Crisp

Crisp is onomatopoeic to me. The sound, the look, the feel – each play their part in making “crisp” crisp. Its brevity from the encompassing curve of the C through to the coda of the P, where all loose ends are tucked in, makes for a satisfying pop of a word. The beginning sound fills the mouth with busyness: “krrrrrrrr;” the middle of your mouth pulls the letters apart, your tounge conducting tartly with your palate, your throat constricting to coordinate with your lips to make the staticky shard of a sound. Next, “isssss” hisses along, your tounge stopping just short of whistling the glamour of the S. Finally, the curtail; “pah” a puff, a pert pulling of the rug out from under the lazy S sound, which would go on forever if not carefully watched.

The word, rolled around on the tounge, tastes like a cold apple bitten hungrily, like a sip of dry Champagne resplendent with bubbles, like a satisfying snap. It’s chaotic and smoothly inevitable, and over too soon.

Indeed, when “crisp” has been said, it’s thoroughly gone. There is no lingering sound on the air, nothing to assure that it has actually been said. It is a magic trick of a word. Said and unsaid at the same time, leaving only the feeling of being taken for a tumble and no evidence left behind.

This is my entry for the Daily Post one-word prompt: crisp.

Polish

Everyone calls my husband’s grandmother Stella, although her first name is actually Anastasia. Stella is 92, and still lives in the house her husband built. Incidentally, when I was 10 or 11, the name I wished I had was Anastasia – I thought it was very cosmopolitan.

When Stella was 19 she fled Ukraine with a Catholic priest, eventually landing in America, where she made her way to a small town in Western New York State, to live with strangers. And there she made a life. She met a man and they settled down and had four daughters, one of whom in turn met a man and settled down in the same town, and had three children, including my future husband.

When you visit Stella’s house, you notice immediately the mix of American and Ukraine – an uneven blend that reflects a life lived in one place, and apart from another. Cyrillic letters wink tantalizingly on shelves from commemorative plates, or from postcards tucked behind framed photos on the walls. Shopping lists adorn the fridge in English, half-hidden behind the masses of grandchildren and great-grandchildren who populate the freezer door.

Everywhere you turn, you see a pattern repeated, trebled, overlapped, sifted to utter simplicity, and above all, relentlessly red and black. Mostly, the pattern appears on eggs. But it also appears on plates, on postcards, on nesting dolls, a ceramic pig. In Ukraine, embroidery is a national pasttime, and most women traditionally learn how to do their own regional embroidery. Stella doesn’t do embroidery (at least not now), but she does much else – crocheting, weaving, crafting. From her chair, from her loom, from her kitchen table, if she raises her eyes, she sees her pattern. Woven throughout her house, a snug house built by her husband for her to grow their family in, Ukraine whispers.

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Stella’s pig
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A map of reginoal emroidery in Ukraine. By Qypchak – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27866875

Stella has never been back to her village. Her home is instead an outpost of her culture. Pieces of her native land come find her, using her friends and family as a conduit to secure a spot on her shelves or a patch of wall. Her heritage has filtered down in smaller and smaller particles over successive generations. Even so, her great-grandchildren know what perogies are, and that they sit on their doupas.

When my own father was working on his vast family history project, he discovered, much to everyone’s surprise, that Stella’s village has changed beyond what you might expect over the past 75 years. It’s now in Poland.

This is my entry for the Daily Post one-word prompt: polish.

Natty

Growing up where I did, we heard smart a lot. “You look smart today,” “is the party going to be smart?” “That’s a smart jumper!” Natty falls into the same category, but we didn’t hear it as much. It was old fashioned to my ears, and most people fell back on “smart” to describe something that looked especially fancy. Natty is more clothing-specific, I have always felt, and really how much can you describe clothing when you’re five?

Time is funny, though, and the mind plays tricks. Associations slide in and out of the dusty corners of my mind. Being dyslexic adds a layer of encryption that is random and undiscerning. Known words evolve and expand; the more I read, the more baggage I give to any word. When I read a novel expression, one that strips bare a known word and dresses it back up in new clothes, I revisit the word in my own mind. I stand back and reimagine the word in this new light, and see how it glitters differently now. I smooth the dust from it, I turn it just so. Sometimes, I turn my back and the word shakes itself and returns to its usual, expected form. Sometimes, however, I find myself retracing my steps to my freshly disheveled word, delighting in the weirdness, and so it finds itself stuck, only visiting its former self but no longer living with that association.

Once in awhile, I visit a word, and it has changed by itself. I am nervous around these words. I know the word that I know isn’t the word that other people know. It’s a stranger, lurking in my mind. I don’t know who else it has been visiting. I don’t know if it’s rubbing off on other words; the mutation may be catching. I don’t always know how it’s different, or why. This is how dyslexia manifests for me. Maybe everyone experiences gradual dissonance with words; I don’t know.

Some words are mischievous. They are the kid in class who pushes boundaries. The word is a trickster and doesn’t mind being dealt wrongly — in fact, delights in it. These are words I just learned wrong, and know they are wrong, but I can’t break the association. Like breaking a child of a beloved lovey or pacifier, these words cling, stubborn, willful, eternally prepared to resist. Sometimes other words see the fun that these words have, and join the revels. These words are the bastards, of course. These words are the kids whose parents have to repeatedly ask, in frustration and exasperation, “if all your friends jumped off a bridge…”.

Natty is one of these, for me. Natty is a follower, with low inclinations. Natty first awoke to the possibilities of ill repute when Natural Ice and Keystone first entered my lexicon. Of course, the only beer worse than Keystone is Natty Ice. It is base. It is cheap. It is the sole of a $4 shoe that is separating, flapping madly to no purpose, tripping you. It is the smell of a beach arcade at 5:15am, after the tide has rushed back to the horizon. It is the sticky underside of a hightop table in a bar. Natty Ice is so bad, it has infected natty by association. And natty is thrilled to be on such an adventure. Natty, who was once the smartest, wearing fancy dress even on the greyest days, now is enthusiastically holding up tatters, grasping a ripped pair of Spanx many sizes too big while wrapping up in a lurid pink boa that’s missing too many feathers. Natty has a pair of sunglasses with a lens missing and a dirty cup full of something oily. Natty is a mess, and natty doesn’t care.

This is my entry for the Daily Post one-word prompt: natty.