Memories of a Lifetime

Saturday, March 13, 2010

In Which I Describe Songs from my Heart

Isn't it funny how hearing a song can instantly take you back to a moment, an event, a place and a time?

My car came with a year's free subscription to Sirius satellite radio. The range of available music is extensive. And no commercials. In the course of a just a few minutes in the car I can hear songs from my pre-school days all the way up to this week. And I've been noticing lately how nostalgic I get when I hear a certain chord, lyric or guitar solo.

For example: on the 60's station I might hear "The Rapper" by the Jaggerz which takes me back to 7th grade at D.L. Barnes Jr High and the girls who played records and danced at lunch time each day (does anyone else remember that?).

Or, I might hear the Vietnam song, Country Joe and the Fish's classic from the Woodstock album. Instantly, it's a warm summer day on Acorn Dr. My mom has gone to the store and my older brother has the stereo turned up so loud that you can hear it a block away. He knew that some of the neighbors were hating it, but he didn't care -- some songs just demand being played at high volume.

They play a wide variety of 60's music, so the next thing I might hear is Sonny and Cher singing "And the Beat Goes On". This one never fails to remind me of Christmas Day the year my sister got the album. We were in the basement rec room listening to her new records while we wallowed in all of our loot. The basement door opened and we heard my father coming down the stairs. Usually, he detested that "damn rock n' roll" and would make us turn it off. But this particular song must've really appealed to him, because next thing we knew he was kinda soft-shoe dancing as he came down the stairs and actually sang "And the beat goes on". We couldn't have been more shocked if our mother had started singing along with the Beatles.

And speaking of the Beatles, Wow. The memories their music invokes in me are too many to name. We got Beatles rock band this year for Christmas and as I was playing one of the songs my sister asked me "Do you have a place in your brain with the lyrics to all of their music?" Of course I do, and all of them will forever be entwined with her, as she was one of the original Beatle-maniacs. I'm proud to say that my daughter recognizes their music and even has a lot of it on her 'pod.

My cousin Tom loved Queen. We all used to head bang to "Bohemian Rhapsody". I admit we stole the idea from the classic movie "Wayne's World," but that didn't make it any less fun! I still remember one party where we head banged for just a little too long and Tom's wife and I couldn't move our necks the next day.

My friend Jim Matuszak, who passed away several years ago, loved music. Just for fun and sharing he would make mix tapes for his friends, (he passed away before the advent of copying CD's, bless him, he would've loved to do that). He battled Hodgkins disease for a couple of years before he died. During his ordeal he made me a tape entitled "I'm no angel (not yet)!" with the lead song being "I'm no Angel" by Gregg Allman. Not only does that song have one of the greatest lines in rock history ("C'mon baby, let me show you my tatoo."), but when I hear it on the 80's station I never fail to go back in time to lunches with Jim and my cousin Tom. I miss him.

Certain Elton John songs always make me remember 2 special young men from my junior high school days.

Billy Joel's "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)" brings back the cold fear and anxiety from those tense days following 9/11 when we were all waiting for the other shoe to drop or the anthrax to kill us.

My cousin Rachel and her mom? Elvis' "In the Ghetto." They know why.

My dear Uncle Ned was a HUGE Sinatra fan. Siriusly Sinatra? Can't even listen to it. Some memories are just too painful.

But then there are the camping songs! Nothing like getting drunk and singing around the campfire. And of course, the more drunk we were the better we sounded. If we heard Bob Seger's "Night Moves", Steve always had to tell us he knew a girl who was "way up firm and high" just like the song says.

My cousin Gabriella and I always wondered what happened to "The Happiest Girl in the Whole USA", Donna Fargo. When we weren't singing show tunes, that is.

Her sister Susan favored "Morning has Broken" by Cat Stevens.

Their sister Pam liked the "tit-bits" in Elton John's "Good-bye Yellow Brick Road."

I remember when I was growing up my mom and the neighbor lady would listen to music from the 40's while they were doing each others' hair at our kitchen table. If the song evoked a strong enough memory the hair on their arms would stand up. We kids would all laugh at them. I wish they were both still here so I could tell them that the same thing happens to me now when I hear a special song that takes me immediately into the arms of a special person.

