Mom Talks Gaga

Note to the reader: Some of you have asked. Yes, I can speak Polish. I would venture to say though that I understand it better than I can speak it.  Unless I’m in language boot camp mode like when I’ve visited Poland and I snap right into shape. Immersion is good for things like that.  I usually talk to my parents and aunt in a mixture of Polish and English. My parents used to speak only in Polish to me but over the years it has also become a mix.  Not to mention the third Polonia language they’ve created. Ciocia Felicia only speaks Polish.  I can also read relatively easy things- like letters from Mom or my relatives. I can’t write very well though.  But when I push myself for small batches of sentences I can do it.  I think understanding, speaking, reading, writing is the line up of how many first generation children learn language- comprehension can be stronger than any other facet.

…and now to the musing.

I was sitting on the couch with Mom over Christmas. I half heard something she was saying ‘blah blah blah Gaga.’

Did you just say Gaga? Lady Gaga?

Yuh, Gaga.

You know who Lady Gaga is?

She shot me a look. Same one I get when I swear.

Jak bym ja to niewiedziałm, kto Gaga jest?  Ona miała suknię z mięsem. Nawet Ciocia wie kto Gaga jest.

 Translation: How would I not know who Gaga is?  She had a meat dress.  Even your Aunt knows who Gaga is.

Ciocia, a blessed 84 years old, sat on the love seat next to us.  She looked up at me and said “Gaga.”

My mom said Gaga like they are on a first name basis with each other.  When I told her to say the words Lady Gaga again, she waved me off like a house fly.

“Say it again! I like the way you say her name.”

Maybe this insistence was where I picked up one of my many nicknames, Pest and Piła (Saw) just to name two endearments. As a kid If I wanted to sleep over my friend Holly or Julie’s house, and she said no, I would pout and repeat “I wanna go. Iwannago. Iwannago.”  I mentally chained myself to her leg.

I usually got what I wanted by wearing her down.

There are certain things that my mom says in English that I want her to repeat. I like hearing the flow of Polish come to a flying halt of English. Like when some years ago she stopped by the liquor store near Market Basket to buy scratch tickets and said to me, “Kupiłem Cash Blizzard.”  I bought Cash Blizzard.

Not two words I have ever heard her put together. So I hear them. It’s the English words that become foreign and stand out to me. The figurative is distilled. The sounds and meaning seem new.

For a split second my Polish mother becomes a pop culture American and the two worlds we both live in bump out of orbit.


13 comments on “Mom Talks Gaga

  1. Marek says:

    When she tours Poland will it be “Pani Gaga”?

  2. Sarah Donovan says:

    Love this!!! It reminds me of Peace Corps when my school director would have staff meetings. He would start in English but then quickly break into Tigrinya w/ an English word sprinkled in. I would hear blah, blah, blah, English word, blah, blah, blah. I miss those days!

  3. Adam Matusiak says:

    Lady Gaga is the marketing queen! She’s breaking all kinds of barriers and winning over even the most unexpected fans :-)

  4. hahaha… “blah blah blah Gaga.” I think it’s hilarious that you even picked up on the fact that she was referring to Lady Gaga, that this former baby-sound has become that recognizable. Your mom sounds delightful. I can’t wait to read your memoir!

    • Jannett Matusiak says:

      It’s funny when she said Gaga…it was like a record needle scratching across an album. It immediately got my attention. And I thought, did I just hear what I thought I heard? lol! Thanks for your support as always.

  5. Young B. Kim says:

    Some members of my family speak in a hybrid language, too: Konglish (Korean + English)

    So would a Polish hybrid be called Ponglish?

    So what exactly did your Ciocis say about “Gaga Ajima”??? (That’s Konglish for Lady Gaga) :-)

    • Jannett Matusiak says:

      You kill me with the Konglish. I think the Polish hybrid is called Polonian.

      Ciocia said Gaga Ajima had crazy clothes but is very smart. I called them on New Years and asked if they watched Gaga in New York. They said Yes.

      My mother said in Polish- everyone wanted to know what Gaga was going to wear. I asked, What did you think? She said, She came out wearing an egg.

  6. Candace says:

    Love the dialogue, Jannett! Especially “she had a meat dress.”. Great story by a great writer.

    • Jannett Matusiak says:

      Thanks Candace! I had to hyperlink the the picture and article about the meat dress, because it was just a little too much to take in. ha!

  7. Holly De Santis says:

    OMG! I’m famous! I made your blog. LOL!!! I remember sitting in the kitchen listening to your family speak to one another in the majority polish and a little english desperately trying to figure out what and who was being talked about. :)

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