“I’d better find the book I need for finishing my report that’s due tomorrow or…you know what they say…I’ll be up a tree without a paddle!”
Poor cousin Charlie. He’s not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, if you know what I mean. Okay, okay…to be honest, Charlie is really not stupid. But he is unique. He does, shall we say, march to the beat of his own drummer? In a kind of absent-minded professor manner.
You see, Charlie loves to quote the wit and wisdom of the ages. Or at least Grandma’s never ending litany of wry platitudes. But the problem is, Charlie never seems to get these sayings quite right. When Charlie begins his now-signature phrase in that characteristic drawl… “Well, you know what they say…“ we all know what’s coming next. The murder of some well-known bit of wisdom.
Sometimes, he gets it totally wrong, like being up a tree without a paddle. On other occasions, he might have the wording right, but gives the saying an entirely new twist. Like the time he was eight, and my aunt found a store of change in her fancy marble vase. Upon questioning Charlie, she was surprised to learn that this was the proper place to keep change, because, after all, “A penny saved is a penny urned.”
It’s funny, though. Despite mangled wording or alternate interpretations, Charlie often manages to portray the essence of a saying or some related truth quite correctly in his quirky way. Kind of like Yogi Berra. You know, the baseball legend famous for pronouncements like, “When you get to a fork in the road, take it”, or “The future ain’t what it used to be”. Or--the one which could be Charlie‘s life motto--“You’ve got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.“
Yes…just as Yogi is known for his “Yogi-isms”, so our Charlie has his “Charlie-isms”.
One of my favorites came about when several of us had gone to watch my little sister Amanda compete in a swim meet. A fierce competitor, Amanda had done very well all season, but on that particular day had finished in second place by the narrowest of margins.
After the meet, Amanda emerged from the dressing room and stomped toward the car. Head down, hands stuffed into the pockets of her jeans, she made it clear that she was not pleased with her placement. She shrugged off all attempts to cheer her. That is, until Charlie quickened his pace to draw beside her.
“That’s okay, Amanda. You know what they say…you can’t win the mall.”
My sister whirled sharply…hands now on her hips, facing her cousin. “Did you just say you can’t win the mall?”
“Yep. You know…no matter how good you are, you can win lots of things but you can’t ever win the mall.”
This declaration worked where none of our others had. The corners of Amanda’s mouth twitched slightly…then softened into a smile. Finally, she chuckled. Patting Charlie on the arm, she acknowledged, “You’re right Charlie…you’re right.”
Another Charlie classic came at chicken butchering time. Our extended family always gathered to help accomplish the tasks involved. Dad and Uncle Bob dispatched the birds, while the rest of us took care of the plucking, cleaning and processing chores. When we had finished Aunt June made a quick tally then commented that we were short by a couple of packages. Uncle Bob admitted that two of the fowl had flown the coop, so to speak, on their way to meet their Maker.
“Well, you know what they say…”
Everyone looked toward Charlie.
“Don’t count your chickens before they’re hacked.”
Hmmm…a variation on the original, to be sure, but you have to admit…the meaning’s spot-on.
The Charlie-isms continue. The latest edition occurred just recently…not long after the death of our grandfather.
Grandpa had made some modest investments and his will stipulated that these stocks be distributed among his now-adult grandchildren. Charlie received shares of a natural foods conglomerate and a tobacco company.
“I’ll keep my natural food stocks, but I’m definitely selling the tobacco shares,” he told me emphatically one day, shortly after receiving his inheritance.
“But why? It’s a great investment.”
“I don’t care. They’re a business which causes harm. Like it or not, a man is judged by his associations. If I kept that stock I’d end up being known by my affiliation with that group!
I…just…won’t…keep…that…company!” he insisted.
“Because…well, you know what they say…“
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