INKLINGS: Lines from a bumbling cusser

  • Thursday, July 19, 2012

I was never really tempted to do much cussing until I had children. Then of course I had to watch my language so as not to corrupt their minds. One of the reasons our kids knew so many words to so many hymns early on was that when I got irritated, rather than turning my mouth to cussing, I turned it toward the heavens.
When Cathy spilled a can of yellow paint on my kitchen floor I proclaimed in a non-singing clamorous voice, word-by-clearly-enunciated word: “Holy God, we praise thy name. Lord of all we bow before thee . . .” The time David glued phone book pages together to keep busy on a rainy day; I burst out with “My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…” After hearing a crash from the living room and finding our twins had pulled a glass lamp off an end table, I began a rendition of “Jesus loves me, this I know . . .”   By the time I reached the final verse of these  hymns, I’d calmed down enough to speak in quotable phrases.
Actually I learned to cuss in German shortly after I learned to talk, by listening to my maternal grandmother. She never translated, but I’m told I was enchanted by her passionate expressions of displeasure. Everybody used to think it was cute when I copied her. This went on until I unfortunately let loose one night when a German speaking priest came to a family dinner. He spilled a glass of water on the dining room table and from my high chair I chided him in three concise German cuss words. This put an abrupt end to any more bilingual efforts. My mom’s favorite annoyed expression was the relatively mild “Hells Bells!” which I must admit she used frequently while her four angelic offspring grew up.
Mostly as an adult and now as a senior citizen, if I cuss, it’s internal, with only rare lapses, one of which was unforgettable. Now there’s cussing (bad language), there’s profanity, (blasphemy) and there’s vulgarity (crudeness). One of my least favorites in the latter category is the “S” word. I admit that it occasionally creeps across my mind, but hardly ever passes my lips. Except for one day while I was driving with my daughter Mary Clare and her three children.
The grandkids were in the back seat chattering noisily. We were late and had had several traffic setbacks trying to get to a special family gathering. At the last minute we came across a detour that would make us even later. I intoned that awful four-letter word in capital letters and dead silence ensued. Looking into the rear-view mirror I saw three young mouths gaping like caverns. They were – alas, unlike me – struck temporarily dumb. They looked shocked and disbelieving, which is the way I felt. I apologized with difficulty as my daughter had buried her face in her hands, trying to hide irreverent laughter.
Guilt and gloom encompassed me until we got to our destination. Then that unholy trio of descendants burst into the house shouting gleefully to one and all: “You’ll never guess what Grandma Barbara just said!” 
“Out of the mouths of babes,” my #@*+*# foot!

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