Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pa-Diddle for Logan

I thought my grandmother, Minnie Pauline Nichols, was old -- even for a grandmother. She was about 13 years older than my other grandmother, so I guess she was old. She was 53 when I was born and I was 56 when Ben was born -- 57-1/2 when Logan was born. I must seem really old to them. And yet, here I am raising them. I can't imagine what it feels like from their perspective, but here's a little story that makes me think about it.

My grandmother told me this story when I was a teenager. I remember thinking how very long ago, "in the olden days" it must have happened. She told me she would stand behind the parlor door when her sister had friends come over. They would all gather around the piano and sing. One of their favorite songs was "She's Dead in the Baggage Coach Ahead," a sad, sad story about a man and little girl taking a train trip while the wife/mother rides in her casket in the baggage coach. My grandmother said the sad lyrics made her cry so loudly she was discovered in her hiding place. What I don't know is how old my grandmother was at the time. Her own mother died when she was twelve and she went to live with her sister. So I don't know if it was the fact that her own mother had died that made the song so upsetting to her, or if she was simply a very sentimental little girl. I don't know if this took place in the home of her sister, or in the home of her mother and father.

Yesterday we were driving home just after dark and when we passed a car with a burned out headlight, I said, "pa-diddle." Logan asked me what I meant by pa-diddle. I explained that when I was a teen-ager and in a car with a boy, when one of us spotted a car with a burned out headlight, we would call out "pa-diddle!" If the girl said it first, she got to sock the boy in the arm, if the boy called it first, he got to kiss the girl. Logan thought that was very interesting and quaint and told me I should write it down someplace so people would always know about it. I thought it was pretty silly to bother writing it down until I remembered my grandmother's story about the sad song. If she had written it down, I might know whether she had been crying about the death of her mother, or just about a sad song.

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