Tete-a-tete Archives

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Tete-a-tete: To call it a ‘mooving’ ride would be inaccurate

Many adolescents mistakenly assume that if they tell their parents how embarrassing they are, their parents will refrain from doing things that embarrass them.

As my own family has demonstrated, such admonitions only make parents more determined to be embarrassing.

We recently went to Edaville USA, a small family amusement park in Carver, Mass., to take in its annual display of Christmas lights. The majority of lights are best viewed by riding the narrow-gauge railroad that encircles the park.

After disembarking from the train, we immediately got into line for the Ferris wheel, which offers a spectacular aerial view of nearly all the lights at the park – the exception being, of course, the lights behind you.

It was a 45-minute wait, so we passed the time by talking about the illuminations we had just seen. During a discussion of the various animals included in the Noah’s Ark display, Mom, who was raised on a beef cattle farm, brought up one of her pet peeves:

“When they teach animal sounds in school, the cow sound is never taught correctly. Cows do not go ‘moo.’ They go – ”

Before she could demonstrate, Youngest Brother put his hand in front of her mouth.

“Don’t do it, Mom! That’s so embarrassing!”

Mom tried again, only to be cut off by Younger Sister.

“Oh, my gosh, Mom, stop!”

Mom’s cow impersonation is the stuff of family legend. Along with all the beef cattle, Mom had a pet cow she frequently had to chase down when it snuck out of its pen. She is therefore well acquainted with the sound cows make.

This sound isn’t the popularly accepted “moo” – it’s more along the lines of “MuuUUURRRMMMmmmhh.” And since Mom is a stickler for accuracy, in addition to proper intonation, she does this at appropriate cow volume.

After being stifled twice, Mom acquiesced to my youngest siblings’ request. The conversation turned to other topics, like who would be riding together on the Ferris wheel, and the issue of cow sounds was forgotten.

Our turn to ride finally came. Younger Sister and her friend were in one gondola, with Oldest Younger Brother and Youngest Brother taking the next one. Mom and I were the last to board.

I was pleased to be riding with Mom, as I quite enjoy her company. I had also remembered about halfway through the wait that I’m mildly terrified of heights. Since these were open gondolas and this Ferris wheel spun a bit faster than others I had been on, it was comforting to know I’d be riding with someone who wouldn’t try to rock the car and to whom I could cling if necessary.

As the Ferris wheel launched into its first rotation, I cringed and closed my eyes, grateful I had Mom’s hand to grab onto. I tried not to think about the sign at the base of the ride informing riders that the Ferris wheel had been constructed in 1953 and did my best to dismiss associated panic-inducing ruminations on the nature of metal fatigue.

As we reached the peak of the first rotation, I heard a noise next to me that sounded like the groaning of a rusty metal beam. My eyes flew open to see Mom, joyfully doing her cow impersonation, head thrown back to triangulate for maximum embarrassment.

Since Mom had been denied the opportunity to share her cow impersonation earlier, she simply waited until such time as no one would prevent her from doing it. There was no way her slightly acrophobic oldest daughter was going to unclench her fingers from the bar and try to stop her, and the top of the Ferris wheel allowed her to reach an even wider audience than she could have on the ground.

The top of the Ferris wheel is the highest point in Carver, and there were 10,000 people at the amusement park that day. I imagine the entire park, not to mention the town beyond, heard the mooing.

Once we had our feet back on terra firma, the rest of the family weighed in on Mom’s bovine bellowing.

Oldest Younger Brother thought it was a fantastic performance. Like me, he’s old enough to know there are more important things to worry about (such as falling off a Ferris wheel and going splat) than a parent’s harmlessly eccentric behavior.

Youngest Brother was still a little shaky. Mom and I had been in the gondola beneath him and he had reacted in surprise when the mooing began, causing his own gondola to sway a bit more than was comfortable.

Younger Sister said the mooing had been cringe-worthy, but admitted it wasn’t as bad as if Mom had done it on the ground. Since no one could tell where the sound was coming from, no one knew whom to stare at.

Dad, who had waited beside the Ferris wheel and watched our ride, seemed to have enjoyed the experience the most – perhaps even more so than Mom.

“I got to see you guys go around, which was fun,” he said, “but the best part was watching the two men in charge of the Ferris wheel trying to figure out what on earth was going on.”

From now on, I imagine my youngest siblings will approach issues of parental embarrassment with greater circumspection. This whole experience has left them rather cowed.

– Teresa Santoski


Originally published Dec. 15, 2011.

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