Monday, October 19, 2009

Grammar Girl

I saw these slip-on tennies on the wrong feet and embarked on a trip down memory lane.

My dear niece Lissi sported a girl’s version of these and, like John’s, they were always on the wrong feet. I mean always. It was one of Lissi’s many charms.

Lissi taught my grammar class for years with her creative use of pronouns and penchant for non-standard verb conjugation.

We used to play hide and seek. We followed a certain protocol. I would walk into the room where she was hiding and call out, “Where’s Lissi?”

The one time I skipped my line, Lissi jumped from her hiding place and yelled, “You forgot to ask where I is.”

I remember her parents walking out the door and Lissi asking, “Who’s going to take care of we?” As we loaded up the van for an outing, she commented, “We’re riding in him’s car.”

Cute, cute, cute. I shared all these examples with my ninth grade English students, and tried to convince them that it’s not nearly as sweet when you’re 14.

Lissi loved cats and had a plethora of stuffed ones. When she was about three, the family inherited a live one. Poor Max. He was an anti-social, slightly neurotic Himalayan who had lived alone with my dear grandmother. Lissi was ardent in her love and generous in her affection. Max became even more of a recluse.

You could get Lissi to do anything if you promised to give her a glimpse of the cat.

I got her out of a lengthy bubble bath by promising to find the elusive Max. Lissi was soaking wet and still clutching a bar of soap when I carried her to parents’ bed and found Max hiding underneath.

“Kitty, kitty, kitty,” Lissi laughed. She was mess - wet, soapy, and covered with Max hair.

Max never quite adjusted to life in a busy household of kids. His misbehaviors were so icky they are best left unmentioned. There came the day I had to tell Lissi that Max was moving south to live with her single aunt.

She responded solemnly and in typical Lissi fashion, “Max don’t like us, Auntie Kelly.”

Lissi was and is a born competitor. There was the now-famous Game of Life. From the outset, Lissi announced her intention of bearing girls and girls alone. Imagine her disappointment when two consecutive turns brought “Add a baby boy collect presents.”

Vesuvius began to stir. Lissi was not amused.

Lissi’s turn came round again. Megan, Lissi’s older sister, read the square and began to laugh. “Bad news, Liss,” Megan giggled. “You’ve got another boy.”

Vesuvius erupted. Lissi stood on her chair, pointed a shaking figure at her plastic sedan, and yelled, “Get them boys out of my car.”

We laugh about it to this day.

Lissi is now 18. Her competitive nature paid off. She graduated from high school with a near-perfect GPA. She’s studying engineering (not English), but managed to master pronouns. She’s quite the fashionista, but prefers spike heels to slip-on tennies. They are always on the right feet.

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