SARAH SMILEY

Traveling through the Milky Way to Big Donald’s

Sarah Smiley
Sarah Smiley
Posted Oct. 23, 2011, at 11:28 a.m.
Last modified Oct. 23, 2011, at 5:37 p.m.

Recently, at a church dinner, I told my boys, “There will be a limit on the bread.”

What I meant was that each of them could have two pieces with their lasagna. This was a result of the week before, when my almost-11-year-old son brought his plate to the table with a half loaf of french bread on it. (Side note: College savings are nice, but lately I wonder if Dustin and I should have started a savings account to pay for groceries when we eventually have three teenage boys in the house.)

“A limit?” Ford said. “I’ll starve!”

Suddenly Lindell started to cry. But his whimpers were mere background noise because I was busy telling Ford to put his knees down and bring his chair closer to the table.

Lindell pulled at my shoulder. That’s when I turned around and saw his red, wet eyes. But I was still frustrated by his whining and pestering.

“My gosh, Lindell, what is it?” I said.

“Who will take it off for me?” he cried.

“What? Take what off for you?”

“The lemon. I don’t want a lemon on my bread.”

This past summer, Lindell took swimming lessons — again. He is still in Level 1, which is to say he sits on the side of the pool, arms folded across his chest, and refuses to get in the water. At the end of the two weeks, we are presented with a certificate for Lindell’s “participation” and the recommendation that he take Level 1 — again — next summer. We fear he will one day be the only boy in Level 1 who shaves.

But the instructors are very patient. They continue to try, with endless enthusiasm, to get Lindell into the water.

One day Lindell ran away from his teacher, back to the safety of the grass and his towel, crying, “I don’t wanna put my face in the water! I don’t wanna put my face in the water!”

The teacher took him by the hand, and while she gently guided him back toward the pool, she said, “Let’s not worry about that now. Just get your feet in the pool. Don’t think about putting your face in. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Lindell stopped and thought about that. Then he said, “OK, but before I go, what bridge are you talking about?”

At least we know his answer to, “If your friend jumped off a bridge …”

About a year ago, Lindell listened patiently to an intense discussion between Dustin and Ford about space. For about 10 minutes they debated the possibility of other life forms in our galaxy and the feasibility of parallel universes outside of our own. When Ford mentioned the Milky Way, Lindell suddenly was interested.

“Wait a minute,” he said slowly, his face full of intrigue. “You’re telling me there are candy bars just floating around in space?”

This was science Lindell could get excited about!

Over the years we’ve learned to adapt to these Lindellisms. Indeed, I could draw a special map of our city with Big Donald’s on one corner and a few streets away, the towering, iconic sculpture of Bangor, Maine’s, mythical native son Tall Bunyan. (Better see a podiatrist about that one.)

No one knows where these misnomers came from, but they are catching. More than once I’ve accidentally told a friend that I’m going to “Old Ladies” (Old Navy) to shop for pants. However, I admit I was embarrassed that one time when Lindell said much too loudly inside a Staples, “You call this the Office Stupid Store?” and that other time when he told a room full of women that his mom wears a lot of “cow butts” (Talbots).

I remember when Owen, now 8, called yellow “ye-yo,” and Ford said “God” instead of “dog.” I also remember how Ford often elongated vowels that should be short (CONE-gress) and pronounced a word phonetically because he had only read it and not yet heard it said aloud.

These phases pass too quickly. Soon enough, Lindell will not mispronounce his Rs (“Pleston” instead of “Preston”), and he will stop saying “what” when he really means “that” (“Can I wear the shirt what has a puppy on the front?”).

But the sad thing is, I probably won’t hear these “lasts.” Not really. No one stops to say, I bet this is the last time you’ll do/say _______. Although I have carefully cataloged all the boys’ first words (God, car, Spongebob), I might not realize the last time Lindell says Big Donald’s instead of McDonald’s. I might not notice the last time he says Tall Bunyan. These fleeting moments will slip by as unnoticed and unrecognized as the last time I carried Ford on my shoulders.

But every time I pass an L.L. Bean, I will always, even if momentarily, think of it as Yellow Beans.

Maine author and columnist Sarah Smiley’s writing is syndicated weekly to publications across the country. She and her husband, Dustin, live with their three sons in Bangor. She may be reached at sarah@sarahsmiley.com.

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