Awkward Laughter

Because most things in life are humorous, even when they shouldn't be

Family Traditions: 30 30-Somethings


“What are you looking at you, green-eyed heifer, you?”

That’s what my father asked me. He’d said similar things to my sisters but swapped green-eyed for blue-eyed, brown-eyed or the all-encompassing big-eyed heifer.

He conveyed those words with such loving affection that my sisters and I didn’t realize, until way too late in life, that he was actually calling us cows.

This is how we roll in the South – lots of nicknames and random reasons behind them. Question any of them and you’re a damn Yankee!

But while there’s a regional influence at play here, I can’t help but feel my dad took this tradition to another level.

Thanks to him, his brother David became “Hugh Baby” based on his middle name, Hughes. My extended family called my Uncle Ernie, “Uncle Toot” without question nor explanation. He dubbed my cousin Jill: “Jill Dinks,” no clue why. My sister Lana went from “Lana Banana” to “Banana Tree” to just “Tree” before the age of six.

Me and DadI, having a less rhymey name but a lot of gas as a child, acquired the moniker “Fart Blossom,” but only as an alternative to “Short, Fat Fanny,” which I earned after coming out of my mom as a 10-pound baby with a big head, short stature and chubby cheeks.

He got plenty of quizzical looks when he continued to call me either of those names long after I grew up to be a thin, 5’6”, less-flatulent adult. Oddly enough, I never cringed nor over thought the meaning of the individual words. I knew the sentiments behind them and just smiled and answered.

I think part of Dad’s proclivity for pet names arose out of old-school southern men’s prevailing aversion to stating their love for anyone outright. The rest probably stemmed from the fact that he enjoyed a good turn of phrase.

Two of his favorites:

“You (I) need to get your (my) sh*t together in a brown-paper bag and keep the bottom dry.”

(Translation: Problems that appear insurmountable usually have simple answers.)

“I’m fine as frog’s hair split four ways.”

(Translation: All is well even when it doesn’t seem that way in the moment.)

My father didn’t just make those remarks when his business was doing well and he sold house after house. He said them when he was nearly broke and wondering how to pay the family’s bills and turn his business around.

As a teen and into my twenties, I rolled my eyes in response countless times. Who’s he kidding, I wondered?

Just like my eureka moment about his “_____-eyed” heifer nicknames, my understanding of dad’s philosophy clicked later in life.

He was an eternal optimist. He certainly had many shortcomings, which I won’t go into here, but I’ve come to believe that him choosing to focus on the bright side of life most of the time wasn’t one of them.

And I’m grateful that his genes and influence dictate that I do too:

“How am I doing?”

“Fine as frog hair split four ways. Damn, right! It’s a family tradition.”

How about you? Do you have any familial nicknames, sentiments or traditions that drove you crazy as a child but you’ve grown to embrace?

(This post is one of 30 30-somethings I’m writing for the weekly countdown to my 40th birthday. Celebrate with me as I share other lessons or humbling experiences from the past decade. WordPress also inspired it, in part, by its Daily Prompt:Modern Families.)

18 thoughts on “Family Traditions: 30 30-Somethings

  1. “Fart Blossom” is the best nickname ever!


  2. Great selection of names… Loved you sharing these!


    • Thanks, Susi. I know you’ve had a recent loss with your mom. My father’s passing was nearly 6 years ago. I hope you can celebrate the silly parts of your interactions, like with my father, as time goes by.


      • Yes I’m sure I will…. I was remembering mum’s fabulous fruitcake as a child this morning eaten after a day on the beach.. Great we have memories and love what photos can spark….


  3. Great insight in to one of your Dad’s ways of expressing love. Not everyone can outright show endearment in the traditionally expected way and it’s nice to see that you and your family could all connect in the same loving level.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for commenting, Elke. I like to say that my family put the fun back into dysfunctional. So my father and his interaction with us wasn’t always wonderful, but, looking back, I can certainly celebrate the high points. This was several of them! 🙂


  4. Haha! Some of these are so funny! I did’t have many nicknames I hated, except “nightcrawler,” which I didn’t know until I got older was a worm. The way my dad said it, it sounded like a creature that only comes out at night and crawls around on the carpet.


    • Worm, cow, whatever?!? In my father’s eyes, night crawlers were a gem! While we never milked a cow under family eyes (again, not sure where the heifer came into play), he was a big fisherman at points, and we definitely went night crawling on some summer evenings. You would have been a champion! 🙂


  5. Haha! This was so endearing and cute. I loved all the saying and nicknames. I didn’t really have any, but when I was a little girl, my day used to call me Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring. I have no idea why, but even as a grown woman I remember fondly and feel like a little girl when I think of it.


  6. It’s funny how some families have many many nicknames and others have none.


  7. My dad called my mom his “little soft-nosed heifer”! That was supposed to be an endearment 😉


  8. I’ll add “you can’t screw an old head on young shoulders.”


  9. Funny how some of the family’s nicknames were endearing and some were/are just downright unfaltering but not intended to be so…Toodlem the Hoodlum. turkey turd, Raiford, etc. Are some of the latter….Suser, Sukie, Kay Nelle, Grover, FACE and Bebo for the former.

    Glad Daddy called me “Sugar”…even if he’d wanted to call me hazel eyed heifer, fart blossom or turkey turd Martha would have be THE force to reckon with, By the way was nicknamed “Mot” by John Dyke!

    Liked by 1 person

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