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Monday, July 04, 2016

I Miss The Carottles

Image result for old women cartoons       I was thrilled when I sent for my DNA analysis to see just who I was in terms of ethnicity. I knew one long-time family question would be answered. My Gram's maiden name was Nussbaum and we always figured we had some Jewish blood. She denied it but well, you might if you lived in a town called New Berlin, Illinois, in the late 1800's, mightn't you?

Grammie was a character. She stood at an apple-shaped 4'10. She never had on a pair of slacks in her life, nor had she ever cut her iron gray hair which she wound in a bun on the back of her head. She wore dresses that she made herself and you almost never saw her without an apron. She was our family cook until she got sick. When we kids came home from school, it was generally to the delicious scent of baking yeast rolls. She wasn't a lovable Grandma. We weren't allowed in her room unless invited and that happened rarely.

She'd had a rough life. My grandfather was the Indian Agent on the Caddo Reservation in Oklahoma. When she had her first child, Grandpa rode for the doctor but by the time, they got back, she'd already had the baby, cleaned it up and buried the afterbirth. Later, another child would die out there while her husband was gone so she dug her son's gave herself. (Her last words before she died were - "oh, look, there's my sweet Charley", which was the baby she'd lost.)

Anyway, when I got my DNA back, evidently she'd told the truth. It doesn't show a drop of Jewish blood. (Nor Native American, nor Black, nor Oriental - we are the most boring of Western Europeans - mostly British with some dashes of German, French, Nordic and Irish thrown in).

Still, Grammie almost had her own language and those words sounded Yiddish, though perhaps they were simply a form of pidgen German.

For instance, when you set something on the back of the stove, you just let it brutzle back there. Brutzling is slower than a boil, slightly faster than a simmer. Grammie just about always had beans or soup or stew brutzling on the stove. If you were going to give the kitchen a lick and a promise with the broom, you swintzled it. And if you half-assed ironed clothes without taking much care, you roshpelled them. Have you noticed a pattern here of less than sterling housekeepery?

Shoes were dopas and your favorite raggy robe was an old drunzel. Your head was your copsha. I can hear Grammie now, pulling me into her lap, patting her shoulder and saying, "lay copsha now and go to sleep".

An unruly child was a holabock and a messy one was a sloppahoness.

If you came home tipsy, you were pahsoofa.

To eat was to fress. When dinner was ready, she'd call out - "come ca fressa."

If she doubted your word, she'd say with contempt - "ah, du bees ferecht!" which meant, "you're crazy".

The Nussbaum family was large and argumentative. They were always feuding but they also couldn't stand not to know what was going on with one another so the arguments ended when someone inevitably said, "I wonder what the Nussbaum smacht?" (What the Nussbaum's are "up to".)

My father's generation of the family called themselves the Carottles. I have no idea why and now that I'm curious enough to want to know, anyone I could have asked is gone.

Isn't that the way of it. So often we're not interested in our family history until it's too late.

Did your family use any special words that were unique to them?

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