Wednesday, October 14, 2009


"Hey sweet baby" is my standard greeting to my teen-aged son (but not where anyone else can hear.) It looks a little weird written down, but the word "hey" is a substitute for "hello" where I grew up, "sweet" modifies almost everything in Southern vernacular, and in that part of the world one can legitimately be referred to as "baby" by one's parents, aunts, and uncles until death do us all part.

Cute aside: One of my sisters called her son "sweet pea" when he was little. She occasionally called him "sweet potato." He returned the endearment one day by calling her "sweet corn." That still makes me smile.

So . . .last week I was helping my son with homework---an English assignment to write about James Fenimore (10/10/09) Cooper's "The Deerslayer." I remembered a book of Mark Twain essays that I have been carrying around so long that the binding has long since given out. The book includes some of his searingly funny critiques of Cooper. If you haven't read them, I highly recommend it.

Inside the book, in handwriting only vaguely familiar, was the inscription:

Hey Sweet Nina,

I surely did miss you while I was in Washington, and thought you might like this book.


Daddy. October 15, 1974

I had forgotten that was there. Well, I really have liked the book, Daddy. Thanks for leaving me something from you that I can unreservedly share with your grandson.