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Let Inga Tell You: Famous family quotes

Henry, age 12: 'There's nothing to do in Europe.'
(La Jolla Light File Photo)

LET INGA TELL YOU:

I think every family has some classic lines that everyone remembers — including and especially the person who often regrets uttering them. Others are just shorthand for favorite family stories that can be resurrected with a single phrase.

Here’s a few from our family:

“There’s nothing to do in Europe.” Henry, age 12, declining a trip to Europe with his father and brother. He elected to stay home and play Nintendo games.

“If I’m lying, let lightning strike Henry.” Rory, age 7, staking his story to his five-year-old brother’s life. (By the way, he was lying.)

“Shape up or I’ll kiss you in front of your friends.” My ultimate threat to my young sons when they were misbehaving.

“Shape up or I’ll wear a bathing suit in front of your friends.” Ultimate threat, teenage years.

We had a pool, often populated by the kids and their friends, so I could easily make good on it.

“I’m not sure I could go to school in a cold climate.” Rory, after his tour of the UC Santa Cruz campus. (He did go, and lives there to this day.)

“Dear, if the market goes up another 10 percent, could we get a new bath mat?” Olof’s plaintive plea a few weeks after we were married. I had had so little money during my 12 years as a single parent that the house had gotten really shabby. And personally, I thought there was still life in that bathmat.

“I just called you in February!” College sophomore Henry replying to our concern in April that we hadn’t heard from him in a long time. (Friends with daughters often remarked that they spoke three times a day.)

“Your mother is taking nourishment. And Girl Scout cookies.” Olof assuring our sons by email that I was finally recovering from a serious bout of flu.

“Do people know you’re not funny in person?” My sons’ query when I would be invited for speaking engagements.

“Why can’t everyone just speak English?” Henry, in high school, struggling with Spanish, the only B of his high school career.

“You’ve been like a mother to me.” Rory’s (age 10) hand-made Mother’s Day card to me. It has become a classic, with pretty much every bouquet of Mother’s Day flowers in the last 20 years accompanied by this message. (I still have the card.)

“Well, off to kill some enemy operatives!” Olof’s statement to my sons as he left the house every morning. They had seen the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie “True Lies” about a terrorist-battling secret agent whose cover is a nerdy computer guy and they were convinced that this was Olof’s story as well. It didn’t help that Olof’s college roommates told the kids that they were sure he had been a spy.

“I’d like to thank my dad for teaching me to have fun.” Henry, 17, upon receiving a hugely prestigious national award, when asked by an interviewing reporter if there was anyone he’d like to thank. Dad — my former husband — had not driven a single car pool or done a trip to the library or medical visit or helped with even one school project in this kid’s entire school career. For weeks afterwards, it was all I could do not to poison Henry’s lunches.

“You didn’t grow up in poverty, but you did grow up in squalor.” Olof commenting on both the kids’ assessment that they’d grown up in poverty (relative to their friends who often took holiday trips to Aspen or Hawaii), and on his affectionately-vicious assessment of my housekeeping skills.

“I love you higher than the sky and deeper than the pool.” Rory’s pre-school valentine to me as transcribed literally by his teacher. I never wanted to ask: the one-foot end or the eight-foot end?

“It’s only a desert if you think of it that way. I prefer to think of it as a very large beach with surf breaking on both sides.” Olof, who spent an aggregate of four years working in Saudi Arabia, optimistically headed out for another month-long stint there.

“A closed mouth gathers no feet.” My oft-uttered but rarely followed motto. Usually heard as I’m berating myself for failing to stop talking five minutes earlier than I actually did.

To this day, Henry looks pained when someone revives the Europe quote, but both kids remember their terror that I’d present my chubby self out at our pool in a bathing suit. (Must have been all those Girl Scout cookies.)

Inga’s lighthearted looks at life appear regularly in La Jolla Light. Reach her at inga47@san.rr.com