Mom--Dad--my sister Nancy in our backyard about 1963
Mom was the architect of small but important ideas that enriched the lives of her children. She taught us how to braid by hanging up a piece of cardboard with 3 hanks of yarn attached for us to manipulate. She taught me how to ride the city bus so I could go to my grandparents' house for the weekend--at about age eight. She ran us kids through 'decorum drills' so that we were able to be smooth in the presence of company. And her prescience now and then headed-off potentially harsh or embarrassing moments in our lives.
Dad worked in the field of forms design and management for Lockheed Aircraft Co., located at what is now Hollywood-Burbank Airport. His office, in Building #9, was right next to the air terminal. Offices were formal then. Men wore white shirts, dark suits and conservative ties every day; women wore suits or dresses, heels and jewelry, and got their hair done every week. Work hours were 8 to 5, and they meant it. Most families had one car as did we, so Dad carpooled to work with other men in dark suits. To sum it up, white collar work was a stiff, regulated, button-up environment.
One fine day when I was about nine, Mom announced that we four children were going to visit Dad's work on our way to an event. What a rare treat! We would wear our Sunday best, and for weeks we brushed up on our manners. We practiced hand-shaking, curtsies (bows for my brother), our "how-do-you-dos" and "pleased to meet yous." We would be meeting Dad's co-workers: Mr. Benedon, Mrs. Knaack, and a staffer named Pauline Pupich. Yeah, that last one was problematic. Mom knew just how we would react to meeting Miss Poop (ich). It wouldn't be pretty. In fact, it would look about like this.
Mom approached the problem this way. If she said the name Pupich hundreds of times before we actually met Miss Pupich, we would get our laughs out of us, and be straight-faced at the critical moment. So for weeks at very unexpected times, Mom uttered the word, Poop-ich, with an emphasis on the 'POOP,' in our presence. She could be in mid-sentence, say the 'magic' word, then continue on with her thought. She delivered it while tucking us in at night, while serving up dinner, and when she breezed through the room while we did our homework.
Presto! It worked. We silly kids were so tired of hearing it, that when we met beautiful blond Pauline Pupich, not a laugh crossed our lips. Mom was so proud of us; I think we got some kind of reward. Really, Mom deserved a reward for her brilliant strategy. We kept our dignity and so did Pauline.
NOTE: After writing this I wondered about Pauline. She was probably in her late 20s at the time of our only meeting. A Google search showed she was born in CA in 1934, in 1955 was a student at Valley College, and was active in student affairs. She married John Richmond in 1968. I found a 2012 obituary of her brother Milan that said Pauline pre-deceased him. Further search shows she passed away in 2007. And she is buried in the same cemetery as my Mom. Mmmm. Life can be so strange.