Sunday, November 5, 2006

Oompa Oompa

I have two half brothers who are about the same age as my own children. You should see the looks on their friends' faces when I'm introduced as their sister. Next to them I look like I've been rode hard and put up wet. Most of the time we don't bother to explain why I'm clearly old enough to be their mother. And their friends haven't figured out a way to ask politely, come on, she can't be your sister, can she?

When my kids and my half brothers -- my father's second set of kids after my mother died -- were growing up as members of the same generation, there were two things we used to do at family gatherings. The first was to take Polaroid pictures of the holiday. Our need for immediate photo gratification preceded digital pictures so we settled for Polaroids. As a result, we have a huge album of photos that chronicle the years of my hair changing color. Along with a shots of Grandma Tootie holding a huge serving fork over an entire pie or whatever dessert we were having that night. And dozens of pictures of my youngest younger brother with his eyes closed. My daughters always looked lovely, of course.

The second family tradition was to play OOMPA. This was a polka like tune that I would play on the piano while all the kids danced around the room. Suddenly I would stop and they would have to freeze. The winner was the person who did the best job of not moving during the freeze portion of the game. No laughing, either. The music was dumb. The game was silly. And we always had a great time. After Thanksgiving feasts, Christmas dinners, Easter celebrations, and birthdays, there was always a request for a round of OOMPA during the evening.

I know it's been at least twenty years since we last played OOMPA. Over the years, I've introduced it to the children of friends of mine, but it's been so long since we played it at my folks' house that one of my half brothers has a family of his own now. They were in town for the weekend and I thought his daughter might be smart enough to learn to play the family dancing game. She's a fairly precocious two and a half.  So I went tothe piano and started to play, only to discover that I'd forgotten the song, but after a few false starts, I figured it out again and we taught my niece the rules of the game. She got it right away. I started playing. She started dancing. Until I stopped playing. Then she stopped dancing and froze in her tracks, one arm up, one leg out, with that funny wide-eyed look of a little kid who gets the joke. Or knows how to humor her elders. Her grandma got up and played with her, too, posing like she was playing musical Twister, bad knee and all.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I'm glad the tradition continues. Dumb as it is.


mosie1944 said...

Dumb traditions are the best!

emmapeeldallas said...

We have that age difference in my family, too.  There are 20 years between my oldest sister and youngest brother (same parents, though), and my younger brother has a niece who's one and a half years older than he is.  I love those goofy family traditions, and I think oompa sounds great.


sdoscher458 said...

I'm the oldest in my family, I believe you and I are the same age.  I had an eighteen year gap between my children so my forty year old gets a kick out of introducing his baby brother who is twenty-two.  I also have a baby sister who although she turned 50 looks like a darn 30 year wrinkles, no grey hair, no weight gain...and she's perky! (I do love her).....Life is weird....Sandi

mombzbe said...

Mrs L, I hope your daughters crank out the babies.  
You are the perfect grandma, and I mean that in the best way.

jevanslink said...

Ah another "face the music".....glad your little one latched on to OOMPA, nowadays, these types of games are banned due to some deep psychological trauma they create.  Nothin like a little one in the room.
Comment from cberes1 - 11/8/06 2:53 PM