My sister and I, along with our mother, have this ‘thing’ about us. There is this calmness between us, as if we are in tune with each other. My mother likes to hum while she does household chores. I will usually join in, singing the next verse and we will finish the song together. One night while washing dishes, we sang parts of every Carole King song we could think of…she lost it when I played air shotgun during Smackwater Jack.
For many years, the three of us have occasionally carried on entire conversations with British accents–we’re from Michigan, so that’s a lot of Yankee to tame. Mom goes from the Queens English to really bad Cockney, reminiscent of the early parts of Pygmalion. My accent is all over the place, mainly London (which part, I do not know) and a little Manchester. My sister keeps her British headmistress pretty even.
Several years ago, I was with my mother while she was cooking and we started up again. Scones, tea, jolly-good whatever. I was taking a Creative Writing class at the time and was in deep contemplation about the often asked question, “Is this poetry?” I sat at the kitchen table and started writing down the things we said, then adding things. It was totally hokey, and may or may not be a poem. When I was finished with it, I read it aloud to her, changing the accents. Oh, did we laugh. She had me call my sister and read it to her.
Oh, those were fun times. The great thing is, they are still happening. We are lucky, indeed!
Careful, Your Roots Are Showing (2008)
It is a common occurrence at family gatherings
for someone to break out in an English accent.
You see, we are still overjoyed with the notion that
we are indeed English not Irish as family legend claims.
I daresay, this tea is dreadfully weak,
announced Sister, as perfectly as a Mayfair miss
ripped from the pages of a Regency romance.
Would you care for a scone with a wee bit of clotted cream?
Mother asked, in Cockney so exaggerated
even Eliza Doolittle would cringe.
Oh bother, chimed Auntie, I thought we were having biscuits
with our tea, a slight burr hinting at her humble
beginnings in the Yorkshire dales.
Hell’s teeth, man, exclaimed Mother, as the young man
nearly careened into her with his sporty new cabriolet.
My deepest apologies, Mum. T’won’t happen again.
Bollocks! Brother burst into the room,
bristling like a Manchester Detective Inspector
dismissing a suspect’s bloody claims of innocence.