Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Agelseb, part 1

My cousin and best friend is listed as Agelseb in my phone. Never mind why.

We were born 18 days apart. Our mothers rode a roller coaster together when they were pregnant with us. Explains a lot, doesn't it?

We spent most of our childhoods at each others' houses, or at Amity Bakery. Agelseb's parents owned the bakery for fifteen or twenty years, and Agelseb was born about 5-7 years before they sold it. I have vivid memories of baking banana bread, watching her mother decorate cakes, watching my dad make fresh doughnuts and pancakes. I remember playing on the bakery shelves and eating crispy, slightly burnt bacon. Most of my family members worked there for at least a few months at some point. And we all ate there at least once a week. I remember the huge table of regulars: good ol' boys in thirty year old trucker caps and even older flannel shirts, gruffly ordering coffee and talking about fishing and hunting in heavy Eastern Shore accents.

When Agelseb's parents were married, they were both atheists. Her mother had been raised Nazarene, and her father Catholic, but they had both turned away from faith at some point in middle or high school. But when Agelseb was born, our grandmother began taking her to Sunday School and getting her involved in church events. This got Agelseb's mother involved again. She made friends with other church people (to most of whom she was related anyway) and began to attend events to see her daughter perform in pageants and so forth. Eventually, when Agelseb and i were six or seven, she became a Christian again. Her dad is still an atheist.

But before all of this happened, Agelseb taught me my second swear word.

Side note: The first swear word i ever learned was "fuck". I was about four, and i was out walking with my older cousins, and i saw it painted on the side of a building. Being a naturally bright and curious child, i asked one of my cousins what it meant. He told me it was the mother of all cuss words and that i should never, ever repeat it.

Naturally, as soon as i got home i asked my mother what "fuck" meant. She was horrified and asked where i had learned it. I explained about the building and the mother of all cuss words. She told me that it was a very bad word that you say when you want bad things to happen to people. She told me to never, ever repeat it, and the conversation ended there.

It was about a year later that i learned that it was bad to show someone your middle finger (also a lesson taught by an older cousin and explained and reinforced by my mother), but it wasn't until much later than either of those incidents that i learned that there was a relationship between the word and the gesture. And it was even later that i learned the actual, dictionary definition and common uses of the word "fuck", which was all i had ever wanted.

The second swear word i ever learned was "shit". Agelseb and i were playing school with her chalkboard. She was the teacher and i was the student. We were pretending to learn words (i say pretending because my vocabulary was larger than hers then). She'd write a word on the board, teach me to spell it, and talk about common usages. Really, for a couple of five- or six-year-olds, it was a pretty good lesson plan.

Anyway, i distinctly remember her wiping the board clean, writing the word "shit", and underlining it as she enunciated clearly. She taught me common usages, too. She'd learned it from overhearing her parents arguing.

I think we both sort of knew what a swear word was in theory, but weren't too sure about how they actually worked. Clearly you weren't supposed to use them, but equally clearly we'd both been exposed to them in ways that showed that people DID use them, and that adults knew all about them. This was all very confusing.

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