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Nostalgia for Boston accents:
Confessions of a language snob

On the way to my hometown of Quincy, Massachusetts, for a fundraiser, I waxed nostalgic about the Boston accent I once had.

Quincy is just south of Boston. As my daughter, husband and I rode along in my cah (car) I regaled them with examples of Bostonese, including hoss (horse), muthah (mother) and apahtmint (apartment). Also, makin’, fakin’ and takin’. Final Gs are a no-no, along with Rs in middle or at the end of a word. Many words are simply abbreviated or mooshed together, dontcha know. And on occasion an R is added, if you get the idear. Undahstand?

I didn’t so much lose my accent as choose to overcome it. I think it was in my collij (college) days that I stahted (started) to incorporate missing letters into my vocabulary. Depahtmint became department, ha ya doin’ became how are you doing, c’meah became come here, and so on. Maybe it was the exposure to uthah, I mean other, modes of speech that made me self-conscious. To be honest, I began to feel that Boston accents made people sound, shall we say, less intelligent (not smaht, certainly not the product of a Hahvid education). In other words, I became a language snob.

My daughter asked why I got rid of my accent, or, as I like to say, had my Rs implanted. “Would you feel confident with a doctah (doctor) who recommended haht (heart) surgery?” I responded. “Would you like to finish first in a race and be called the winnah (winner)? Or have your teacha (teacher) help you study grammah (grammar)?” And so on. As I discussed this, I began to feel that I was talking down to my origins. Does Bostonese sound ignorant to me? Too parochial?

I have observed that Hollywood does miserably with Boston accents. Mahk (Mark) Wahlberg, once known as Mahky Mahk (Marky Mark), being an exception as well as a Boston native. I’m told there was at least one character in the show Cheahz (Cheers) who did the accent well, but I nevah (never) watched it. Tom Hanks in the movie Catch Me If You Can and Kevin Costnah (Costner) in Thirteen Days failed miserably. (Ah my translations becoming’ tedious? Apologies. I just want to be shuah my meaning is cleah. B’sdies, doin’ this is habit formin’.)

The comedy troupe Mass Hysteria does a great shtick about Boston accents. A troupe member holds up a sign and challenges the audience to translate. It was a peeseacake (piece of cake) for me when we saw them perform a few years ago. Examples: Jeet? = Did you eat? No, joo? = No, did you? They also referenced the towns of Woosta (Worcester ) and Peebidy (Peabody). My foreign-born husband, for whom English is a second language and Bostonese a third language, was mystified.

Quincy, by the way, is pronounced Quinzy. It might be Quincy with a C in other states — there are at least 10 Quincys in the U.S. — but not in Massachusetts. Just ask John Quincy Adams.

So I have my generic accent with an occasional fall-back into R exclusion. There’s no going back. Neither of our kids has a Boston accent, although this is where they grew up. But there’s a loss here, of something funky and authentic. On that Sunday it was kind of nice to hear “How ah ya?” and “Nice ta see ya.” And yes many of these nice folks are wicked smaht.

These days I find Boston accents kinda chahmin’. And thanks to my brother Mahty for some idears for this ahticle.

— Ann Green

Ann Green is a freelance writer, editor, PR consultant and tutor.

The stars and stripes of my hometown:
mango, raspberry and pina colada

The go-to colors in the United States are, of course, red, white and blue. Old Glory. Our flag. The Stars and Stripes.

In my hometown, the colors are mango orange, raspberry baby blue, and Pina Colada off-white.

Look at those three see-through glass cylinders staring at you as you saunter into my hometown convenience store. Everything in this world boils down to threes.

Don’t believe me? Consider The Three Musketeers, the Three Little Pigs, Three Blind Mice, three-point NBA shooters such as Stef Curry and Kevin Durant, “Three Men and A Baby,” Tolkien’s Trilogy, “Three Eggs and Ham,” and three things you invariably order at McDonalds — a burger, large fries and a milk shake.

