Last weekend, a Lafayette friend with Mississippi roots went home for a visit. Saturday evening he let the rest of us know that he “made it out of the Pearl Wal-Mart unscathed.”
That may seem insignificant to some, but the Pearl Wal-Mart holds a special place somewhere in the general vicinity of my heart.
I doubted my friend remembered that significance, but when I read his wife’s Facebook update, I realized I was wrong. They both remembered the story.
Somewhere in the early 90’s, I flew home to Mississippi for Christmas. On the way home from the airport, my mother or sister-in-law or someone needed to make an urgent stop at the Wal-Mart store.
I only remember one thing from that shopping sojourn. As my little brother and I rounded the corner of an aisle, we passed a lady talking to a younger couple. They were all smiles.
The lady was nodding her head and said to the couple, “They’re naming her Linda, and they’re spelling it with a Z.”
We know nothing more about the situation, but we’ve got plenty of questions, speculations and theories. The incident has entertained my family at many a gathering. Sometimes I wish I had just stopped the strangers in mid-conversation and said, “What?”
But mostly, I’ve wondered: Where did they put the Z? What do they call her? Why was the Z necessary?
We’ve found ways to work the line into various conversations. But always, when someone asks, “What are they naming her?” There is only one answer in our house.
“They’re naming her Linda, and they’re spelling it with a Z.”
And we laugh every time.
When I realized my friends (who heard the story several years ago) considered the Pearl Wal-Mart to be the stuff of legends because of its “Linda with a Z” association, I started thinking about the value of one-liners that stay.
Surely, every family has them. We have many:
When the English ice cream man handing over two double scoops of butter pecan told my overly enthusiastic husband, “Easy, ti-ga,” I knew that one would stay. It has.
Anytime a door opens and we don’t know who’s coming in a room, my entire family quotes my brother’s speech-impaired high school math teacher said on the last day of class before the Christmas break. For some reason, a drunken man dressed as Santa was walking the halls of the school. (This was before campuses were secure.) The inebriated Santa peeked around the corner of the classroom door, but none of the students could see him. The teacher looked up, saw Santa and said, “Tum on in, Tanny Taws.”
These words, all uttered in sincerity, long ago outlived their original intentions. Why do some silly little sayings have staying power? After all, we don’t even know or remember the people who first said them.
Maybe it’s not just about the words themselves. Maybe it’s rhythm or intonation, or setting. Something about those moments sticks.
Certain words become verbal keepsakes.