WHEREIN I RIFF ON MY WORDLESS WEDNESDAY PIC….
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.