Saturday, December 22, 2007

How's that again?

Mentioning Hanukkah in yesterday's post brought up a sweet memory from an earlier time. "Shuma lakka," I once heard our niece say to our nephew, and he replied, "Lackum shula." Then they both laughed, thinking fondly of their grandfather, who died in 1983. It took me back. Their grandfather, who in his native land of Albania was called Dhimitri Kuçi, came to America in 1917 and lived here for over sixty-five years. But he sounded as though he had just arrived, just got off the boat. For the record, I loved hearing my wife's parents speak English; their accents were charming.

But our niece and nephew didn't understand what their grandfather had so often said to his grandchildren. Even though his accent was thick, he was a cosmopolitan guy, having owned a restaurant in Philadelphia and another business in North Carolina. He had been around the block a few times, and he didn't know a stranger. He made friends with all kinds of people. And what he had said, I tried to explain to them, were the greeting and response he had heard Jewish people say to one another in Hebrew: Shalom aleichim (peace be unto you) and Aleichim shalom (unto you be peace). Pop was not speaking gibberish. Nor was he advocating sending footwear to southeast Asia ("Shoe Malacca?") or explaining why the Miami Dolphins football team had such a dismal season ("Lackum Shula!").

But Rhonda and James weren't buying my explanation. They had heard what they had heard, and they were sticking with it. So to our niece and nephew, if you're out there in cyberspace reading this, here's a shout-out to you for old times' sake: Shuma Lakka! Shoe Malacca! (Sis! Boom! Bah!) Lackum Shula! Lackum Shula! (Rah! Rah! Rah!)

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