The turmoil that was my high school and post-high school years is chronicled on Sirius' 70's & 80's stations. There are so many moments -- most deeply personal and hard to talk about -- that come back to me that I rarely even listen to the 70's station. Better memories associate with the 80's station -- one of the best decades for pop music IMHO.

Today I got the bill for continuing the Sirius radio. Without any hesitation at all I wrote a check to renew it for another year. I enjoy it too much to let it go.

Friday, October 30, 2009

In which we make cookies

Yesterday I found my mother's sugar cookie recipe. I sat down and read it, looking for some hint of my mother in the words she had written on a piece of pink notepaper for me. We had probably been sitting at one kitchen table or another somewhere, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes -- maybe playing yahtzee -- when I asked her for it. She probably jotted it down from memory -- she really did remember a lot of different things.

The memories came flooding back to me as I read it. "Roll out dough, cut and decorate." How many great days do I remember rolling out dough, cutting and decorating? At Christmastime, the windows in the kitchen would fog up with the heat of the oven baking cookies, while outside it was cold. Christmas music would be playing in the background, and the three of us kids would be decorating cookies. We didn't use icing, it was all colored sugar, red hots, little gold and silver balls and those little sprinkly things.

My brother always made green santas and red Christmas trees. My sister always got to help cut out the cookies, and I loved carefully placing those little sprinkly things on the Christmas trees to simulate lights and ornaments.

On Valentine's day there'd be heart- and diamond-shaped cookies, baked for us while we were in school. She had a set of metal cookie cutters for each of the 4 suits of cards that she used then. Sometimes we'd come home and they'd just be there for no reason (she once told me she baked cookies for us every week and maybe she did, I don't remember).

Today I'll be making Halloween cookies for a party tomorrow night. I will roll, cut and decorate and I know that somewhere, Mom will be very happy.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

In which we catch an unsafe driver

This actually happened last Monday, and if you're out there Mr. Air Technologies, you have me to thank.

Monday was Katie's 16th birthday and tradition dictated she go to King's Island with her friends to celebrate. This year only one of the usual crowd was able to go.

The weather Monday was typical Ohio summer day unsettled, so Katie and I had some phone conversations about whether or not they would stay at the park or come home early. Finally the weather cleared and they ended up staying until park closing.

On my way to pick them up (it's about a 45 minute drive) I noticed a sheriff lurking at the Otterbein Home area of Rt 741.

Successfully picked up the girls and headed homeward up the highway. A few miles into the trip a truck came up on us and started tail-gating and flashing his brights at me. As soon as I could safely get over for him to pass I did so, but as the road is a bit of twisty 2-lane blacktop he had to wait. Waiting was obviously not this guy's strong suit as he blazed past me in a great big hurry.

We were able to see that it was a red, business pick up truck and the word "Air" on the side.

A little further down the road we got stopped at a red light. He stopped in front of us but then decided to run the light. He didn't outright run it though, he sneaked it by pretending to go right on red and at the last second doing a U-turn and continuing north on 741.

This really made all three of us girls mad, so we decided that if the sheriff was still lurking about the Otterbein Home we were gonna be tattle-tales.

Sure enough, there sat the cop. I pulled in, he rolled down the window, set aside his laptop and cell phone and asked me what the problem was. (I guess he wasn't running radar or he wouldn't have still been sitting there as Mr. Air blasted by him.) I told him what had happened and, to his credit, he took off after the guy, telling us that maybe he could get him at the next stoplight.

There was nothing at the next stoplight, nor did we see anything for the next 8 miles. But, as soon as we reached the outskirts of Springboro we saw cop lights flashing up ahead. As we slowed down to pass we saw it was Mr. Red Truck, Air Technologies blazoned on the side of it, getting a big, fat ticket from the Warren County Sheriff's Department.

We all pumped our fists in victory and yelled "Yay!!!" as we drove by. Katie declared it the best birthday ever.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

In which I remember a friend

The following was written in May of 1999 when my friend Jim Matuszak died of an unknown disease. He was in his mid-50's when he died. I didn't make any edits to what I wrote then.


Jim and I became friends about 8 years ago.

I was working at PMCI as a proofreader, and he had recently been hired as a copywriter.

No one who knows me would ever expect me to be "only a proofreader" - I took this responsibility seriously. Sometimes, I'd find myself in the role of editor, too - not major editing, mostly corrections to grammar and punctuation, although occasionally I'd make suggestions for changes to copy where I'd had to re-read a section to understand what the writer was trying to tell me.

