Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It's Gwum and Gwoomy Out There Today

Winter where we live isn't real winter, with icy coldness and snow that sticks; winter here means drizzling rain and not seeing the sky for weeks at a time. It's miserable, consistently miserable, and we don't even get the dramatic effect of real weather; when we get a half inch of snow accumulation every second or third year, we panic and close the schools. And it gets dark right after lunch.

I put a full-spectrum bulb in my new round paper dangling lamp in the cubbyhole in the basement that I'm calling my dissertation writing office, and if I survive until August, you'll know it worked.

Twelve, riding her bike to school every day regardless of the weather, says she hates it here and wants to go live with her dad, whose state on the other side of the country is apparently a dry, warm oasis, except that it's not. It rains there during the winter and is hot and humid in the summer, which Twelve knows perfectly well is miserable (I don't think she goes outside when she's there in the summer).

If I allowed myself to give in to insecurities such as this one, I would drive Twelve to school every day to make her like me better. As it is, I drive her to school when she has an appointment afterwards and when the weather is really bad. See above: The weather here almost never gets really bad.

Anyway, complaining about the weather is just something we do together: Twelve because she comes home damp after school sometimes and me because my feet are cold unless it's seventy degrees and I hate wearing multiple layers of clothing. It's a well-rehearsed, sympathetic and pathetic script; we often refer to chilly, dark, damp days as being gwum and gwoomy, in affected baby talk voices. 

I had forgotten where that came from until this afternoon, when I grabbed an Anastasia book to read while I waited for my ramen to cook. A few pages in, I got to the part where Anastasia is trying to figure out the acronyms in the personals section of some prestigious magazine, and asks her mom what 'gwm' means, except that she's not sure what the vowel is. They go through gwem and gwam and gwim and Katherine says there's no such word. Then she grins and says she does know what gwum means: "A person with a slight speech impediment? If that person is sad or depressed? He's gwum. A widdle bit gwum and gwoomy." I poked my head and the book into Twelve's room (the layout of our house being conducive to this) and asked if she had read this one lately, and said that I had forgotten where we got gwum and gwoomy.

Every time I initiate this kind of contact with Twelve, I'm secretly holding my breath in fear that she's going to scowl and yell at me and tell me to go away. 

She laughed a little at the shared joke.

I do wish that Katherine Krupnik, my model of adolescent parenting skills, had found a way to introduce gwum and gwoomy into our vocabularies without poking gentle fun at individuals with slight speech impediments, but for Twelve and me, gwum and gwoomy weather has become a valuable place of commiseration and shared experience. And the more of these places we have in the next few years, the better.

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