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Posts Tagged ‘nicknames’

A Families Secret Language…Happy Chickens and Nipples

Today Lex, who is a junior in high school, texted me. “made a 90 on pre-cal test”.

I texted back “happy chickens.”

Happy chickens? Yup.  In Hampoland, in my house,  when we are really happy we say “happy chickens”.  Then one person extends an open palm and the other  pretends to be a chicken and pecks at the imaginary feed in the open palm. Weird, right? But it’s one of our things. Happy chickens. It’s kind of like a Hampoland secret handshake.

If we want to make somebody laugh we just say, “nipple nipple nipple.” That’s a really fun word and makes everybody happy.

Several members of the family are bi-polar. It’s gone on for generations.  And when one of us is manic and full of ideas, good, bad, brilliant and crazy….we call it “popcorn brain”. 

I’ll  call Jack and say, “I have popcorn brain”  he know that means I have too many  ideas popping around in my head and don’t know which ones I should throw away. The ones I dismiss are “burnt kernels” . 

My family has a secret language. Nobody else knows what we’re talking about but Mary understands exactly what I mean when I say, “we can handle this. We are ‘Team Us'”. 

When Jack and Mary were little, Team USA, the first Dream Team with Michael Jordan, hit the scene.Posters and tee shirts said “Team US”.  We were pretty broke then so I told the kids we were “Team Us”. Nothing was more important than Team Us and we would always take care of Us.  This message sunk in and to this day, twenty years later, Team Us is hampoland and we are all proud team members. 

Five years ago one of my children went crazy and ran off to Canada with a semi-pro hockey player.  Sandor who was three at the time  said, “you can’t go to Can’t- a- da.”  In Hampoland Canada is always pronounced “can’t-a-da”.  And we all get it.

My mom, Ann Stell, died when Jack and Mary were three and four. But she used to say “try not to think hippopotamus.”  When I say that to Lex she knows exactly what I’m talking about.   It means thinking about something people tell you not to think about is freaking impossible!

A few years ago we had a dog that was literally insane.  Seriously, there was something wrong with this little hound dog. One day he pooped in my shoe, which was in my closet.  I don’t mean on my shoe, the dog actually pooped in my shoe.  So, sometimes, we say, “At least he didn’t poop in your shoe.” That means things are bad but they could be much much worse.

Secret languages are magical. They build bridges and provide band aides. I love “happy chickens” it reminds me we are and always will be “Team Us” . And there’s not another team on the planet who speaks our language or understands the hampoland accent and  dialect.

 

Stupid Wonderful Nicknames Pooh Bear, Bimbo and The Alligator Farm

Standing in the bank, moving money around,  I hear a voice, “Hey Pooh Bear”! I look over and see a 60 year old man, gray hair, lovely suit, waving at me on the far side of the bank lobby. He’s actually the bank president and he was my brother, Granger’s, buddy, forty five years ago. He’s a handsome bank president and he still calls me Pooh Bear.  He gives me a big hug and for a warm moment I’m home again with my brother and all his friends. But Granger has been dead for almost a year. Still, I feel loved because he used my nickname.

Nicknames are a double edged sword.

 By the time I turned 25 I despised being called Pooh Bear with a red hot lava like hatred. Now, when I hear Pooh Bear I just smile because I know it’s someone who knew my family and loved us. It’s a sweet sound.

When new friends use my old nickname it sounds wrong, almost offensive.  If they weren’t part of the history and story they shouldn’t use the name. It’s not their story.  Nicknames are personal, kind of like a secret handshake. If you aren’t part of the club you shouldn’t try to use it.

I have a cousin, handsome and smart guy named Daley. But growing up EVERYONE called him Bimbo. And I thought Pooh Bear was bad.

Growing up in Hot Springs, Arkansas my best friends when I was really little (4 to 7) were Pinky and Squampy. Pinky was probably 7 when I was 5 and Squampy was 3. Our moms ran in a local theater group, The Community Players.

 One Friday evening,Pinky, Squampy and I were left alone, again, at the Community Players  while our moms directed and stared in A Street Car Named Desire.

There was a tourist attraction next door to the theater,The Alligator Farm.  It’s a little place with a lot of gators in shallow pools. But there was a big fat tree growing out of the parking lot and it stretched out across the gator pools.

While our moms were busy with Blanche and Stanley,  Pinky convinced us to crawl out on the tree branch, over the alligator pools.

An hour later the adults started looking for us. We’d shimmied out on a thick branch and were staring at dozens of alligators. But Squampy, the youngest, was afraid to shimmy backwards, so we couldn’t get off the branch.

All three of us  were clutching the phone pole sized branch, waiting to get eaten or  for grown ups to find us. If I’d died that day  the newspaper head line might have read “Alligator Eats Pooh Bear!”

Mary, my oldest daughter, is gorgeous now, but when she was little she was kind of silly looking. We called her Buddy Hackett (I swear she looked like him),  and we called her Murry. Why Murry? Because when we went to the beach she refused to keep her top on. So we decided if we called her Murray, everyone would think she was a little boy.

Nicknames…they suck, they embarrass us, we hate them. But now, that I’m an adult and fairly confident, and feeling like I have nothing to prove, Pooh Bear doesn’t embarrass me. It makes me feel loved. Murray makes Mary laugh because she knows how beautiful she is and it’s a great story. 

Once you grow up and figure out who you are, nicknames are pretty wonderful. They are part of your story.  Pinky, Squampy and Biimbo, I still love you.

Got a nickname, a comment or idea…WRITE TO ME at hampoland@gmail.com or leave a comment.