Huh? you say. But YES. YAH, DAHLING (to quote that hilarious guy from Love Actually).
I’m a curser. A big-time, all-out, catastrophic-scale potty-mouth. It’s not my fault; it’s how I was raised. My mother swore conversationally, peppering her stories and questions with a truly impressive level of profanity. I am generally less extreme, thanks to my years working as an educator, but staying home with the babes has brought it all back. I mean, of course it has, right? What better opportunity for a good “thirty-minute cuss” (Wendell Berry, A Place on Earth) than when you’re sleep-deprived, starving, on the edge of round three of mastitis, and the person you’re holding has just puked all down your front? Plus, you figure, they don’t say much yet, so they probably don’t understand much, so it’s pretty much free and clear. Right? Right?
Sure. Until they turn verbal. And then it all comes flooding back at you (though in lilting, lisping baby-tones that make it actually kind of adorable) and you begin to worry about social services or at least the in-laws stepping in.
These were my reflections on the plane today as I sat wedged into the aisle seat, nursing Chi nonstop while the flight attendant attempted to pass his dangling feet (or skull) which flopped into the aisle. Ezra, of course, was too wired to sleep — has been ever since his 5-am excursion into the well-lit, third-floor-of-a-grand-staircase-at-his-aunt’s-house hallway to hunt for us, as we lay six feet away. It’s been a long day. But more than tired, I found myself enraged. By anything: the rough poky spot on my airplane ginger-ale cup; the absurd commitment of the Delta desk agent to NOT give in and help us (he’s no enabler! No sirree!); the fact that the toys we had carefully bought and hidden from the kids for airplane emergencies were in the WRONG BAG, the only one that had actually fit into the overhead compartment. For chrissake, people, THIS is how it’s all going to be? And then Ezra starts swatting Chi on the head and laughing loudly, obnoxiously, when I ask him to stop; and then Len tries to discipline Ezra for something else, thereby waking Chi who had finally fallen asleep on his shoulder…you know what I mean. There was a BLUE STREAK coming out of me. Under my breath, hopefully too low for even E to hear (especially given his demonic cackling), but WOW.
The third time all my buttons got pushed (this was all on a 1.5-hour second-leg flight, by the way), I happened to be holding a small fleecy sewn finger puppet of a parrot. As I gritted my teeth and cursed fluently, I found myself staring through hard, unseeing eyes at the damn parrot. Its wide-open wings gave it the air of someone making a proclamation, and just then, I thought maybe it was cursing at me. No, I thought: maybe IT’S doing the cursing. Maybe all this ranting is coming from the PARROT.
You see where I’m going with this? (And no, I’m not certifiable; I’m aware I was the angry, cursing one. But who’s going to pass up an opportunity to displace that kind of rage and verbal abuse?) As the idea formed, I just started to laugh. For the first time, I was external to my anger and irritation, and the cursing actually had a chance of being merely one response among many. Not mine, of course, but the parrot’s.
So now when something ridiculous happens that makes me want to cuss intensely, I ask Len, “where’s that parrot?” Or one of us announces: “the parrot would say: that’s a totally unacceptable crock of @&*$”. See how well that works? And then when you lose it anyway and holler something atrocious, you can add sheepishly, “or, that’s what the parrot said, anyway.”
The longer I run with this post, the weirder it becomes. So I’m going to stop. But seriously. Consider it. Ventriloquism has never been so fun.