Strut alongside me into this stupendous hang-out run by my guy Mo, or maybe it’s Moe. Fix your eyes on the three Steve’s Frozen Chillers machines. They look like three Greek column cylindrical pillars. Notice the liquid eye candy automatically stirring sort of like a witch’s brew. In a store jammed with brilliantly and artificially colored foods such as Cheetos (orange) and Strawberry Pop Tarts (pink), these are the brightest colors.

In the left Greek column stands erect the orange mango frozen, sugar-filled chiller. Taste it. It’s better than orange juice and even an orange Creamsicle bar. Yes, I said it.

You start thinking to yourself that Mo — or is it Moe? — probably squeezed fresh mangos five minutes before you arrived and dropped them into the mango madness machine.

Freshness. Coolness. A sugar addict’s daily kick-me-up.

Summer-time and the sublime. Words that also rhyme every time.

Standing in the center, less than six inches to the right of the mango madness and less than six inches to the left of the Pina Colada Hakuna Matata (Source: “Lion King”), is the raspberry baby blue bombshell. Bring on this bodacious beverage.

You think to yourself, “Why is this called raspberry?” Raspberries are black and maroon. They aren’t blue. Blueberries are blue, but that’s a digression we don’t need to embrace. Not here. Not now.

The blue raspberry chiller looks as if it might not be tasty, certainly not the way the killer orange mango chiller delights your taste buds. Turns out that your boy, Blue Raspberry, tastes almost as good. While it doesn’t taste like a raspberry — neither black nor maroon — the cool liquid is surprisingly fruity. Must be the sugar.

Sharing the sugar is the best description ever to describe how players pass the ball around to teammates to get an open shot in basketball.

The third cylinders soaks and oozes Pina Colada chiller. Steve concocted it. These are Steve’s Frozen Chillers. The first thought you have as you grab your cup and pour the nectar into your clear plastic cup is that song about Pina Coladas that everybody sang in unison circa 25 years ago during Jimmy Buffet’s heyday. Or was that song about margaritas?

Coconut. Cool coconut. Take this chill pill.

The first thought that enters your mind is the fact that the Mounds candy bar is the best tasting and yet nobody everybody talks about that. Snickers gets all the hype, but the blend of dark chocolate and coconut in the Mounds remains unbeatable in Phylum Candy.

Sometime when you have a minute we can talk about all the phylums I had to memorize in a college Organismic Biology class my senior year. Phylum Chordata (vertebrates/fish) and Phylum Cephaloda (squid) and Phylum Crustacea (scorpions). To graduate I had to pass that class about a phantasmagoria of phylums. It was almost a fantastic F.

Jimmy Buffet sang about Pina Coladas. Others, especially country artists, sing about beer and wine. Chances are you won’t run into Jimbo at my hometown convenience store because he lives in Key West or someplace south of my town. Nevertheless, the taste of Pina Colada Steve’s Frozen Chillers ranks up there with Fanta Grape Soda and Orange Hi-C from McDonalds.

I told Mo the other day that I didn’t think he had it in him to break out a set of chilly slushies better than the ones he sold a few years ago. For a few years he left me hanging and wondering.

Turns out, my Man Mo found his mojo.

— Sammy Sportface

Sammy Sportface is possibly America’s best blogger. He is only mildly interested in the truth. To read his new book, Wipe That Smile Off Sammy Sportface, go to Amazon.com.

What’s next? Don’t ask

Second Born is officially a college graduate.

Her authentic degree arrived in the mail, replacing the fake degree handed to each student at commencement a few weeks ago. So where does she go from here, you ask? Has she been applying for jobs? What type of job is she looking for? Where is she looking? All of these and many more little pop quizzes face the graduate any time she is near another adult. Her response is polite, somewhat practiced at this point, and pointedly vague. She is adept at avoiding the question while convincing the interrogator they know everything by the end of the conversation.

I’ve more or less learned to refrain from asking too much or repeating the same questions within a 48-hour period. Spouse, not so much. He doesn’t query about his own daughter’s progress — he follows up on every one of her closest college friends, from the gaggle of girls she shared living arrangements with during the past four years to the few friends from high school that she still keeps in touch with. It goes something like this.

