Column: Don’t call him Scotty or late for pumpkin pieDecember 5, 2012
By SCOTT SAALMAN
On Nov. 24, I woke up to a text message from Mary: “Happy 48th Scotty!”
First things first: Mary is the only one in the world officially sanctioned to call me Scotty. So don’t get any bright ideas. Spare me the “Beam me up, Scotty” wisecrack. I’ve never been a “Star Trek” fan. Besides, Captain Kirk never really said that line.
My uncles and aunts on my mother’s side knew me by no name other than Scotty. I had no say-so. They continued calling me Scotty through high school and college, which kept me feeling like a perpetual child. I’m certain this contributed to my stunted growth — that combined with being born prematurely.
I was an anticipated Christmas Baby in 1964 but plopped out of my stuffed mother a month early for Thanksgiving, proving even then that I’d go to any extreme for a piece of pumpkin pie. I think my early arrival disappointed my parents, their prospects of parenting The New Jesus thwarted by my penchant for pumpkin. Since “The New Messiah” was no longer an option, they named their turkey baby Scott. Technically, it’s my middle name. My real first name is Marion — but we won’t delve into that horror. I’m saving that for the shrink.
Still, I think my parents were proud to have me, preemie or not. In the early 1970s, the song “Watching Scotty Grow” played incessantly on their turntable, overfilling my ears with its vinyl sap. The song was penned by Mac Davis, but Bobby Goldsboro made it famous, reaching No. 1 on Billboard’s easy listening chart.
I heard “Watching Scotty Grow” so many times that I was convinced it was about me. I fantasized that my real dad was Bobby Goldsboro, a cool thought since he had a TV variety show we liked to watch. I liked it when he made his trademark frog sounds.
In hindsight, the opening lyrics to the song were plausible enough to have been about me.
“There he sits with a pen and a yellow pad/
What a handsome lad/That’s my boy.”
I like the thought of me, age 6, a handsome age 6, working on my first column, the topic being my disdain about being called Scotty by my uncles and aunts, a column that grew 42 years in the making.
Other lyrics, though, clearly demonstrated the song wasn’t about me:
“Riding on daddy’s shoulders off to bed
old sleepy head/that’s my boy.”
My dad never rode me on his shoulders to bed. I was too scared to be any closer than necessary to the attic fan that rattled and clacked from the hallway ceiling right outside my bedroom door. It sounded like a perpetual tornado, and I always feared it would suck me into the attic, never to be seen again, whisked away by terrifying flying monkeys. The last thing I wanted was to ride on my dad’s shoulders so close to that scary fan. I used to crawl beneath it just to be extra safe.
I bet the only reason Bobby Goldsboro agreed to sing this schmaltzy song was to get people’s minds off the fact that the whole world still called him Bobby, not the manly Bob or Robert he likely deserved, and focus its full attention on us equally unfortunate Scotties of the world.
My aunt Charlotte still calls me Scotty, making me feel like I should reach up to her for a Popsicle she unwrapped for me. The last time I was called Scotty was at my Uncle Bill’s funeral not too long ago. At the casket, I viewed Uncle Bill’s body and imagined his spirit looking down at me, smiling and saying, “There’s Scotty.” Another family member has gone to his or her grave knowing me only as Scotty. I couldn’t help but think, “Rest in peace, Billy,” though I was never allowed to call him that — nor dare think it — before. I guess being taller than him in the funeral home for the first time in my life (and in his death) made me brave enough to do so.
On my 48th birthday, I actually played “Watching Scotty Grow” on Spotify, marking the first time in four decades to have heard it. The song still plays like a paradox to me, for as long as people keep calling me Scotty, I feel like I’ll never grow up, a troublesome thing for someone nearly at the doorstep of 50. Even now, I’m still uncomfortable sitting at the “big people’s table” during holiday meals.
Another paradox: Despite all this, I liked waking up on my 48th birthday and being referred to as Scotty via Mary’s text message. Mary calling me Scotty always plays gentle on my mind. I feel the same when she calls me “Sweetie.” Coming from her, Scotty is an endearment, a coveted pet name, and it makes me want to jump onto her lap and give her a big boy hug. It is sweet music.
”¢ Scott Saalman’s book, “Nose Hairs Gone Wild,” a collection of his best humor essays, will be published and available mid-December. The paperback is $15. Contact him at email@example.com to purchase a copy. The e-book version will be available at most online book sites.
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