Fuck This Shit
I run off to Alaska the autumn of 1976, with a battered old guitar, a trunk fulla junk and a sixteen month old toddler, my only child, a daughter, whom I had named Bryn and sworn, "You'll never be bored, I promise." All hell was busting loose, the pipeline was a comin' through, like it or not. I opted NOT and so chose to work for room and board in a little gold mine camp in the Rainbow Mountains, the infamous Isabelle Pass, a place where the wind blew hard and long and where single females were few and far between. I got to slave away in the mess hall and cook to my heart's content and my kid's delight.
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This business of having a baby underfoot, however, was a problem for all of us. She stayed in the mess hall with me but could slip away faster than a second and was brought back at least two times a day, no matter how close an eye I tried to keep on her. Mr. Coulton let her sit in on afternoon classes when he taught Jamie music and art and held PE classes, instructing them in calisthenics right out of the Marine Corps which I was shocked to shit to find out that he had belonged to for one perilous tour of duty, behind a desk, during the height of the Viet Nam conflict. "Lucky for me the closest I got to combat was a couple of paper cuts,” he joked. I couldn't believe this reserved gentlemanly fellow spending four years in America's greatest fighting force. Go figure.
Bryn was too interruptive for the morning classes in reading, writing and 'rithmetic and always expressed her displeasure at not being allowed into the classroom by pitching a major fit in the hallway, so I tried to make sure she was out of the main building before classes started. She was reasonably content to work with her mother in the mess hall. When I made bread, she made bread. When I made cookies, she made little grubby cookies. When I cut up stew meat, she cut up stew meat. It drove the Umpenhauers nuts that I let her mess around with the knives. "She's no dummy,” I told Bridgette and Elsa, again and again, "She knows knives are sharp just like she knows fire's hot. She's burnt her fingers and cut herself and that's how we learn best, by experience." Still they muttered and neither of them would let her near the knives when they were dicing and slicing. But, Bryn was bright, right from the start. She checked stuff out and I could see it click in her big wide eyes. She was a fast learner and she had just begun to string words together at age 18 months, although many of her words were made up and didn't make sense. I could see her trying to put the intricacies of the English language together and it was a joy to me to watch her so eager and joyful about learning.
I often told the Boys to watch their mouths around the kid. The mess hall was a sorta no man's land, a free fire zone, when Papa and the other Umpenhauers where out of sight. Boys will be boys and as much as I curse and swear, I was amazed too see how many different ways they could throw fuck into a sentence. We were kinda bi-lingual around camp, anyway, with Papa and Ahcha speaking German, Ukrainian, Yiddish and Polish to each other as often as English and odd combinations thereof got bandied about by all the crew. Ahcha had a pretty colorful vocabulary himself, as did Mikail when he let his hair down or had been nipping at his younger brother's bottle. So, none of us was exactly free of the sin of profanity and Mikey was an absolute whizz at swearing, coming up with some really astounding word combinations. One day he told his big brother Greg to go fuck himself in the ass to which Gregory replied with a sniff, "That's anatomically impossible, dim-wit."
One day Bryn was playing by the stove, putting her rag doll into her shoe-box bed and taking her out, saying "Night, night" and then kissing her awake again. I was making bread and Bridgette was washing clothes over by the big Yukon stove where Bryn was playing. Bryn kept stepping into Bridgette's way, and wanting to help, and generally being a pain in the butt, and Bridgette finally in exasperation chased her out of the mess hall.
"Go play outside,” she told the toddler, putting her tiny rubber break-up boots on her feet and pushing her out the door. I could hear Billy out side, talking to her. I put the bread on to rise and started dishing out the soup as the Boys were coming in for lunch. Billy was showing Bryn how to toss gravel up on the side of the half-moon roof of the mess-hall. "See, it always comes back down,” he was telling her. "Ya throw it up there and it rolls back down. Toss it up, rolls down."
Bryn was squealing with delight and pelting the place with small stones when Gregory and Mikey arrived. Greg scolded Bryn, "Don't do that. You might break the window. You might get hurt. Go inside right now!" and he thumped her a paddle on the butt and walked into the mess hall, Mikey and old Mr. Willaims at his heels. They all took their seats at the big table and we were passing out the soup when Bryn came storming into the mess hall and stomped down into the back, where she was often put to sit in the wood box. Her little head was down and she had a black cloud hanging over her and she stomped each foot as she progressed past me and Bridgette and the Boys.
"Fuck this shit,” she said clear as a bell.
Well, ya could have heard a pin drop as all the Boys eyes rocketed around the room, looking one to the other with big question marks in the middle of their faces, finally resting on mine. "Did she just say what I think she said?" Mikey asked me, shocked as could be.
"What the hell else do ya expect, all of ya cursing like a bunch of goddamned sailors?" said Billiam Williams, an old salt himself. I just closed my eyes and thought of what the Tot had said to Bryn when she was a tiny babe in arms, "Just wait 'til ya get to go to school...." They'll really love this. So, "Fuck this shit,” was the little Muffin's first real whole sentence, subject you-implied, verb fuck, object this shit and I had a little twinge that said Mama sure isn't gonna like that but I couldn't help it, I laughed every time I thought about it and sorta wished I was the kinda Mom that kept a baby book so I could fill this on under Baby's First Sentence and from that afternoon on, Bryn strung words out left and right and no longer relied on single words to express her thoughts.