Spouse: So… does anyone have something lined up yet?

Second Born: Grad One and Four have summer jobs. Grad Two isn’t sure what she wants to do. Grad Five is moving into her apartment next week to be closer to her new dream job. And, well, you know Grad Three.

Do we know Grad Three? I get them all mixed up. It seems like each time Spouse asks (I don’t have to say too much — his curiosity keeps me out of trouble and in the loop), things have switched around. Next thing you know, Grad Four could be opening a tattoo parlor and Grad Three might decide her creative writing major would be more beneficial if she takes a summer course in accounting to better understand why she’ll never make any money with a creative writing major.

Then there are her local friends who have jobs or boyfriends or both. Second Born is just starting to arrange get-togethers so they can catch up and trade stories from their final year of awesome and atrocious professors, wonderful and weird roommates, and endless exams and projects. We usually get a Reader’s Digest version of these visits.

This question and half-answer game about the others is just a ruse on the part of my occasionally clever husband to give his daughter a chance to clue us in on her next move, figuratively and maybe somewhat literally. But we also meant it when we said she was not expected to be on her own the minute she graduated. That had been her plan until she realized taking a full load her last semester meant that putting her all into the job and location search would have to wait.

Shortly after graduation, Second Born and a carload of The Grads took a road trip to a fellow grad’s graduation party. It was what you could call their last hurrah prior to a lifetime of workdays and responsibilities. She returned just as Spouse and I were set to leave town for a few days to attend the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ conference. That meant she’d have the house to herself for three days — three whole days with nobody asking about her plans or anyone else’s. Heaven.

The right job and location will come. It might not happen overnight — or over several nights — but it will happen. So, to anyone out there who comes across a new college grad, instead of the same old inevitable questions, tell them about your first job, your worst job, your first dumpy apartment, or your own apprehension when it was your turn to enter the workforce. Give them the benefit of your experience and welcome them into the club of uncertainty and not always getting it right the first time. We’ve all been members.

Congratulations to all graduates, from college right down to kindergarten. Remember, first grade is a whole new world… with better scissors.

— Janine Talbot

Janine Talbot, an award winner in the humor-writing category of the 2016 Annual Column Contest of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, writes a weekly humor column for the Journal Tribune in southern Maine. An empty nester since her two daughters had the nerve to believe it when they were told to follow their dreams, Janine lives with her spouse of 30+ years, who often forgets that his actions are fodder for her column, and two and a half cats. She blogs at www.momofmanywords.com.

There’s way too much ‘smart’ in my life

Over the past few years, I’ve managed to snatch the power back from my Smartphone, my Smarthouse, even those obnoxious Smartkids of mine, and become a Smartwoman.

But now I have a new foe and it’s proving problematic.

My Smartcar.

This is the fourth time in a week I’m in my garage, standing outside my new car, anxious, a knot in my throat, a feeling of dread. Quite a difference from the love I felt at the dealership. It reminded me of the football players I liked in college. They looked good on the outside until they spoke. Then I wanted to punch them.

Same for my new car.

I calm my nerves, take a deep breath, slowly place my hand on the door and get in.

I push a button and the car turns on.

Champagne, anyone?

So far so good.

I hit the menu button and the computer screen lights up asking if I want the menu to appear on the virtual cockpit. I don’t want to fly over Russia. I want to drive to HomeGoods.

I sign into the car’s WIFI, then synch my iPod to my car. I’m killin’ it here! But in synching my iPod I can’t figure out how to synch my phone. They both use Bluetooth technology and one seems to be canceling the other out. I feel like I’m in the car with two squabbling kids fighting for my attention. Which do I want more — music or phone? I choose the iPod because it’s been 20 minutes in the garage, so at least I’ll have music while flying reconnaissance over Russia. I sheepishly grab my bag of old technology and use the headset to synch to my phone.