As you can well imagine, the suggestions of a lowly proofreader did not sit well with our friend Jim - I will always remember how he'd bristle at the sound of me saying "Jim, I've just reviewed this copy and…"

Finally one day I told him, "Look Jim, this is my job. I'm supposed to question this stuff. I am not criticizing your writing, nor am I trying to change it. I am only making suggestions that I think will help the flow of the copy."

He sat back, did that little shake that he did when a realization came to him and asked me what my suggestion was for the copy in hand.

That was the end of that - after that, he always listened to my comments, responded to them and sometimes even made the changes I recommended.

He considered me his friend.

Shortly after that, we discovered we had two very important things in common - we were both Polish and we both had the same birthday - February 5th. (Pardon me for saying this one last time, Jim, but it was in different years.)

He used to tell me that his sister's birthday was June 5th, and he must have been conceived on her birthday. No matter how many times I told him he had the math wrong, he persisted in believing it.

As we got to know each other, we took delight in the things we had in common and had many conversations as to whether there could actually be something to all that astrological "crap" - sometimes it was even as if we were thinking the same things at the same time.

We shared a love of music … movies … baseball … words and wordplay. We had a shared sense of irony and recognition of absurdity and injustice… our politics were the same … we had the same "quirky" sense of humor … and most of all we shared a love of Star Trek and its vision of a better, brighter future.

When the little day-to-day happenings in his life got him down, he knew he could come to me to rant. I don't think I ever helped him much, but at least he could get things off his chest and know I'd never hold anything he said against him.

Around PMCI he gained a reputation of being the "abominable no-man" because he was always the one to find the negative in any plan or creative anyone would come up with. But he always stood his ground and fought for what he believed in, and in so doing gained the respect of his co-workers. And when he became ill with Hodgkin's disease, we all stood by him while he fought it -- amazed at his grace and dignity, his perseverance and faith that he would get through it. His positive attitude in the face of what must have been the scariest thing he'd ever had to face was truly inspirational to us all. We gained a new respect for him during this time, realizing that if he could maintain his sense of humor and be so upbeat through the chemo and radiation therapy there really must be more to him than what we had thought.

Make no mistake, he was scared. He didn't want to die. He was prepared for it then, but he wasn't ready for it. I remember he made me a music tape then, entitled "I'm No Angel - Not Yet", featuring "angel songs". I still have it. I think I'll keep it for a long time to come.

When another co-worker of ours, Dick Niswander - who Jim had known for years - was dying of cancer, Jim honored him by suggesting we name our annual Hospice fund-raising efforts for him. In a more Matuszak-like fashion, he grew a beard in Dick's honor. Dick had had a beard for as long as anyone could remember. Jim grew a beard to prove that he still could (the radiation treatments had killed hair follicles), and also to honor Dick in the only way he could think of.

A couple of years ago, Jim, Tom Johnston and I started going to lunch nearly every day. We soon realized that each day our lunches were becoming more and more Seinfeld-esque. I dubbed us "Jerry, George and Elaine", and we'd make our receptionist laugh each day when we left by saying, "Jerry, George and Elaine are going to lunch." (I'll leave it up to you to figure out which one was George.) When we'd get back, we'd have to fill her in on whatever the adventure of the day was.

We'd laugh, we'd discuss office and national politics, we'd listen to music and sing along, and we'd nearly always have a problem at whatever restaurant had been chosen. Jim never hesitated to complain either, about the things that were wrong - be it the food, the service or whatever it was. I guess he figured life was too short to eat an underdone steak. I won't hesitate to speak for Tom here when I say we'll never be able to complain at a restaurant again without invoking Jim's memory.

When my ex-husband and I split up almost 2 years ago, Jim quietly "set his cap" for me. When I had to tell him I didn't think of him "that way", he accepted it, without rancor or bitterness. Our friendship continued, unchanged, unmarked by events.

I actually found out through Tom how Jim felt about me. Jim had told Tom, who came to talk to me about it. I worried about what to do, I didn't want to lose my friendship with Jim, but I couldn't allow him to believe something was there that wasn't. Tom said to me, "Claudia, I think Jim needs to just move back to Cleveland, find himself a nice, middle-aged, divorced Polish woman with a couple of kids and marry her."

