fwiw friday (liverwurst and screen doors)

because, of course, I wasn’t allowed to speak then.

In this case, a screen door with metal curlicues and a central dog motif. This used to be a popular style—aluminium doors with curlicues and motifs—various dog breeds, swans, horses too. Lots of people had letters to signify the name of their tribe. The house where I grew up had such a door. It was my job to clean the curlicues, but that wasn’t the worst of it. As we were not [alas] dog, horse or swan people, we had a big aluminium M, a constant reminder of a last name I wasn’t crazy about. I thought it was too ethnic. These were the very young days of my youth when being the child of immigrants was an embarrassment. All that salami and homemade jam on my breath when what I coveted was Welch’s Grape Jelly and Campbell’s soup. I longed to be a Brown, a Black, a Smith, a Wilson, people who ate Swanson’s TV dinner instead of goulash. The M was a constant reminder that my people were weird and that my name had to be spelled. And pronounced. And sometimes explained, as in: Makuz? What’s that?

I knew what the question implied. It meant where are you from?  Not me, but my parents, those people with funny accents who fed my friends open-face liverwurst sandwiches on homemade rye for lunch, friends who were often mysteriously ‘not hungry’ next time they came by or, in one spectacular case, who left my house in tears, screaming about being given cat food. When the friend’s mother telephoned a few minutes later, my mum, in broken English, explained about delicatessens. I’m not sure how much was believed but the friend never came over again.

I was pretty sure this never happened to kids named Smith.

Or dog people.

9 thoughts on “fwiw friday (liverwurst and screen doors)

  1. Carin, this is such a fantastic post! My mother came to the US when she was three years old, and she spoke English without an accent, but my grandmother still spoke with a Swedish accent. I remember my mother’s liverwurst on Ry Crisp, headcheese, fruit soup thickened with oatmeal.

    My mother was way older than other mothers. One day the impertinent kid next door — I think he was the one who brandished a BB gun for fun — asked if she was my grandmother.

    “No, she’s my mother-rrrrr!” I exclaimed, the extra Rs in the word prompted by an obscure sense of shame.

    Thanks for your story.

    1. Oh how nice to know someone else ate headcheese! I still do. Love the stuff. In fact I’m enamoured of all those things that once mortified me about my ‘heritage’. And my mum, too, was older than the others. And more serious, I thought. But of course I was wrong. Just a very different kind of ‘funny’… things that get lost in the translation. (:

      Thanks so much, Mary Ann, for sharing your story too!

    1. Ha! I didn’t. But I have the horrible feeling you did and am guessing you weren’t super popular on the “I’ll trade you mine for yours” circuit…

  2. Actually, what I sometimes did was lose my sandwich on the way to school so the teacher would make the other kids share with me. Oh, the bliss of grocery store baloney on white bread! Velveeta cheese!

    1. Oh you clever thing! And, yes… that exotic baloney… that temptress, Wonder Bread!
      When my mother finally caved and bought some Skippy peanut butter I ate the whole jar with a spoon while watching Rocketship 7. Didn’t touch the stuff for years after that. (:

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