By C. L. Beck
Words are magical. Even when they’re nonsensical—like mairzy doats and dozy doats, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, or tisp—they stick with you, following you wherever you go, popping up at the oddest times.
Being filled with Christmas cheer one year, my husband, his mother and I were making Christmas cookies. Russ and I were newlyweds and still learning each other’s enduring young charms. That explains why I made the mistake of letting him read the ingredients out loud while his mom and I put them in the bowl.
It wasn’t that I was naïve about his abilities; I’d already watched his gift wrapping skills at work. He would enclose a present in layers of wrapping paper and tape, which became more wrinkled and wadded as he worked with it. No matter what the initial shape, when he was finished it was lumpy and round.
His version of a bow was ribbon crisscrossed several times around the package and tied in a knot. For some reason, the ‘bow’ always had a dangling six-inch tail and the cat attacked it every time she walked in the room. It’s no wonder all the packages under the tree looked like they’d been fed through a paper shredder two weeks before Christmas.
But I thought it would be safe to let him read the cookie recipe. After all, how much could he goof up reading a few lines on a three-by-five index card?
Things went well for the butter, sugar and flour. I suppose those were words Russ had learned in middle school, and with which he had some familiarity. It was the measurement for the baking soda that was the problem.
“You need to put in one tisp of baking soda.” Russ wriggled his eyebrows on the word "tisp" as if disclosing some great mystery. He was right, a tisp was a mystery.
His mom and I looked at each other. Russ’s mom is a wonderful person and wouldn’t dream of making him feel bad. “That sounds like a lot of baking soda. Are you sure it’s not supposed to be a half a tisp?” she asked.
I stared at her in amazement. What in the heck was a tisp? I was sure she had no clue, but I admired her ability to bluff. And I had to ask myself why she was spending her time as a career secretary in the postal service, when she could have been winning her millions as a poker player in Las Vegas.
I jiggled the box of baking soda. It powder-puffed into the air and made me sneeze, but didn’t do much to clear my brain. Stalling for time, I checked the expiration date on the side but since it didn’t say “expires in a tisp”, I was at a loss.
In all my years of Catholic girls’ school, I’d never heard of a tisp. So why would the Catholic boys know something the Catholic girls didn’t? The boys didn’t even have to take Home Economics 101. They learned useless things in class . . . like how to make their armpits belch, or the best way to get a spitball to stick to the ceiling, or how to convince a girl to kiss them behind the bleachers.
Leaning over, I took the card from his hand and skimmed it quickly. I couldn’t find the word tisp anywhere, so asked Russ to show it to me. He pointed to the line where the recipe clearly stated, “1 tsp. baking soda”.
The mistake gave us a giggling fit and pretty soon we were having such a good time we began throwing balls of cookie dough onto the baking sheet from five feet away. It was just as effective as flattening them with a fork like the recipe suggested—and a great deal more fun.
Many years have passed, and words have even more meaning now than before. A word can make me a kid on roller skates again, or bring back the memory of the fragrance of a summer’s night. The right word can bring tears to my eyes. A simple word can even make me feel like a newlywed on Christmas Eve again.
And you can’t ask for more than that from a tisp.
(Merry Christmas from all of us here at the LDS Writers Blogck!)