Jenta ja jenta ja
All tobble out da vagon ya
He may matta kensa kata suro
My great-grandpa Buzz used to sing that to my great-grandma Doris back when they were dating. Doris is from Sweden and Buzz was born in America. When he’d spend days with her family, he mostly sat in a chair in a corner of the room. He couldn’t talk to anyone and no one could talk to him. He observed the way they spoke and made up that song that is nothing but Swedish-sounding gibberish to keep from getting bored.
About the same time he met Doris, he got job at a butchery. This other Swedish woman used to give him a hard time.
“She was a rascal,” my grandpa says.
She taught him to say vill du gifta dig med mig and told him to run home and tell his lady friend that.
So one evening they were sitting side by side on the front porch swing and my grandpa whispered, “Vill du gifta dig med mig?” to his sweetheart.
He was meaning to impress her.
Doris’s sharp blue eyes grew big and she tucked her chin down into her chest so that inky black bangs fell to cover her face.
“Do you have any idea what you just asked me?” she whispered without looking at him.
My grandpa was smug. He didn’t take anything too seriously.
When Doris looked up, her peachy cheeks were flushed scarlet, so my grandpa gave in and shook his head no.
“You just asked me to marry you, Buzz.”
Like I said, he never did take life too seriously and so just like everything else, he laughed his way into marriage.
Sixty years later, and my grandparents youth is long gone. Doris’s hair is a wispy white. Buzz’s chin has given into gravity and sags towards his lap. They’ve retired to wheelchairs and the mercy of people younger than them.
But the memory of their youth lingers: over the fields of their hometown country farm, in my grandma’s eyes, the same luscious bright blue they were when she was 17 and engaged, and in that song that somehow managed to slip through the gates of generations.
Grandpa can’t hear anything anymore but we’re still singin it. It was nonsense then but it has meaning now. It tells me not to take life too seriously.
It will come.
And be gone.
So laugh, I guess.
That’s what Grandpa did.