I remember looking at Tom in surprise and saying, "Tom. Don't you see? That's what he thinks he's got here, with me!"

Thank you, Tom, for not thinking of me as middle-aged.

I mentioned earlier that we shared a love of movies and of Star Trek. When Jim and Tom and I were out and about together, one of the things we'd often do was quote movie dialogue.

There's a line we used to make fun of from Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan, which seems particularly fitting to me now. We'd exaggerate it, and laugh about Shatner's delivery - his "chewing up the scenery" - but I can't help but think Jim would like it said about him. It comes from a scene where Kirk is delivering the eulogy for his friend, Mr. Spock. He says, "Of my friend I can only say this. Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most … human."

I know that he must have accepted this recent illness with the same grace and dignity that he did the Hodgkins. I know that he wasn't really ready to go, and I'm grateful to him for fighting as hard as he did. We will all miss him. Our world, our universe if you will, will not be the same without him.

Good bye, Jim. I have been, and always shall be, your friend.

In which I say good-bye to my mom

Or as Tom put it, The Book of Claudia, Chapter 1. (And thanks again, Tom, for reading this at the memorial).
Donna Joan Johnston Konicki. As Shakespeare said… a Rose by any other name…

And in her case, certainly the story worth the telling and remembering.

The story of a small girl of 7 or 8 who came home from school and announced to her family she would no longer answer to the name Donna. There was a girl in her class named Donna who Picked. Her. Nose. And she didn't want to be mistaken for HER! From then on, she declared, her name would be JoAn. And don't think a small child's will won't be followed. From then on, she simply refused to answer to Donna. Ignored anyone who called her Donna, even her parents. Unless and until they called her JoAn, they did not exist. (One can only imagine the closed-eye stare she must have given everyone.)

JoAn grew up in the East End of Dayton during the Great Depression – an experience that no doubt explains her habit of saving twist ties, rubber bands and magazines. She came of age in the Downtown Dayton of the War Years. Later she would tell stories of going downtown to the movies or shopping and working in the bargain basement of a now non-existent department store. Other stories of the hardships her parents endured to raise her and the rest of their children – Grandpa walking to work every day to save the nickel carfare so that on Sundays he could take his children out for ice cream, Grandma boiling chicken feet for soup. On the fourth of July they'd have feasts of fresh corn on the cob and fresh watermelon in the backyard. That was the entire meal. She always said they didn't know they were poor, because everyone was poor.

As the Depression eased and the War started, Grandma opened her home to GI's in need of a meal or just in need of the comforts of home. Uncle Gene would bring home his buddies and through that connection she met a young man from North Dayton whom she later married.

JoAn was born 18 months before the start of the Great Depression. She lived to see the start and finish of many Wars…WWII, The Cold War, the Korean War, Vietnam. Television was still in its infancy, a transatlantic flight was a novelty and computers, space flight and moon walks were the stuff of science fiction.

She turned 80 last year. We had a big celebration of her life. Everyone was asked to record their memories of Aunt Joan. In re-reading the stories from her nieces and nephews there is one central theme…laughter. Everyone remembers the laughter when she was around. Laughing for joy at being with her family – her siblings, her nieces and nephews and her children. Playing games. Reading. But mostly, the laughter.

People remember her creativity – the sewing and crafting, the knitting and crocheting. Nieces remember proudly wearing clothes she made for them. Nephews remember playing board games and Uno. But everyone remembers the laughter. She might have sometimes sounded like that silly dog in the cartoons when she laughed, but that didn't stop her. She just laughed harder when we pointed it out to her.

She loved to spend time with her sister, Virginia. She once told someone that visiting Virginia was like going to her own little cabin in the woods.

She never stopped missing her mother, her father and Tom, the brother who died in young adulthood. And she loved her baby brother Ned most of all.

The second half of her life was hard for her. After her husband died she had to make her way in a world she was unprepared to take on. That didn't stop her. When her own business failed, she went to work at Saint E's and ran their gift shop for many years. And as her children grew up and left the nest the laughter didn't come as easily to her, but still she managed to hang on to her sense of humor and her ability to see the absurdity in everyday situations. As she aged and life kept throwing her curveballs she began to lose that capacity. But still, when among family that old spark would light up her eyes and she'd enthusiastically join in whatever joking and story telling was going on around her.

