Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Fragrance (10/24/05)
TITLE: Lilacs and Roses
By Genevieve Williams
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“Lilacs and Roses” was the first secret phrase between my sister and me. That was the name of a very cheap talcum powder that smelled just awful to our young and sensitive noses. At first it simply meant that something smelled bad to us. For example we would be in the hen house gathering eggs and Diana would say, “It smells just like Lilacs and Roses in here.” Eventually we used it to refer to something that was the opposite of what it appeared. To this day, some 60 years later, Diana can refer to someone as, “a real Lilacs and Roses kind of person” and I know exactly what she means.
All families have their own jargon, words and phrases only they understand. It’s part of what makes us families.
Last summer when my sister was visiting, my husband asked her what she would like to drink with dinner and rattled off a list of the possibilities. She replied, “I think I’ll have some lemon-z-ade.” My husband did a double take as he turned to me. “I thought you were the only person in the world who called it that. I guess it’s a family thing.” He understands that because we also have developed our own language. Ours consists mainly of phrases from favorite old TV programs. Short quotes from “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Seinfeld” sprinkle our conversations. Of course, this is not a true secret language since any other classic TV buff would recognize the reference.
My personal favorite secret phrase goes way back to the early ‘40s. After a satisfying Sunday dinner my father would lean back in his chair, let his belt out a notch and say, ”Boy, that was a good dinner! I’m sooooo full.” Soon my older brothers picked up the phrase and then my sister and, finally, I did too.
One day when I was about five years old my Aunt Mary came to visit us, bringing a distant cousin who had just come over from the old country. I stared and stared at this huge woman. When I could contain myself no longer I pointed a finger at her and said, “That lady is full.” True, she couldn’t understand any English but that pointing finger was hard to ignore. Aunt Mary got the giggles and finally had to explain it to her in Italian. The lady too began to giggle and soon we were all laughing and welcoming this new member into our family. Thereafter she was known as “the full-lady” and now I can’t remember her real name even though she was a distant cousin.
Family jargon is part of the glue that holds us together. No matter how many Lilacs and Roses come into our lives we can always drink some lemon-z-ade and enjoy life as a full-lady.
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