Lurger Burger

Toddlers bring strange words into a family's vocabulary. Sometimes the toddler word lurks submerged in the subconscious until decades after the meaning has been forgotten.

More decades ago than I want to admit, a toddler, who might have been me, came up with the term "lurger burger". It bubbled to the surface the other day when I was pantomiming scuba divers with my preschool art students. The kids are at that age when putting their face in the water and blowing bubbles is the main focus of swim lessons, so they know that bubbles make gurgle-burgle sounds.

Once "lurger burger" surfaced, I got the mental equivalent of The Bends. My gosh! How many times did Jacques Cousteau warn me about that during the Sixties? Due to our family tv set back then, I am always surprised when Jacques'undersea world is not black and white!

What was "lurger burger?" Person, place, or thing? No clue. I called my dad late at night--after 8:30--to ask about this toddler word. He remembered the term, but didn't recall if it was animal, mineral, or vegetable. Bewitched, bothered, or bewildered? Magician, mathemetician, or musician? We are stumped.

A few days pass. Dad wants to know if I've figured out "lurger burger." Still no. He thinks it might have been a person at his office in the mid-Fifties. Neither of us think it was a food*.

My own kids had some toddler words. The one that pops to mind first is "rackoo". "Rackoo" is a combination of the toddler drop game of "Oh-oh," Chinese water torture, and a Hot Wheels-style John Deere tractor:
  1. Toddler in carseat on family driving vacation holds toy tractor.
  2. Toddler in carseat throws toy tractor to the floor of the 1985 Ford Tempo.
  3. Toddler in carseat screams, "Rackoo! Rackoo! Rackoo!," with increasing agitation and volume until mother retrieves toy tractor from the floor and gives it back. [Dad is driving and bigger preschooler is in the front seat listening to Wee Sing cassettes.]
  4. Repeat Steps 1-3 from Omaha, Nebraska to the Grand Tetons.
  5. Mom tries unsuccessfully to repress the memory of this particular toddler word.
The second toddler word is a splendidly descriptive term for the space created by taking all the cushions and pillows off a soft, but ugly jungle-print hand-me-down sofa, and piling them up to make a cave/fort. When you sit in this space, you are in "the crabbis-crow." "Crabbis-crow" is on my mind as my students make wacky pirate ship hats with crows nests. A sofa-cushion cave is a bit like a house for a hermit crab/toddler, plus it rhymes with Jacques Cousteau's Calypso. After a long, hectic week of teaching, I am ready to sit in my own "crabbis-crow" for a day or two!

But "lurger burger" still eludes recall. It doesn't have a frightening gut connotation like "the Gooies," or "pea burgers." "The Gooies" are worse than The Bends. They are the creepy things down the stairs in a dark basement.

Pea burgers are the scary concoction of a harried mom trying to stretch the ground beef by mixing in a can of peas from the basement pantry. Nowadays the Dallas Morning News prints ideas for "desperation dinners." I'm sure my mom got the idea for "pea burgers" from a similar journalistic hint. Still, the pea burgers were the inedible food for family lore and nightmares, along with the "cardboard box cake."

My elementary students are sitting in a circle around the rug to play a game I call, "What's something you might find in the ocean THAT NOBODY ELSE HAS SAID?" It's a good game for encouraging listening, visualization, problem-solving, and for stocking the group's creative pantry. The kids start our second effort at the game with good ideas:

  1. Tiger shark
  2. Electric eel
  3. Stingray
  4. Water
  5. Sand
  6. Angelfish
  7. Treasure chest
  8. A killer whale and her baby
  9. Seaweed
  10. "A great big, a really GREAT BIG... [The child then periscope-ups his index finger into his left nostril and brings forth a GIANT LURGER BURGER] ... batch of plankton."

*Definitely not a food!

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