We'll miss her. Our lives are all richer for having known her. She was our sister, our grandmother, our mother, our aunt and our friend. Rest in peace, little Joan, and know that someday we will see you again. And when we do, we'll be sure to call you Joan so you recognize us.

Monday, April 13, 2009

In which I lose my Daddy

I will never forget the night it happened. It was January. I was sitting in semi-darkness at the kitchen table talking to my boyfriend on the phone. I watched from the table as my father left the house at about 9:00 pm. He said goodbye to my mother and me. I remember the house was warm and it was cold outside and I wondered why he was going out. Lately, that hadn't been too unusual for him, but still, this time there'd been no provocation that I had noticed, it was just a normal Monday night. I was 13 and in the 8th grade.

In the middle of the night, I heard the phone ring. We only had one phone at the time, and it was downstairs. I didn't get up, but I heard Leah get up and figured if there was anything I needed to know someone would come and tell me. No one did so I went back to sleep. I remember having a fleeting thought that it might have been something with my Aunt Jean, who had just had surgery and was still in the hospital.

When I woke up next morning, I got ready for school, almost as normal. Maybe it was the middle of the night phone call, maybe it was the atmosphere in the house, but one thing I did that was atypical was to not listen to the radio as I got ready.

When I went downstairs, Leah was there (Eric was away at college) but Mom wasn't. She told me that Mom had had to go to the hospital and that we were to go to school as normal, that everything was fine. Again, the fleeting thought that something was up with Aunt Jean, but didn't think too much about it. It was weird for Mom not to be home, not so weird for Daddy not to be home as he always left before we were even up. But the secrecy, not so weird. In our family we learned at an early age to keep the secrets and just go with it.

As I recalled it then, and as I still recall it, all was normal at school also. Until gym class. This part requires a little back story. As usual for high school gym teachers ours were a little -- ahem -- masculine. One of them also taught Math and had had my brother as a student. She loved him. Hated me and Leah, but loved Eric. And another important thing, Eric's given name is Paul the same as my father.

After our showers, I'm in the locker bay with my friends getting dressed. I remember I only had on my underwear when I heard Miss White walking down the locker room aisle, swinging the lanyard with her whistle on it and bellowing, "Where's Konicki?". (Keep in mind the bitch hated me.) Thinking I had once again done something to piss her off, I timidly stuck my head out of the locker row, wearing nothing but my bra and panties and holding my shirt in front of me like a shield. In a small voice I said "I'm right here." but in my mind I was thinking "I'm right here where I should be you bitch."

She's not even to where I am standing yet and she hollers, "What happened to Paul?" Confused, I answer "What do you mean, what happened to Paul, he's in Minnesota at college." She says, "No he's not, he was shot this morning over on the East End."

I remember there were faces popping out of the locker bays during this exchange and suddenly all the pieces fell together in my head. I collapsed, sobbing, saying "no, it's not my brother, it's my daddy!"

I don't really remember what happened after that. Somehow, I got dressed. One of my friends must have helped me, because the next thing I really remember is being in my next class and the guidance counselor coming for me. She explained to me that it had been on the news all day (Remember how I said I didn't listen to the radio that morning?) and that most people had thought that I knew and had just come to school. She told me I could go home and I said no, I couldn't, that my mom had wanted me to be in school and in school I would stay. I did find out later from a friend that it was true, most people did know what had happened and assumed that I did too and was just toughing it out at school until there was news. And kids being kids, no one really knew what to say, so they said nothing. Except for Miss White, who had the subtlety of a Mack truck.

When I got home that afternoon, I was a little weirded out to see Mom standing at the stove browning ground beef and onions, as though life were totally normal. She told me to come in and sit down, that she had something to tell me. Wanting to spare her having to tell me, I told her I already knew. She asked me how I knew and I told her the truth about what had happened that day.

(Needless to say, this little tidbit really upset her. She didn't like Miss White much anyway because of the way she had treated Leah, and the way she treated me. The next day she went up to the school and read the principal the riot act for what Miss White had done. Miss White ignored me for the rest of the school year, gave me B's in gym and the next year I was in the other masculine gym teacher's class.)

