Ann Keiffer

Word Juggler

When we were little kids, we
didn’t call our grandfathers by
their names, but by their associations.

My mother’s father, who still worked
the family farm, was Tractor Grandpa.

My father’s father who was Superintendent
of Streets in town, was Sewer Grandpa.
(We kids did not make these up. Our Dad
and his family were competitive kidders.)

Sewer Grandpa–usually nattily dressed,
every whisker in his salt-and-pepper
brush mustache in place, fedora with a
tiny feather–could be a serious man.
But when he came to our house, he’d say,
“Come and see your Gree-ay-am-paw.”
He had a stash of more yarns than a
knitting shop. And when he told them,
he played with words, tossing words
around like rubber chickens. He was
a champ-een word-juggler!

Grandpa told us tales populated with
ag-li-a-tors, hippomofluffs, rhinos-a-hor-usses,
and efflenuts. He drove to Flor-di-a with
Grandma in his Winnie (Winnebago.)
He referred to that lovely string of islands
in the Pacific as Hay-huh-way-yuh.
At a party, he might report, the ritzy hostess
served horz-deevers. And for his diabetes’
sake he’d say to just “taint” his toast with
peanut butter. Grandpa not only invented
words, he also borrowed–and perhaps battered–
words from other languages. I remember
schmearcase, swintzle, and hundskifritz
(she spelled phonetically, not knowing
how to look them up.)

Grandpa clowned with words,
taking them to the mat in somersaults,
flipping them inside-out,
doing the hokey-pokey
and turning them all about!

And all the while a little girl was listening,
wriggling and giggling with the fun…
falling in love with words,
and maybe along the way
deciding she wanted to be a clown
and a word-juggler, too

Ann L. Keiffer
September, 2010

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About Ann

I am interested in the strange beauty of brokenness, in transforming possibility in difficult times, in how we heal even when we can’t get better, in the alchemy of surrender, in the interplay of light and shadow, in the bounty of everyday wonders, in the gift of laughter…and writing about it, all and everything.

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