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Monday, November 14, 2016

Hello Operator, Please Give Me Number Nine

Apparently Miss Susie is still a hand-clapping hit of modern day schoolyards. My first grader came home singing, "Miss Susie had a cymbal, the cymbal had a bell, Miss Susie went to heaven the cymbal went to Hello operator please give me number nine... "

"I think Miss Susie really had a steamboat and the steamboat had a bell," I said.

"No, Chloe said it is a cymbal," Senia Mae confirmed.

"Well a cymbal does have a bell," I racked my brain for any further recollections.

Memories of little girls wearing plaid bell bottoms and Exersoles in the Shawsheen School parking lot came flooding back. We were sitting cross-legged in the shade, clapping our hands to the fast rhythm as we recited the naughty poem. There was always a row of girls waiting to sit in and I remember hoping I wouldn't screw up the words and have to wait at the back of the line for another turn.

"What are the boys doing in the bathroom?" I asked.

"I can't really remember," she says. "Do you know?"

"Well, I used to. We sang this when I was a little girl, too." Her eyes lit up, excited that we had one more thing in common. "But I haven't sang this song in a long time."

"I know, I know my Ma, I know, I know my Pa, I know, I know my sister with the alligator bra... " Senia Mae continues. "Mama, what's an alligator bra?"

"Hmmm," I said. "I not really sure." After searching Wikipedia we learned the skipped line after operator was "If you disconnect me I will paddle your ... behind the frigerator..." and that it was originally an alligator purse, which, of course made more sense than an alligator bra.

"Do you know what it means to call an operator and give me number nine?" I asked my six year-old.


"Well you used to pick up the phone and talk to an operator on the other end." I pointed to the retro phone we had hanging on the wall. "You'd pick up the handle and ask her to be connected to someone else's phone."

Instead of being amazed that you had to talk to an operator, my child was more amazed that the phone was stuck to the wall.

"You mean you couldn't take the phone in the car?" she asked.

"Nope," I said, laughing about how different her childhood world is from mine. Wow, it doesn't feel like it was that long ago!

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