In my line of work I hear a lot of stories, so many that it’s easy for wires to get crossed and confabulations to occur. It’s as simple as confusing song lyrics when our order-seeking brains close loose data points into coherent narratives. For years I thought the chorus to John Lennon’s “Across the Universe” was “Jack-a-roo Day Ohhhhmmm”, and referred to a little boy version of John Lennon day dreaming. Wrong! The lyrics are “Jai Guru Deva Om”, a meditation mantra of sorts. According to a reproachable source I found on-line–
So all together it means, “I give thanks (victory) (salutation) to Guru Dev (or heavenly teacher), om”.
Well that’s a different twist to the same sounds I heard. Despite my forced framing of the lyrics, I could not redefine them. It reminds me of our Japanese exchange student Yushi and his lovable language concoctions. My daughter Grace came home from high school in 2005 talking about this exchange student who was like a lost puppy, who was living with a retired dentist, and could we keep him? We had a spare room since Erin was in college. We met Yush and found him to be very much like an exotic lost puppy. We accepted the challenge. Yush’s English was spotty at best. His most common expression, uttered after a fruitless search for English words, was “Sumsing”, accompanied by a nasal laugh over a wide helpless grin. Even now, years later, when there is a quiet moment in our family, and someone asks another, “What are you thinking?”, it’s not unusual to hear the reply, “Sumsing”. Followed, of course with a snorty purse dog laugh.
He loved sports greatly but did little academically. He and I played basketball and chess; we watched a lot of sports on television. And we went paintballing once then to an Orioles/Red Sox game in the spring of 2006. Yush was a character in his own way. One night as we sat down to dinner of chicken, green beans and rice, Yush looked to me and said, “Missa Hahny, you got riscence?”
I was perplexed but began using context clues to complete the pattern.
“Do you mean rice, Yush? Would you like some more rice?”
“No, riscence. You got riscence?”
“I’m not following you, Yush. Are you asking about a special rice with incense? Like an aromatic basmati rice?”
“No, no. When you do counseling, you got a ricense then?”
“Ohhhhh, you mean LICENSE. Yes, Jackaroo, I have a license.”
It must have been around New Year’s when this conversation took place. I told my friend Dave about it. The next weekend when all of us went to visit him and his family over the holidays, he had a welcoming sign on his front door that said,
“WE GOT RISCENCE!”.
As I said earlier, Yush and I played a lot of chess. One day he moved all his pieces directly in front of my pieces so that no movement was possible. He said, “I win.” Sometimes he’d stack the pieces, putting a pawn on top of a rook and declaring it a queen. It didn’t help his game. He lost a lot of chess games that year. Meanwhile we watched playoff NFL football games. One Monday on the way to school, he asked me, “Missa Hahny, why blacks always win?” Once again I put his words into a previous context. I thought about the games we had watched the day before and pondered a nonracist answer that made sense. “Well, Yush, there are Black players on both teams, so Blacks will always win.”
He smiled at me and what I thought was a nice politically correct answer.
“No, I mean in chess. Why blacks always win?”
That’s when I realized he was jerking my chain. “You little crustacean. Because I always play black. That’s why.”
Yush laughed his little chihuahua dog nasal laugh at me. Like the 90 degree day in May when we were driving to a picnic for the exchange students. We crossed a bridge that had a sign posted: “Caution, bridge freezes first”. He turned to me and asked, “Missa Hahny, you sink bridge will be freezed?”
Yush joined the tennis team at school, but he often forgot to stay for practice. If he remembered to bring his racket, he forgot practice. If he had his racket and remembered he had an away match, he missed the bus. The only proof I had that he actually did sumsing with the racket was he sporadically hit balls against our two garage doors. Thump, thump, thump, while our border collie Nick retrieved any misses. Then it was ON, because Nick would not easily release the retrieved tennis ball unslobbered. But I think that dogs speak all languages, and he and Yush communicated better than any persons did.
Yush loved eel. We went to a Japanese restaurant in a nearby larger town and that was his first choice. His smile and eyes and sighs of comfort all matched up that night. It was home cooking, baby. I’m afraid that many nights there was loneliness and feeling “otherly”. He liked our dog Nick and the t.v. character Mr. Bean, neither of whom said much. Oh Yushi! I think he was a lost puppy in Tokyo too. His lack of work ethic frustrated his successful father who told me I should be glad I had daughters and not sons to raise. Years later in a Christmas card Yush asked, “Why am I still small? I have no girlfriend” as if I could answer that question and state of being. My best answer is “Sumsing”…Chihuahua, huahua, huh, huh, huh.
Connecting the dots is how we make meaning out of disparate details, dots, words, symptoms, signs, etc. We pull the thread of coherence through these bouncy beads in an attempt to make patterns, units of order, and ultimately a slice of reality that fits the larger pie of reality we already know. We often get it wrong, isn’t that right Yush?