My husband walks by and informs me I no longer need the headset.

Think of two words, people. I can’t repeat them.

I don’t need a Smarthusband.

Maybe I’ll have more luck with navigation: An alphabet chart comes up. 977valleyroadgilettenj. I’m unable to add spaces so I toggle down and I’m instructed to draw address on optional touchpad. Excuse me? Draw? On a touchpad? What touchpad?! I. Want. To. Go. To. HomeGoods! Not draw! Grabbing the bag of old technology, I find the Garmin GPS, plug it in, type the address (with spaces) and, voila, it calculates the trip. Thank you, Jesus.

$10K extra for technology is so worth it, said no one ever.

My husband walks by and notices the plugged-in Garmin GPS.

This time he says nothing.

Smarter than Einstein, that one.

It’s been 30 minutes in the garage. Maybe I’ll skip Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, synching, flying over Russia and just drive the damn car. So, I’m off. At a stop light the car turns off. My blood pressure is up to 450. Miraculously, I step on the gas and the car turns on, but a green foot with an arrow appears on the dash, which means I’m going above the speed limit. My car obviously has a dual personality, morphing into my mother telling me to slow down. How much more did this cost me?

Mistakenly, I hit a button on the steering wheel and a voice in sotto voce asks me what I want to do next. What I’d like to do next is punch the car in its virtual cockpit, but instead while pulling out a chunk of hair on my head, I loudly speak, “Call home.” I need to apologize to my husband. Sotto voce informs me it doesn’t recognize my voice. Then I come to a stop sign and the engine turns off.

My next car will be a golf cart.

Where was I?

Ah, yes. HomeGoods.

So, I finally get to HomeGoods. I buy the dishes I came for and try to swipe my points card, which hangs on my key ring. Then I realize I don’t have my keys. My Smartcar doesn’t require keys to turn itself on or off. Did I turn the car off? Cripes, the car is so smart it may be at Burger King having a Whopper by now. I leave the dishes and find my car. It is running and I swear it’s snickering.

I hit the same button I previously hit by mistake and in my own NOT so sotto voce speak, “Go home. ” And it calculates the route home. Cue a crazed woman with a bald spot on the right side of her head, doing the dab dance in the parking lot.

I feel hope.

Over the next few weeks, armed with a 425-page manual, various YouTube videos, on-line tutorials, trial and error, and yes, my friends, screaming at the dashboard/virtual cockpit, I snatch the power from the Smartcar and become a Smartwoman. I learn to synch everything, master steering wheel controls, the start/stop system, the optional touchpad, the instrument cluster, the virtual cockpit, navigation system, voice activation, cruise control, Apple CarPlay and Sirius. I even set my seats and synch the climate. I am familiar with 87 possible indicator lights.

I put my trusty bag of old technology back into the old car.

I am a Smartwoman.

Now if I could just find my keys to get into my house.

— Tracy Buckner

Tracy Buckner writes for The Observer Tribune of Chester, N.J., and blogs for the New Jersey Hills family of newspapers, which serve Madison, Chatham and Chester, New Jersey. She enjoys writing about the slow decline and vows to go down kicking and screaming. You can read more of her musings on her blog: “Aging, Kids, Family and Why We Self-Medicate.”

Avoid embarrassment and hire an editor

Have you been sending one manuscript after another to those publishing houses with bosses who make unreasonable demands with a sense of self-importance?

You can treat these people as if they were not there and self-publish your own book. Then you can watch with a sense of glee as they salivate when your book flies off the shelves of major booksellers.

How do you do this? Find a good editor and self publish your book.

The biggest mistake many authors make is to think that they are jacks of all trades. Others do not even consider using the services of an editor because they have certain misconceptions. Let’s debunk them.

