X is for X-pletives deleted: I learn to curse. Twenty-fourth of twenty-six posts in the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Endwell: My Elementary Years”— where my genealogy journey germinated. Wish me luck!
Before I moved to Endwell, N.Y. at age seven, I led a relatively sheltered country life on our family’s farm near Altamont, N.Y.
The four adults in our household — my parents and maternal grandparents — were probably trying to set a good example for me and my younger brothers, so I don’t remember much in the way of colorful language.
But all of that changed when we moved onto our working-class street with 50-or-so kids two blocks from the Susquehanna River.
There, my brothers and I became River Rats who lived on the other side of the railroad tracks below Main Street — and that’s were I learned to curse.
Dad sets the tone
At our new home, my dad was in charge of household projects without my grandfather as a buffer. So he had sole responsibility for painting, repairs, lawn mowing, car fixing, you name it — and it didn’t take much for him to let fly with a few x-pletives deleted when a project went awry.
In one famous episode, Dad was painting the outside of the house during the summer and something went wrong. Maybe he stepped in paint or messed up the window trim — who knows?
Whatever it was, Dad started cursing — along the lines of “goddammit” and other choice words — and came stomping red-faced into the house.
Dad wasn’t a drinker, but he’d been a bartender in his parents’ Adirondacks hotel — so he could think of only one solution. He made himself a boilermaker.
“What a mistake that was,” Dad told me years later. “Between the heat and the alcohol, I had to go straight to bed in the middle of the afternoon. Well, I never did that again!”
He did, however, continue to utter a string of x-pletives deleted during almost every household project throughout my childhood — a number of which I made a mental note of.
Another dad ups the ante
Yet my father could not hold a candle to the yelling dad up the street — the one whose windows we kids waxed every year during our fall Halloween mayhem campaign.
Yelling Dad’s x-pletives deleted were completely over the top — true “cursed like a sailor” outbursts, which I will not repeat here.
And we kids got to hear just about all of them as he spent miserable evenings scraping wax off his windows when trick-or-treat season ended.
I listen and learn
I know I should have been shocked by the sudden exposure to Yelling Dad’s rough language — but oddly, I was impressed.
This was not the run-of-the-mill swearing Dad used at our house — which Mom was already afraid we children might pick up.
Yelling Dad’s curses had a raw edge to them that was somehow more authentic — a primal howl of frustration that he had yet again been outwitted by a bunch of kids and our annual childhood pranks.
Meanwhile, we kids gloated, listened and learned. Then, out of earshot of our folks, we practiced some of his choicer phrases on each other — and that’s how I learned to curse during my elementary years.
Up next: Y is for Youthful pastimes: Parties, skating and dust-bowl biking. Please stop back!
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