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Blatherskite by Anita Hull

Most families have stories and sayings that they repeat over and over. Sometimes the meanings and origins are lost in the mist of time. We continue to use them because they are part of our roots. Many of these sayings have come down through the generations. Our parents learned them from their parents and they passed them on to us. In a way they are a link to the past.

Whenever I call anyone a "blatherskite" I smile to myself and think of my mother. My father was very verbose and loved nothing better than an argument, especially if it were political. If my father and some of his cronies got together of an evening for a discussion, Mom would retreat to the kitchen, muttering to me as she went, "they’re such blatherskites, they’ll talk on for hours!"

Although Mom was quiet, she liked spirited lively company. Dullards were not her cup of tea. In describing a bore she would always say, "he’s such a stick." If one was dull beyond redemption she would call him or her a "stoughton bottle." Anyone that was really annoying was referred to as a "shitepoke." At times my mother would scold me for reading so much and she’d say, "go out and get some fresh air. Don’t be such a plotchcat." I think that was the equivalent of the present day couch potato. I hated the word because it made me feel so sluggish and dumpy.

My mother was Scandinavian and not given to emotional outbursts. She did not understand any woman who wept easily. She would dismiss anyone like that with a shrug, saying, "well, her bladder is certainly near her eyes!"

Although none of these words are in the dictionary and I’m not absolutely sure of their meaning, I continue to use them. Sometimes nothing else fits the bill.

Dad had his own store of pet sayings. I often heard him say, when he told Mom about meeting someone he didn’t recognize, "and, Nita, I didn’t know him from a four dollar stove." I have yet to find anyone who knows what a four dollar stove is.

Any time I asked Dad for money he would say, "I’ll have to look in my grouch bag and see what’s there." I wonder if he really had a bag and if looking in it made him grouchy. I kept my requests to a minimum because I certainly didn’t want a crabby father. Another thing he always said whenever we would be going out to play was, "behave yourself and keep your nose clean."

My family uses some of our oft told favorite stories to make a point. When one of my mother’s cousins was visiting us from out of town, she told us that a very interesting thing had happened to her while she waited for us at the railroad station. As she sat there, she said, a man with a white cane walked past her. "And," she concluded, "I said to myself, now there goes a blind man." We waited for a few minutes and it finally dawned on us that was the end of the story. Now if any one of our family starts boring us with pointless dialogue, someone is bound to say, "I think I see a blind man," and that is the cue to stifle.

We lived in a police district that was served by the Summerdale Station. I don’t know where it got it’s name because the station is on Foster Avenue and never was on Summerdale. However it was always known to us as Summerdale.

One evening my mother went with her friend, Mabel to an evening novena service at church, leaving my father at home listening to the radio and napping. After the service Mom went to Mabel’s house which was a few blocks away. There they had cake and coffee and chatted for an hour or so. When Dad awoke from his sleep it was about ten o’clock. He discovered that Mom was not home but was not worried. He figured that she had gone home with her friend. After awhile he decided that he would meet Mom and walk her home. He went over to Mabel’s and when he arrived he found the building in darkness, indicating that everyone had retired for the night. Since he hadn’t encountered my mother on his walk he became concerned and hurried home. In the meantime, Mom missed Dad by going down a different street. She had arrived home shortly after he had left, gotten undressed and gone to bed. By the time my father had gotten back to the house he had worked himself into a frenzy. He rushed in, slammed the door and making no attempt to be quiet he grabbed the telephone which was on the desk just outside the bedroom door. He picked up the receiver and shouted, "police, police." With that, my mother appeared in the bedroom doorway.

"What’s the matter?" she asked sleepily.

"Thank God, you’re safe," Dad responded with a sigh, "I was about to call Summerdale and report you missing."

Nowadays if anyone is late for an appointment, the usual comment is that we were just about to call Summerdale. All my children use this expression and I don’t think they even know where or what Summerdale is.

I’m sure I could think up more of these expressions, but I’d better stop now or I’ll risk getting the reputation of being a blatherskite.

Originally Posted (Jul 01, 2002)

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