• Editors are expensive. Yes, they are. Few good things that provide value are cheap. However, you can reduce the cost of using an editor by proofreading your own work before asking an editor to look at it.
• I am self-publishing. This is an ironic statement as I certainly think self-publishers need an editor more than authors who have their books published by someone else. Your talent is in writing; let the people who have expertise in other fields do their work.
• No one corrects me. Well, that’s just ego speaking.  I do not know many authors who succeed who think this way.
• I produce perfect work. Those who coined the adage, “no one is perfect,” knew what they were talking about.
• It’s electronic. Even if you can correct after publishing, what about those who have already seen the mistakes and told their friends or written unflattering reviews?

What are the benefits of hiring an editor?

Saving Time

There is a reason editor and author are two different words; they mean two different things. Many writers believe that by virtue of being an author they have become editors. This is simply not true. An editor is a writer with extensive experience. Editors can do in a very short period of time something that can take you a whole day.

Improving Clarity

Having a great idea does not always mean that you have the necessary skills to communicate the idea clearly. As a writer, you need someone to ensure that your work will make sense to the reader. Ever hear about the term readability? This is a test that asks how easy your work will be to the reader. No matter how great your ideas are, if the reader does not understand them, you have not done a great job.

Maybe you are a good writer and your ideas are expressed well, but how sure are you that you have organized your ideas in a coherent manner? There’s no need for guessing. Just give the work to an editor and see what she will do with the organization.

Reducing Stress

The work of a writer can be stressful and time-consuming, particularly if you have chosen the self-publishing route. You have no agent to help you with the difficult processes that can help you get your book in the market.

Some of the stresses that an editor can help alleviate include:

• Profiling the readers and deciding the best style for reaching them
• Writing technical documents in a way that can be understood by the average reader
• Reducing time taken to eventually getting the book published
• Reducing time required to revise the book before publishing
• Removing errors from the text

Providing an Objective View

It is a fact that when looking at your own work, you lose your objectivity.  The editor represents the reader who is finally going to read your work. Attempting to be an editor of your own work is like trying to be a player and a referee in your own game.

Building Confidence

If you select a good editor, you are selecting a leader in their craft. You are making sure that you are not attempting to reinvent the wheel. When you have a good editor, you can tap into his knowledge and, in the process, improve your own editing skills. By criticizing your work, an editor can help you build confidence. How? By giving you constructive feedback. Remember, good editors, do not just go out of their way to pick a fight. As you receive feedback and improve your writing, you build confidence.

Ever wonder why there are so many of them bad self-published books? Even though it may be difficult to accept criticism when you think that you are good writer, a strong editor can deliver this critique in a constructive manner that will help you boost your confidence. An editor gives you the objective eye that you lack when you are looking at your own work.

In summary, good editing can make or break your self-published career.

— Tia Moreen

Tia Moreen is a blog editor, writer, entrepreneur and traveler.

Poppie’s back story

A little while back, I had a bad back. It was one of the few times that otherwise helpful people didn’t say to me, “I have your back.” And no wonder. Who’d want it?

The garbageman didn’t. I threw my back out, but he wouldn’t take it.

In fact, that’s how I got a bad back. The garbageman had just taken away everything in the garbage bin, which was light and empty, just like my head. I was bringing the bin back to the backyard, which is not a bad backyard because I don’t have to take care of it, though if I did, the backyard would no doubt give me a bad back.

But back to my story. I was carrying the bin back when I felt a sudden pain in my back. It was as if somebody (the garbageman, perhaps) had jammed a hot fireplace poker into it.

That wasn’t the case, of course, because I don’t have a fireplace and I don’t play poker.

Still, as I limped painfully back to the house, it brought me back to the two other times I have had a bad back.

The first time was when I was carrying an air conditioner down a flight of stairs. That I wrenched my back was understandable because the typical air conditioner weighs about as much as a baby grand piano. Or, if you are not musically inclined, a dead body, which might as well have been mine.

The second time was not so understandable because I was bending down to get dishwashing liquid under the kitchen sink when a bolt of lightning coursed down my spine, preventing me from straightening up and making me the human equivalent of an isosceles triangle, an unfortunate comparison since I flunked high school geometry.

