Monday, March 31, 2008

Button Bellies and Pound Cakes

My entire life, it seems, people have made fun of my accent.

When I was growing up in Costa Rica, the kids in school made fun of my little gringuita accent. And as a Costa Rican, I can’t roll my r’s to save my life and I am teased mercilessly by other Latin Americans. I lived and worked in France, and the French had plenty to say about my accent there. Then I joined the Peace Corps and lived in a French-speaking African country, which made my French accent so wacky that the French didn’t know what to make of it. So yes, I know what it’s like to have an accent. Even though I’m used to the teasing and am pretty good-humored about it (or try to be), in principle I think that making fun of someone’s accent is not very nice.

But the thing is, my mom’s accent is so frickin’ cute. It matches her personality: She’s a native Spanish speaker, a (maybe) five-foot-tall Latina who talks a million miles a minute, always excitedly, never without using her hands, and she taught me all the swear words I know (at an early age, too). More than the accent, though, the word combinations she has been known to use in English have become part of our family’s lexicon. I blame my dad; even though he was mad as hell whenever someone made fun of his very gringo accent, he found my mom’s quirks so endearing that he never corrected her and in fact, encouraged her.

She was convinced the word for navel was button belly.

She used to ask for her leftovers in a baggie dog.

She was sure my dad suffered from rage road.

She refuses to say the word turtle anymore because it’s hard for her to say and we’ve all given her such a hard time about it (not that the word turtle comes up very often in casual conversation).

Last night, we were using a calling card to call Costa Rica, which involved punching in a long string of numbers and symbols. The call wasn’t going through, my mom had had enough and began yelling, “Pound cake! Pound cake! Are you sure you pressed the pound cake?” When I looked at her and started laughing, her response was, “Well, don’t you think it should be called the pound cake?”

Well, now I do.

No comments: