noun = A mound of stones erected as a memorial or marker.
[Middle English carne, from Scottish Gaelic carn, from Old Irish.]
Most people would imagine that when children have speech delays that language use should be a carefully orchestrated affair. I expect that's correct in many households. Parents can learn a great deal from observing a speech pathologist and adopt their techniques, or an amateurish version in our case. Good parents, if they try hard, may be able to adapt their approach for a significant percentage of the day. Lesser parents have lower standards and slip into sloppy habits as the percentage of words increases over time. Some parents are so careless that they fail to keep a list of dangerous trigger words at the forefront of their brains. Words like 'death,' or 'pretend,' or 'outside.' Or they forget which child has which trigger words and all their derivative words. Some muddle which one cannot be touched and which one needs deep tissue massages, frequently. A small percentage of parents do not acknowledge that their home is really bilingual. As the parents get older, not only do they forget what they're supposed to be doing right now, they also forget the very recent past.
In the recent past, we moved into our current home with two girls, a big one and a little one. It was a pregnant pause before a brother arrived. The little one's goldfish did not survive the shock and committed suicide by hurling himself into the garbage disposal unit. The death leap was witnessed by the owner, a very short owner, who was therefore unable to count the slice and dice carnage. A small ceremonial was devised and the disguised goldfish chips were buried in the garden. We marked with the place with a pile of stones for time immemorial. But memories fade fast around here.
I drag everyone out into the garden on a blissful sunny afternoon. As usual, I bribe with the lowest common denominator, in this case, an afternoon snack. I hope that if they are exposed to the dappled fading light, they will be tempted to remain outside and play. I am equipped with last year's bubble making machine, batteries charged, which I place strategically in front of the door as both a distracter and a barrier, to prevent them from regaining entry.
They munch in a desultory manner, scowling at my deviousness.
"What's that mom?" she asks nodding towards the newly cleared flower bed.
"Well it looks sort like a cairn isn't it."
"What 'cairn' is?" When will I learn to think before I speak?
"Well, it's er, it's a memorial to mark a spot."
"What it is 'memorial.'?" Oh dear.
"Don't think 'memorial,' think 'marker' instead. It marks a special spot."
"Marker, marker! marker?"
"What colour it is?"
"Yes, dah marker, what colour it is being?"
"Oh not that kind of marker, um.....'X' marks the spot kind of mark."
"Why it special?"
"Don't you see the stick of bells? Can you hear them tinkling?"
"I do not like the crashing noises."
"Er why why why we have bells in dah garden?"
"They were a gift when we first moved in here, they're older than you are!"
"Bells in dah garden is stoopid." I look around my garden which is covered in painted shapes, numbers and letters of the alphabet, all evidence of the lures and entrapments to entice them into the yard by fair means or foul. Since they are never in the garden, how could they possibly know what is 'supposed' to be in one?
I bury my negative thoughts, and inter my ire, if not my urn. Any semblance of conducting a logical conversation has turned to ash. I consider myself lucky to have avoided the 'death' issue. My nerves may jangle but the jingle of bells is now tolerable.
3 hours ago