Every time I have had a bad back, I have talked with people who either have had a bad back themselves or have known other people who have had a bad back and have contradictory suggestions for treating it.

They are: exercise, relaxation, cold and/or heat. My favorite suggestion was to let somebody walk on my back. Unfortunately, I don’t know Heidi Klum and would probably get stuck with Chris Christie.

Until this most recent flare-up, I thought the two best things for a bad back were rest and beer. But now I have an even better answer: grandchildren.

Recently, my granddaughters, Chloe, 4, and Lilly, 7 months, spent the weekend with me and my wife, Sue, who has a great back. Frequently, however, she has a pain in the area directly south of it, a condition she attributes to yours truly. Only wine can help.

This time, Chloe and Lilly helped me. When they arrived, Chloe wanted me to pick her up so she could give me a kiss. She weighs 36 pounds, not an extraordinary amount for someone who has built up his muscles by doing 12-ounce curls. But when that weight is moving in all directions while being held in your arms, it adds several long tons of pressure to an already sore back.

Miraculously, I didn’t collapse. Chloe kissed me and said, “I love you, Poppie!” Suddenly, I felt a lot better.

Then I picked up Lilly, who weighs 14 pounds, and kissed her. She cooed. I carried her around the house for a while, which helped me work the knots (sheepshank, not sailor’s) out of my back.

For the next two days, I bent down to play with Lilly while she was in her bouncy seat, played hide-and-seek with Chloe, held Lilly to give her a bottle, lifted Chloe onto my lap so I could read to her, sprawled on the floor during tummy time with Lilly, and otherwise had a ball with the girls.

By the end of the weekend, I was cured. To stay that way, I will soon see my 2-month-old, 12-pound grandson, Xavier, whom I will carry around to keep in shape.

When it comes to feeling good, my grandkids have my back.

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows BestLeave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is the past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

The clothes whisperer

HELP! I fear I am going mad.

The fashion world is making all clothing styles smaller than usual. My washing machine seems to be shrinking everything else, even those items I’ve never washed.

I hear footsteps in my bedroom. My clothes want to go back in the closet. Not simply because I stretch them to distraction. They whisper about my fickleness and they take it personally.

They are not wrong when they talk of me forgetting them whenever I purchase something new that does not cut off circulation.

It is true, I can love my outfit, not be seen without it for weeks, but alas, as soon as another catches my fancy and fits my fanny, well frankly, the others no longer exists in my memory.

Hello. My name is Jan and I am A CLOTHES SLUT.

At this moment a sailor outfit wants out. It claims white is not my color and it is quite militant about that. I have pleaded and cajoled, but I know the rage it is experiencing is really from neglect. Aside from the fact that I just bought a big-boy combat shirt at an army surplus store and I am blinded by love for this kaki cookie, the sailor blouse is a size 6. I have not been a size 6 since, well since I was six!

I will loan it to my petite friend as a foster outfit, to live with her until I am able to use kale as my primary food source.

There is also noisy hostility coming from my neglected clothes. The rustling is deafening. Thus, I am sleepless with My Pillow, Your Pillow and His as well.

In addition, my apparel falls off the hangers or plays hide and seek when I am in a hurry.

Fortunately, I am now seeing a clothing counselor.

Dr. Plink, the shrink (why they are called that I’ll never know since I am the same size since I began therapy), suggested I go on a journey to find myself. I packed my shirt and left a note for the clothes. I was on my way to me land.

Just a footnote here that you may already know. Television makes us appear 10 pounds heavier. I have three.

Thirty pounds of an optical illusion of fake fat, Still, I hopped a train for Katemoss Mountain to find answers…and maybe a cupcake.

So,  goodby for now pantyhose. We have been estranged for years since your constant complaining and begging for mercy over the “one size fits all”label and jealousy because I started going commando caused by your ever-present stretchy-down-to-my-knees baggy crotch.

Someday I shall return as a lovely bikini babe when swimwear is designed for XXXL.

