In our Chicago suburb during the 1960s, certain phrases reminded our family of five we shared more than the three bedroom ranch house:
1. “That’s your color, baby.”
2. “I guess the man who did it died.”
3. “Think fast.”
4. “Balance in all things.”
As a girl, Mom had shopped on Maxwell Street in Chicago, a kind of farmer’s market without food where vendors offered stuff for sale, like fur stoles and coffee percolators. One vendor always said, “That’s your color, baby” whenever a shopper stopped to examine one of his garments, no matter who the shopper and what the color. I don’t know if this helped sales but the compliment lingered in mind, like a wink. It found a cozy spot in our family lexicon.
As a grown woman, Mom’s way of disciplining her two sons and me was spotty. She waved a wooden spoon and sometimes landed a soft blow as we feigned ignorance about a misdeed. I imagine she did penance for that. She was better at saying, “I guess the man who did it, died.” This delivered guilt as intended. It found a spot in our family lexicon by sheer repetition.
“Think fast” evidenced the tendency among offspring to dominate the tribe. It involved a ball or any toss-able object within reach. The toss-er said “Think fast” while launching the toss-able at the head of the unprepared toss-ee. This improve no one’s mental agility of course; but we liked the wild daring of saying it.
“Balance in all things” came from Dad who was personally disposed to the abstract. Mom rarely experienced balance. She was personally disposed to seek attainable things. But Dad liked the phrase so much he used it to refer to eating habits, to relationships, to politics, to landscaping, to dancing. It was one of his “go-to” phrases so we kept it.