During my three years of life in Massachusetts, there were often those moments when I just couldn’t understand—when the words coming out of a friend’s mouth sounded like they were in a foreign language. I tried to gradually get used to it—in fact, you still might even hear me ask “howaya?” from time to time, even though I’ve since moved on to a place where the people are easier to understand. I carefully studied the subtle nuances of how to pronounce things like Gloucester (“glawstah”) and Worcester (“wusstah”). I practiced saying things like “Pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd” (after all, it’s free on Sundays). |
But sometimes, things just didn’t make any sense.
Fortunately, I’m not the only one who has a difficult time translating Boston-to-English. One afternoon, I met another Massachusetts implant, who had had a difficult time adjusting to the language. My husband and I had ventured out with a couple of friends to an art center in the city for a charity concert in which my cousin was performing. Afterwards, at a small reception in the center, we sipped wine and chatted with the other attendees while my friend, Ronnie, struck up a conversation with Jim, the center’s director. They started talking business, and Jim asked for Ronnie’s business card.
“That reminds me of a story,” he laughed.
When Jim had first moved to Boston from the west coast, he met a contractor who was doing some work at the center.
“You’re the new director?” the contractor had asked Jim. “Do you have a cahd?”
Jim laughed even harder as he told us about how confused he was when the man had asked for his cod. “I just couldn’t figure out what the heck he wanted a fish for,” Jim chuckled.
Later that night, I learned about another bizarre Boston phenomenon over dinner. There were six of us at the table: my cousin, (a fellow Midwesterner, uprooted and replanted in Boston), her friend (a native of the southwest), my husband, Paul (a Canadian), me, and Ronnie and Ross, two of our Massachusetts-born-and-raised friends.
Ronnie was eagerly telling us about his pet turtles. He had this snapping turtle once, he told us, and his mom had really hated it.
As Ronnie began to tell the story of his mom and the snapping turtle, it was his next sentence that caught my attention – and the attention of all of the Massachusetts implants at the table.
“My mom’s a Nazi-craftsy kind-a mom,” he explained to us.
I think I may have let out a surprised yelp. Oblivious to the shocked expressions on the faces around him, Ronnie continued on with his story until the New Mexican seated beside him interrupted by asking, “What did you just call your mom?”
Someone else asked, “Did you just say that your mom’s a Nazi?”
My imagination went wild. I suppose that would explain why she was so violent toward poor Ronnie’s turtle. But what kind of crafts do Nazis do? Do they hold Nazi craft sales in the area as fund-raisers? I pictured the Nazi-craftsy moms sitting around their Nazi knitting circles, knitting Nazi afghans…
I had no idea that the Nazis were thriving and making handcrafts in Massachusetts.
Poor Ronnie was just as perplexed as the rest of us. “A Nazi?” he asked as the rest of us started laughing, realizing what he had actually said.
Ronnie’s mom, apparently, is an artsy-craftsy kind of mom.
But it was too late. The image was already firmly planted in my mind—and, I’m sure, in the minds of everyone else who was seated at the table that night. It was inevitable that I’d someday meet Ronnie’s mom, and I wouldn’t be able to keep myself from laughing and picturing her and the Nazi Women’s Quilting Society.