I shall always remember and hope you do, too, that the bigger the figure, the more there is…

— Jan Marshall

Jan Marshall has devoted her life’s work to humor and healing through books, columns and motivational speaking. As founder of the International Humor & Healing Institute, she worked with board members Norman Cousins, Steve Allen and other physicians and entertainers, including John Cleese. Her newest satirical survival book, Dancin’ Schmancin’ with the Scars: Finding the Humor No Matter What! is dedicated to Wounded Warriors, Gabrielle Giffords and Grieving Parents. She donates a percentage of the profits to these organizations as well as to the American Cancer Society and the American Brain Tumor Association.

The manny

If I ever retire — with the way things are going, I’ll be working posthumously — I will use my newfound freedom and heretofore undiscovered talent to do what I was apparently born to do: I’ll be a full-time babysitter for my three grandchildren.

I know this is my true calling because I recently got a ringing endorsement from my younger daughter, Lauren, who is the mommy of my two granddaughters, Chloe, 4, and Lilly, 6 months, whom I have babysat many times without mess, mayhem or mishap. Or at least without anything that couldn’t be cleaned up with some sort of disinfectant.

“I vouched for you,” Lauren told me after she got a call from my older daughter, Katie, the mommy of my new grandson, Xavier. My wife, Sue, and I were about to embark on a road trip to meet the little guy and Katie wanted to know if I could be trusted to care for Xavier by myself in case she and Sue went out to shop for food, diapers or, as a perk for being a new mother, wine.

“If I could hire Dad full time, I would,” Lauren told Katie. “But I can’t afford him.”

I was so flattered that I offered to work for nothing, which is exactly what I am worth in my present job.

But I proved my value during the week Sue and I spent with Katie, daddy Dave and, of course, Xavier, who is beautiful, just like Chloe and Lilly.

Aside from Dave; Lauren’s husband, Guillaume; and yours truly, Xavier is the only male in the immediate family, which otherwise consists of Sue, Katie, Lauren, Chloe, Lilly and Maggie the dog, the sole surviving member of a pet population that once consisted of another dog (Lizzie) and four cats (Ramona, Kitty, Bernice and, the only male, Henry, with whom I never really bonded).

But I more than made up for it with Xavier. Our male bonding included 2 a.m. feedings. I fed Xavier, too.

These sessions sometimes began as early as midnight and as late as 4 a.m. because Xavier hadn’t developed a regular sleeping pattern, which means his parents and grandparents hadn’t, either.

But it was my pleasure to stay up with him. There was giggling, snoring, burping, hiccuping, drooling, sneezing, tooting and other bodily functions common to guys of a certain age, be it 3 weeks or 63 years.

Speaking of bodily functions, you novice babysitters should know that, while boys and girls should never be treated differently as far as love and attention are concerned, there is a distinct difference when it comes to changing their diapers.

That’s because boys have an apparatus that is not unlike a water cannon or, considering the oscillation, an in-ground sprinkler system. After the first two changes, for which I should have worn a raincoat and a pair of goggles, I was convinced that Xavier will grow up to be a firefighter.

It was a geyser on a geezer.

But I didn’t mind at all. Eventually I learned to put a towel over the aforementioned anatomical feature while attending to the No. 2 concern.

After one changing, Katie said to me, “Put Xavier’s pants on.”

I replied, “I don’t think they’ll fit me.”

Xavier, I swear to God, smiled.

“Did Poppie make a joke?” Katie asked Xavier.

He smiled again. Then he burped. That’s my boy!

Sue also pitched in, of course. She took some of the feedings, but mainly she prepared meals, something I couldn’t do without having to call 911. Our main job, aside from enjoying our grandson, was to give some relief to Katie and Dave, who are wonderful parents, just like Lauren and Guillaume.

The day we left, I asked Katie, “How did I do? Was Lauren right?”

“You were good,” Katie said. “You were really good. In fact, you were fantastic. Forget a nanny. You could be a manny. I’d hire you. If you ever retire,” she added, “give me a call.”

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows BestLeave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is the past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Reflections of Erma