.

“What? Don’t you knock up all your tenants?” me Mather asked. “Surely you don’t want me to be late and have my wage docked and not be able to pay my rent?”

Fred’s blush had become a dangerous maroon. “I… I could find you an old wind-up clock,” he stammered.

“Why bother?” me Mather persisted. “Just knock me up at 7!”

Fred’s face was now apoplectic. “But…. my wife…..”

“Nonsense, she won’t hear a thing,” replied me Mather. “Just knock on my door two or three times. I’ll wake up.”

Fred gasped and almost fell to the floor in relief. “Knock… on your door.”

“Well, of course,” says me Mather. “What else would I mean?”

And then there’s the time when me Mather was at work, new to her job as legal secretary for a firm in downtown Toronto. Her boss was a finicky old curmudgeon with little patience for his lovely Irish employee.

As she was collating and copying some papers, me Mather noticed a mistake.

“I’m waiting for those papers to sign!” bellowed her boss impatiently.

Mather was desperate. She had to erase and correct the error immediately, before he noticed. She hurried to her colleague’s office. “Quick – I need a rubber. Now!”

The woman looked up at me Mather in shock. “You need a rubber?”

“Yes! Quick now – I’m in a hurry and the boss doesn’t want to wait!”

Well, Mather learned very quickly that the terms used at home in Ireland had a completely different meaning in Canada. I still chuckle when she talks about something that’s banjaxed (broken), togs (bathing suit), boxing my ears (a humourous threat to slap you upside the head) and chin-wagging (a lengthy conversation). I know what she means to say even if she doesn’t say what she means. You know what I mean.

She's still beautiful! Mother, grandmother and great-grandmother

Summer is about to begin - enjoy! I'll be spending most weekends and about four weeks sailing around Georgian Bay on our sailboat, Escape Route II. Ah....

Enjoy life!

J.C. Kavanagh
The Twisted Climb
BEST Young Adult Book 2016, P&E Readers' Poll
A novel for teens, young adults and adults young at heart
Twitter @JCKavanagh1 (Author J.C. Kavanagh)

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