Fishing with Rudy and Ella Motis, about 1969. That's me looking at the camera.
Rudy and Ella lived two doors down from us when I grew up in Greeley. They were an older couple who never had kids of their own. If one of us (or more) was missing, our parents knew to check at the Motis’s before calling the police, because more often than not, that’s where we’d be. Ella gave us cookies and milk, and Rudy let us play pool in his basement with him. I learned to be a pretty good pool player there with him, even so that I won a pool trophy in junior high with my skills.
One evening we went to visit them with the whole family to drop in and see their new big painting they’d gotten for their living room. It was one of those huge framed printed things with texture stamped into the surface to look like real oil paintings that goes over the mantel. They’d gotten it down at a sale going on at the local retail shop. When the six of us gathered to marvel at their new acquisition, I’m sure my parents were thinking as loudly as they could Kids, just keep your mouths closed. But of course that didn’t happen. “That’s the same picture we just got!” I immediately announced. No subtly there. Well, at least the cat was out of the bag and my mom wouldn’t have to quick take down the picture or throw a blanket over it every time Ella dropped by to borrow a cup of sugar. It was a giant schooner ship on the bluish green ocean with greenish sky and clouds.
Trying to joke around with them, I said, “You sneakers,” and everyone laughed. And then I said, “You stinkers,” as a kind of play on words. Of course, with the laughter, I had to try again. Finally my mom said that’s enough when I said “You stinkers” one too many times. I thought she was talking about using the “stinkers” word, because let’s face it, that was a little bold and radical for a six year old to say to her elders, even if they were Rudy and Ella (who let us always call them by their first names and come over anytime for cookies and milk and billiards). So I wanted to switch back to the more acceptable “sneakers” because that wasn’t so daring but still got good laughs. So I tried it again, using the acceptable version. But being only six, I didn’t have good control of my tongue (I had to have speech therapy because of that). So instead of the allowable “sneakers” out came “stinkers,” and it was right after my mom had said Enough. Well, one must know this didn’t fly. It was like outright defiance, and no one knew I was really trying to switch from the banned word to the okay word. So I caught it for that. But all I was trying to do was bring more merriment to the group, especially at such an awkward time as finding we’d both bought the same ship painting that was on sale down at the local five and dime.
After that, every time I went into their house and saw their big ship painting exactly like ours, I just smiled and kept my mouth shut. I didn’t need to do anything more to jeopardize my chance for pool with Rudy or cookies with Ella.
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