My mother was anything but a busybody, but she would occasionally indulge in a little chitchat. Mom had a decidedly unique way of disseminating the neighborhood news that I found to be far more entertaining than the news itself. Whether her intention was to keep my brothers and me ignorant of certain grown-ups’ failings, or simply to mitigate the impropriety of spreading gossip, I don’t know. But when nattering about the folks in the neighborhood, Mom would never use their real names. Instead, she would dub the natterees with “code names” which, to her children, would make them as good as anonymous.
There wasn’t an individual in the neighborhood who didn’t have a quirk or quality, possession or profession that made him a candidate for dubbing. The beloved local bum who was always begging for loose change was named “Dime.” The dapper apartment superintendent with the jaunty cap was “Brown Hat,” and the owner of the white long-haired cat was called “Snowball’s Mom.”
A typical report would sound something like this:
“I met Fancy Car this morning. He told me that Hair Net fell and broke her hip, and had to be taken to the hospital. The Haughty One in the rectory said that Father Nearsighted went to give Hair Net the last rites. I heard that The Professor was at the hospital, too, probably because of his drinking. And did you know that Coffee Grinder and Too Much Jewelry are going to be married?”
Excerpt from “Nine Kids, No Dishwasher: A Catholic Woman’s Celebration of Life, Love, and Table,” a manuscript in need of a publisher!