If part of getting older is learning to know yourself better, then I’m getting older. It was recently that revelation struck, a flash of self-discovery, and I shared it with my friends.
“I’ve decided that I speak CSL. Coffee as a Second Language. If you’re a TSL, Tea as a Second Language, we can still be friends. It will take a bit of translation, but we can do it.”
Someone piped up. “It’s kind of like the difference between the Spanish spoken in Puerto Rico versus the Spanish spoken in Mexico.” My friends are a quick-thinking bunch.
“Africa’s Xhosa language has tongue clicks. Yours, I’d imagine, would have slurps,” said a gentleman who appeared to know.
It was a friend named Lorie who nailed it. “I’m more like ESL (English as a Second Language) because coffee is probably my first language?” Well, of course.
It goes without saying that the men here in Manville speak PSL, or Pain as a Second Language. They’re happy as larks when they’ve given and received a good drubbing. I’m sure there’s a good psychological reason for this, but it’s as clear to me as a Mongolian haiku, which is to say, not much.
From all the research I’ve done, many adolescent girls are speaking DSL, or Drama as a Second Language. I distinctly recall when this truth was made manifest to Son One (aka College Grad). He plopped down across from my desk one day, looking like he’d been worked over, run through the wringer and hung out to dry; in other words, shellshocked.
“Mom,” he said, eyes wide. “Girls have so much drama. I’d rather just hang out with the guys. It’s so much easier.”
“You’re just finding out what they can be like,” I said. “After all, you don’t have any sisters to teach you.”
“What’s worse,” I thought, but did not say, “is girls who grow up, but don’t lose the drama. Then you have Drama Mamas.” I would never, of course, speak this aloud in the public square. (I don’t speak pain in any language, that’s why, so if you’d keep this between us, it would help me. Thanks for that.)
But back to languages. Whether it’s simply generational mayhem encoded into the DNA or an actual genetic mutation is uncertain, but the Yoder half of the family tree speaks PSL, Pranks as a Second Language.
If you’re a young, excitable redhead named Bertie, and you have a big brother with this predilection, it complicates your life. Let’s say you’re getting ready for school, and said brother hollers, “Bus!” You run, screeching, down the lane with your braids half done. Only to find (surprise) that there’s no bus.
Or let’s say you want to know what those boys are up to in their room, and so you apply one squinched-up eyeball to the keyhole. And catch a spitball. Yup. Him again.
This same brother is the one who took rather too much delight in filling a bag with fresh manure, putting it on a porch, lighting it up and ringing the bell. Then he’d hide, breathless, in the bushes and watch the frantic homeowner turn into a world-class clogger before his very eyes. Yes, that was fun.
Then there was the time he and his buddies tied a rope onto a purse and laid it in the road. By the time a curious driver had hit the brakes and then reverse, the purse was gone, and he was snickering—again—in the bushes.
When Grandma had a quilting one day, he and his brothers waited until an innocent relative took up her position in the outhouse. Then, using a stick they’d found of just the right curvature and length, they poked it up until something squealed. And then laughed hysterically as a terrified quilter tumbled from the outhouse and blew past, straight for the farmhouse, doing a credible Jesse Owens impression if Jesse had worn a cape dress.
Yes. This happened.
That was the day the music died, so to speak, and Grandma acquainted them with the other kind of PSL, the pain kind, with the help of her wooden spoon.
His other misdemeanors included fake dog poo in strategic, high-traffic areas. Fake, rubber vomit slipped into a burger. A fake tarantula beneath his hospital sheets after a heart procedure, which almost caused a nurse to need one, too.
At a campout, he kept a cousin trapped in his sleeping bag, petrified by the black “kitty” with the white stripe (fake, of course) that had perched on his bag in the night. This happened as well.
Now that I’m awake and alert, I’ve come up with a plan. The PSLs (the pranking kind) should have an annual convention and get it all out of their system. On each other. The CSLs and TSLs could have one, too, peaceful and undisturbed. Of course, we’d need plenty of bathrooms. No outhouses, please, and no curved sticks.
Hey. Now you’re speaking my language.