The Human Connection: When You’re Talking to the Right Person, a Couple of Key Words Speak Volumes

VHS TapesI was on my way to get pumpkin spice coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts yesterday when I saw something that caused me to say aloud, “Dear God, the naked house was cut in half!”

Most people reading this are probably saying, “What the heck????”

If I mentioned “the naked house” to my two younger daughters and my husband, though, they would know exactly what I was talking about.

The road that leads to the nearest Dunks also brings us to the girls’ daycare, so we’re on it twice a day. At least. My husband pointed out a house that was being stripped down to them, and they’ve referred to it as “the naked house” for months.

The naked house has been more than stripped of its outer walls; it is now missing its top floor. I cannot wait to hear the girls’ commentary on this tomorrow morning on the trip to daycare.

I couldn’t stop thinking about how, instead of saying, “The house on Hanover Street that’s being reworked has been truly gutted down to the first floor”, I said, “The naked house was cut in half.”

Perfect sense to Gabrielle, Clara, and Jeff; totally absurd to anyone else.

There are deep, rich meanings that can be conveyed with a word or two if you are talking to people that know the story.

When my siblings and I were younger, we recorded a lot of movies onto VHS tapes from HBO or Cinemax. We amassed a pretty decent collection, actually. For some reason, though, the worst and cheesiest movies all ended up on the same VHS cassette, one that was a bright shade of pink instead of basic black. I don’t recall the entire lineup on that tape, but I know it featured Overboard and Short Circuit 2. Just a collection of real honkers.

To this day, if I ask my brother or sister how a movie was and they reply, “It would fit right in on the pink tape”, I know that I should never see that movie. Or maybe I should see it for cringeworthy entertainment.

Ah, the pink tape …

My brother-in-law is one of the most unintentionally funny people I have ever met. Ever. One day, we were all hanging out at my parents’ house, and Eric said, “Hey, there’s a blind guy walking down the street.” Of course, we all immediately ran to a window to gawk at the poor man in dark glasses and a white cane making his careful way down the road.

When Eric noticed that there were six or eight of us plastered to the front windows of the house, he said–completely serious–“Get down, he might see us.”

So it should be no surprise to anyone that Eric led the way when my sister, brother, and I jumped off a moving train in Newburyport. (This is a long story and does not translate well to the written word–it definitely makes the case for the continued value of oral folklore, but I digress)

When it was over, we asked him why he did something so stupid–because, of course, once he jumped, we all had to jump, which is how things roll when you’re in your early twenties–and his response was, “Well, I heard the Indiana Jones music in my head and just couldn’t help myself.”

To this day, when Eric does something impulsive and foolish, one of us will mutter, “He’s hearing the Indiana Jones music again.”

We all know what it means. We all know the context.

Whenever I’ve said, “The black cloud is real” to my parents, “Jack O’Lantern” to my daughter Ari, “Visigoths” to my husband, “It’s the quartz” to my best friend, “It wasn’t me,” to the administrative assistant of the summer program I directed, and a hundred other words or simple phrases to many different people, they understand so much more than the words.

How amazing is it that human beings can share deep, rich memories or continuing inside jokes with such minimal words being spoken?

It is truly remarkable.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I think this can be extrapolated to say that a word can be worth a thousand memories.

What are some of your “magic words” and the stories that go with them? I’d love to compile a list 🙂

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