The next few days were a blur of Mom taking trips to the hospital and trying to run the house. We went to school as normal. I only went to see Daddy once in the hospital, and never told him goodbye because we all thought he was doing better. (I also think there were some silly age restrictions and they had to sneak me in, but I'm not 100% sure of that). The bullet had gone in his side and even though there had been some internal damage we all thought he was going to get better. What happened in the wee hours of January 31 was therefore even worse, because it wasn't supposed to happen that way. It should never happen that way.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

In which I invent a game whose name never dies

Another important part of my extended family when I was growing up was my Uncle Ned and his family, my Aunt Jean and my cousins Rachel, who is 4 years younger than I am, and Tom who is about 7 years younger than I am.

I am told I attended Ned and Jean's wedding, but I don't really remember much about it except that Mother made Leah and I matching off-white or yellow dresses with jackets, I think, (think Michelle Obama's inaugural gear) and we had to wear little white gloves. I do remember using Aunt Jean as a "lovey", she had the softest skin. I would sit next to her and just feel her arm for hours it seemed and she would always let me. My mom would say "Jeannie, if she's bothering you just make her get up," and Jean would say "She's fine." And I would be until I got bored and wandered off to find something else to do.

Rachel was the cutest little baby and toddler. The family has many stories of precocious things she did when she barely walking and talking. We have super-8 film of her shaking her diapered booty at Daddy's camera. She has an ornery streak that runs through our family like a golden thread. It turns those of us who have it into charming and funny leader-types. Those of us who have it don't turn against those who don't (well, usually), we just work with them to bring out their latent charm. When we are all together, watch out! The jokes and puns fly freely, along with flights of fancy having to do with absent family members, mutual friends and mutual enemies.

When we would go to visit Ned and Jean on a weekend night so the parents could play cards, Leah would stay downstairs and watch TV or read while I would go upstairs to Rachel's room where she, Tom and I would play. Tom was an introverted child. I fell in love with him one morning when I spent the night with Rachel. Tom loved music. He would take anything handy (throw pillows, record albums, the record itself, etc.) in his hands and sing the words to the tunes he'd learned from his father's records as he spun the object round and round in his hands. He was the record player. He would not only sing, but do the drum parts, the brass or whatever other instrumental parts there were. He was a genius. Anyway, on this particular occasion, I woke up early and heard him singing. I sneaked out of bed and into his room, where he was sitting in his crib. He had a stuffed toy in his hands that he was turning round and round as he softly sang a song that he had made up for their cat. I sat and listened and watched for a while, and then we started playing together...I think we played the baby gravity game, where the baby throws something out of his crib and the other person picks it up and throws it back. We did that for a while, quietly, until the rest of the family got up and his mom took over. We've been friends ever since.

Anyway, on these weekend nights we'd go upstairs to play. I was probably 9, so Rachel was 5 and Tom 3 or 4. Rachel and I played pretty well, Barbies and whatnot, but with the smaller child, we had to come up with something we could all play together. One night, and I don't know how, I hit on the idea of playing a game named "Windstorm in the Closet". Pretty simple game, really. We hauled everything out of the floor of the closet, climbed in and I proceeded to spin out a tale of a terrible windstorm on the way and the only place we had to hide was this closet.

They LOVED it. We played that whole night. Next time we went over they were clamoring for me at the door "let's go play windstorm in the closet!" I remember Ned looking kinda quizzically at me and I kind of shrugged in a grown up way and we went upstairs to play. I think the adults were grateful we had come up with something that kept the kids out of their way so they could play cards in peace without constant interruptions.

Only problem is, the game, instead of being left behind with the other detritus of childhood, has never died! Every time there's a bad storm, with wind, one of us will contact the other and say "hey, that was some windstorm last night, wasn't it?", or "wow, did you hear about that terrible windstorm in Arkansas yesterday?". Then we all laugh as though we just made the funniest joke in the history of humor. Back in the 70's when a tornado wiped out most of Xenia Oh, it wasn't a tornado, it was a windstorm. Last fall, when the hurricane came inland and still had high winds when it got to Dayton, it wasn't the wind from the hurricane, it was a windstorm - a terrible windstorm at that.

Nice in a way, that a spur of the moment game invented to keep the grown ups from yelling at us to stay quiet turned into a shared bit of history that only the 3 of us really understand.