A few weeks ago in a post on Parrot and Olivier in America, I mentioned my childhood friend Pippi from Australia. Calling her up from memory prompted me to track her down on Facebook. Say what you will about the time-wasting, social-chastening, death-hastening, life-sucking, mind-flucking (not a much of a cusser here) nature of Facebook, it allowed me to reconnect to a person who would otherwise forever be considered a figment of my imagination by my husband.
Anyway, for reasons unknown, this morning I woke up thinking about Pippi’s mother. Mothers of our childhood friends have staying power. Often they are our first introduction to the idea that people don’t all live the same. I can’t remember what Mrs. Woodger looked like, her physical presence eludes me, but I do remember and will always remember, two things she said.
The Woodgers rented the house across the street. One time they invited our family over for dinner. Mrs. Woodger served big fat grilled sausages, which amazed us, because sausages were not on our dinner menu. We crowded in their dining room, elbow to elbow, and as we sat, someone came to join us, perhaps my brother Charlie. Mrs. Woodger made a place for him, saying cheerfully, “There’s always room for one more boy!”
I love that. Always room for one more boy/girl/human being. It’s so welcoming, and just the spirit for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Table settings and napkin counts be darned. Who cares if there’s only 16 water goblets and a pint of gravy: There’s always room for one more boy! And if you’re certain you have enough friends and don’t need more or think your social circle is set and your heart full enough, let Mrs. Woodger come to you in spirit, woo hoo, woo hoo, and say: There’s always room for one more boy.
The other phrase of hers is less profound but just as sweet to remember. Whenever one of her daughters. . . uh-oh . . . now my memory is kicking in and I’m realizing that I’ve confused Mrs. Woodger with Mrs. Mudie. Mrs. Mudie, also Australian, mother of Annette, Lindell and Genelle (my memory is really working now!) moved into the Woodger house when the Woodgers moved back home. Anyway, whenever one of Mrs. Mudie’s daughters got a splinter, she’d apply the tweezers and say, “Out, foul jelly!”
Out, foul jelly is a mildly corrupted version of a line from Shakespeare’s King Lear. When Cornwall puts out Gloucester’s remaining eyeball, he says, “Out, vile jelly!”
Out, vile jelly! Out, foul jelly! Either way it’s very fun to say out loud with an Australian accent.