If there’s one universal complaint my family has about me (and there’s a lot of competition) it’s that I can’t write a concise message. Guess that’s the writer in me, but why say something in 20 words when you can weave a few fun tangents in 200?
I guess I can blame my mom for that. She always taught me that writing can – and should – be fun, whatever the subject. Sometimes this concept is even appreciated. I remember one of my son’s teachers responding to my amusing note apologizing for his illness by saying, “I can’t wait until your kids are sick.” In fact, in Rory’s case, she probably meant something completely different, but I always chose to read it as an appreciation of my writing skills.
I am sometimes asked what my husband and my sons think of what I write about them. Actually, not much, since they don’t read me. I must admit that it gives me a lot more freedom.
Sure, I’m asking my engineer husband, Olof, to read the ones I’ve written about him before they’re submitted, but even then I’d bet my next Medicare co-pay he couldn’t. not even tell me the subject when he finished. He’s perfected a look of intense concentration while he reads, but I’m pretty sure he’s really thinking about things that concern him more, like Fermat’s last theorem or the application of the binomial distribution to processes logistics.
I always say, “So, no objection?”
“No, he will say, not at all. It was good.”
Me (trick question): “So what was your favorite part?”
Olof (knowing that it’s a trick question): “All that!”
Which still doesn’t stop him from coming back a week later when the column came out and saying, “My colleagues said you married me for my skills in pulling toilets out of the ground and extracting rocket parts toys.”
And I’ll say, “No, honey. What I noted is that it is not a quality to be overlooked in a man, especially a second husband. And you approved this column.
My eldest son, Rory, meanwhile, a favorite topic of readers, says he doesn’t need to read my column since he generated the content. People often ask me if I’m making up Rory’s stories. No. Believe me, no. Oh no no no. You couldn’t invent Rory.
My youngest son, Henry, on the other hand, can best be described as a man of few words but many emojis. Seriously, if the question you asked doesn’t have a proper emoji answer, you’re probably going to be ghosted. It seems to be considered a legitimate form of communication in his demographic.
Sometimes it’s hard to understand what emojis mean. They are really tiny and usually come on a small phone screen. But I guess they’re probably better than their predecessor, that alphabet soup of acronyms that, for us ancients, was fraught with pitfalls. I wasn’t the only person of my generation to assume that “LOL” meant “lots of love”.
Incoming SMS: I just found out this morning that the tumor is malignant.
Inga: What? MDR!
Who knew that meant “laugh out loud”?
And since I mentioned ghosts – my least favorite development of the last 100 years – I personally think that people who ghost should be buried in unmarked graves with a Post-it note nailed to the ground saying, “I couldn’t not be bothered for an answer.” #who is screaming NOW?
As a precursor to my current column, I wrote a four to six page blog every week when we were living overseas on a work assignment. Mom was there, having the adventure of her middle-aged life, an unexpected two-year stay in Europe (well, it was supposed to be eight months, but Europeans aren’t exactly fireballs when it comes to deadlines ).
Legions of strangers subscribe to the witty saga of her and Olof’s crazy adventures “the senior year abroad”. Henry’s usual comment on the blog? “Mom – please summarize in three lines or less.”
So what he usually got was:
(1) We live in Europe.
(2) It’s amazing here.
(3) They speak a foreign language that we don’t know but which often results in difficult but hilarious situations, which I chronicle regularly.
My sons are not communicators. As my 60th birthday approached, the two wanted to know what I might like. Seizing the opportunity, I said it would make me happier if everyone wrote a short letter relating three happy memories they had of me. I hated begging, but I was not getting any younger. Rory, predictably, quickly traded down to one. For his part, Henry replied, “Can’t I just buy you something?”
So obviously there are stylistic differences in my family when it comes to communication. Rather than ambiguous acronyms or funny little characters, I prefer real words. Lots of real words. So read it or not, family members. But be careful: it’s probably you.
Inga’s playful outlook on life appears regularly in the La Jolla Light. Join her at [email protected]. ◆