Not having children, I missed that whole, “Just wait till you have kids!” of which my mother warned when I was a mouthy teenager. I’ve certainly had very disobedient cats (“STOP scratching the sofa!!”) and dogs, who, besides pretending they can’t hear us outside, are really quite good and only truly mortify us when we have company (“Oh, my goodness, stop that! No, she doesn’t have worms — STOP that!”).
But what I have noticed of late with both Paul and myself are the inherited noises from both maternal and paternal sides of our parents.
Leaning over to unplug the vacuum from the wall outlet wasn’t that enormous an effort. I’m lucky indeed to have no aches or pains that would illicit the surprising, “Unhhh,” that reached my ears. What the hell was that, I wondered. That sounded like one of the horses in mid-roll in the field, struggling to scratch each side of their body. And then it occurred to me.
That was my mom! When did that start??
That was the noise my mother used to make when any sort of physical exertion was required. Reaching to put plates in the cabinet, pulling the garden hose behind her outside, stooping to, yes, unplug the vacuum out of the wall. Sometimes she’d “Unhhh” when she would sit down at the end of the day with that strange, crackling thing once known as a newspaper on her lap, perched upon the black rocking chair in the corner of the den.
“Unhhh,” it ejected out of my mouth once again, as I was unloading the third bale of hay out of the back of the truck. “Unhhh,” as I hoisted a saddle back onto the rack.
Now, Paul, whose parents were both Dutch, takes decidedly after his late father, Johan. Whether it’s a Dutch thing, I don’t know, but I’ve heard Paul countless times mimic his father when he both collapses on the sofa with a beer or when he has to get back up from the sofa to get another beer:
Not “oof” — “oofa,” with the accent on the first syllable and a long “a” to boot. I’ve never heard that anywhere in my life except from John’s mouth, generally tinged with an eye twinkling bit of impishness — he always had a flair for comedy. John was a salesman his entire life and a bit of a stranger to manual labor, so the sound, I suspect, was emitted after a long day at the office and after the long bus ride home (he didn’t learn to drive until age 40).
And as Paul also says it towards the end of the day, it’s rather endearing. Go ahead, try it. But be warned — it’s addicting. Once you start, it’s going to be part of your subconscious vocabulary for the rest of your life, like a Dutch earworm. “Hand me the remote, will ya? Oofa!”
People often say they feel their long-departed loved ones are near when they spot a Cardinal outside their window. Or perhaps a butterfly lands on their shoulder, bringing back fond memories. How lovely that is. How I envy them. It’s not quite so charming in our household.
For us, it’s mostly a barnyard full of grunts.