Ole answered the phone one day and came back to the living room crying.
“Vell, Ole! Vat in da vorld is da matter?” asked the sympathetic Lena.
“I yust had bad news, Lena,” Ole replied, “My fadder yust died!!”
Just then the phone rang again, Ole went to answer it and came back crying again.
“Vell, now, Ole, vat is da matter?” asked Lena.
“Dat vas my brudder.” said Ole. “His fadder yust died too!”
* * * * * * *
It occurred to me this morning that – in less than three short years – I will have spent a full half of my life in Minnesota. As an Oklahoma girl, born and bred, this is a little hard to swallow. Though I’ve lived in this godforsaken frozen tundra of Minnesota for nearly 20 years, I still consider Oklahoma to be “home.” I guess the funny part of that is that I’ve called Oklahoma “home” for so long that my kids – both born and raised in Minnesota – also call Oklahoma “home.” It’s not uncommon for one of the kids to say, “Mom, are we going home to visit the grandparents this summer?” I guess it’s true that “Home is where the heart is,” and a big piece of my heart will always be in Oklahoma with my extended family of aunts and uncles, cousins, etc.
Twenty years! How in the world did my 3-year “term” in Minnesota end up being 20 years? On October 17th, my husband and I got married. I said, “I do,” and later that evening my new husband said, “Guess what? I was offered my dream job in Minnesota this morning!” At the time, he had been hired on for a term of only three years, so our expectation was that he would serve his three and then we’d move back to Oklahoma at its end. Never in a bajillion years did I expect to be here a full 20 years later and, within a few years, have spent a full half my life here!
If you’ve ever visited either state, then you know that there’s a huge difference between the two. In Oklahoma, we say things like “fixin’ta,” as in “I’m fixin’ta go to the store.” When visitors leave our home, we might say something like, “Y’all come back now, ya hear?” When one has repeated himself multiple times, he might say, “I done told ya already!” And, sometimes, words get extra consonants as in the case of my cousin Tera Nae who says “warsh,” as in “I done told ya I’m fixin’ta go warsh the clothes!” And don’t get me started on the double-names!!!
In my family, it’s danged-near impossible to survive with only one name. For example: In my extended family we have Shirley Ann, Mary Lou, Donna Kay, Coy Don, Pammy Sue, Christie Lynn, Terri Lynn, Wanda Lou, Donny Wayne, Eddie Joe and Edna Mae…to name only a few. Even my cousin Tera Renee got dubbed “Tera Nae” as a child. By themselves, these are actually okay names; but when you’re at a family reunion…well, it feels a little like a reality show based on the fictional TV show, The Beverly Hillbillies.
“Pammy Sue…Donna Kay…Mary Lou…I done told y’all twice now! Y’all better go an’ warsh up yer hands cuz we’re fixin’ta eat us some vitttles!” my Aunt Shirley might say. Okay…in fairness, I’ve never heard anyone in my family ever use the term “vittles,” least of all my Aunt Shirley. Honestly. But I swear the rest of the sentence wouldn’t cause a single bat of the eye. That’s just one of the many charms of Oklahoma-isms.
When I moved to Minnesota at the tender age of 22, I’d never been farther north than Kansas City. The names I’d grown up with were no more, and I was hit with names that I couldn’t even pronounce! For example: Bjorn…pronounced “Be-yorn.” Jakob…pronounced “Ya-kub,” not “Jake-ub.” Even the names I thought I recognized were pronounced different! Sonja was no pronounced “Sone-yah,” not “Sahn-yah.” It was all so confusing! We no longer ate “casserole:” we were now asked to bring a “hot dish” to pot luck suppers, and I didn’t even understand their jokes! Who in the world were Olé and Lena?
Imagine my shock when – not only did these Yankees not sound like us – but I couldn’t even understand them! The soft vowel sounds I’d grown up with were replaced by very long, harsh sounds. The soft a-sound of “bag” now had a longer a-sound, making the word sound like “baig.” Same thing with tag, wag and sag…to a native “Minnesoohtan,” those words are pronounced “taig, waig and saig.” Yikes! By themselves, these words aren’t too difficult to understand, but once you start putting them in a sentence and adding in the occasional “Oy Vey” and “Uffta!”…well,they might as well be speaking a different language altogether!
We moved to Minnesota at about the same time that the movie Fargo came out, and let me tell you: They nailed it! If you ever want to know what the true natives of “Minnesoohta” sound like and how they talk, take an evening off and watch Fargo! Seriously!
Shortly after we moved to Minnesota, I made my first solo expedition to the grocery store. As I was paying for my purchase, the bag boy (“the baiger”) asked me, “Is it oohkay if I baig de ehgs with de brehd?”
“I’m sorry?” I responded.
The bagger looked at me and repeated, “Is it oohkay if I baig de ehgs with de brehd?”
“Huh?” I asked again.
Again the bagger looked at me and I could tell he was becoming impatient. Slower this time, he said “Is it oohkay if I baig de ehgs with de brehd?”
I swear! It was like the guy was talking a completely different language! I was becoming increasingly embarrassed, and yet I still didn’t know what he was asking.
“I’m so sorry. I don’t understand. Please will you repeat it one last time?” I said with no small amount of embarrassment.
With a huge sigh of irritation, the bagger lifted up each item individually as he again asked the question. “Is it oohkay (giving me the a-okay sign) if I baig (holding up a paper bag) de ehgs (holding up a dozen eggs) with de brehd (holding up a loaf of bread).”
“Ohhh!” I exclaimed. “You want to know if it’s okay to put the eggs in the same bag as the bread?”
“Yah!” he practically shouted at me.
Now I’m totally mortified! In my attempt to hide the fact that I didn’t understand a word he was saying due to his thick accent, I decided to pretend I simply had not heard him.In my best newly-aquired “Minnesoohta” accent, I replied “Oh geez! I’m so sorry! Oh yah! Yah! You betcha!”
Oy Vey! I don’t think I fooled anyone that day! But I did learned to apply the lesson of , “If you can’t beat ’em, you might as well join ’em.”