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Sometimes nicknames are great! A nickname is given to you because of something you did, the type of personality you have, or a shorter version of your given name. I have had several nicknames but the one I enjoyed the most when I was young was called “Flat-Footed Floozy.”
My Uncle Paul was a farmer. He and Aunt Margaret lived on a modest stretch of land that was given to them as a wedding present from my great-grandmother. She owned lots of land but never realized that the land someday would be worth lots of money. But money wasn’t important to Grandma Julia‘ana, she had fourteen children to feed and selling the land wasn’t one of her ideas to feed those kids.
Very early every morning, except Sunday, Uncle Paul would drink his coffee, have breakfast and sing on the way to the barn, to climb onto his John Deere tractor. It was an apple green with huge tires that were taller than me. But then, everything was taller than me!
After school, my grandparents drove me to Uncle Paul’s farm to help with chores. After all my chores were done, I would sit under the oak tree and watch my Uncle Paul drive up and down the fields. I thought to myself that someday I would be old enough and maybe he would allow me to help, by driving the tractor in the fields.
That day came much quicker than I expected. One summer afternoon, while Nannie and Grandma were inside with Aunt Margaret, he stopped and asked me if I wanted to drive his Apple green John Deere tractor. I was so happy that there was no time to ponder. I jumped on that tractor so quickly that Uncle Paul almost fell off his seat! I sat in his lap, placed me hands on the steering wheel and was ready to hit the trail! There was only one small problem. I couldn’t reach the petals. When Uncle Paul saw my look of disappointment, he said, “That’s okay my flat foot floozy, I’ll work the petals and gears for you.” Excuse me, what did he just call me?
He said that he chose this nickname because I was always running around barefoot and I had no arch. That was a trait of the Skroback family. We all had flat feet. But that didn’t explain the floozy part. “Uncle Paul, what is a floozy?” I asked as I drove his apple green John Deere tractor. He said, “That is a very special name for such a special young lady.” I was so proud of myself. I was driving his tractor and now I had a new nickname!
It was time to go in. Especially after I saw my grandparents waving frantically for me to return to the house. I jumped off, while telling my grandparents that Uncle Paul let me drive the tractor and my new nickname was “Flat Footed Floozy.” Everyone laughed so hard I thought they would bust an article of clothing! Why were they laughing, it wasn’t funny to me. It was an honor that my Uncle Paul designated a nickname. Grandpa pulled me aside and whispered, “Sweetie, I’ll tell you about it later.”
All the way home I kept asking my grandpa why they were laughing. He began to explain that I shouldn’t question the name that an elder gave me and that it was an honor he chose one. I answered, “Yes sir.“ I never questioned it again.
Ever since that day, my Uncle Paul always called me by that name. Sometimes he would shorten it to “Flat Foot”, and he seemed to be the only one to use the name he had given me.
When I got the news about Uncle Paul, I had just come home from school. Nannie took me aside and told me that Uncle Paul had fallen off the tractor and the wheel ran over him. We cried together as I comforted her with, “I’m so sorry Nannie. I will really miss him. He always made me laugh.” Then I asked how Aunt Margaret was doing and she told me okay.
I had grown into a teenager and decided it was time to find out why everyone always laughed when my Uncle Paul called me his appointed nickname. When I asked Grandpa, he asked me to get my dictionary. He said, “Look up this word and you will know why.” I flipped through the pages of “F’s” and enunciated the word so I had an idea on how to spell it. How can you look up a word if you’re not sure how to spell it? F-l-o-o-z-i-e. No, that word wasn’t in the dictionary. I slowly carried my finger down the page. I found it! F-l-o-o-z-y. That’s it! I began reading.
A tart, Jezebel, bad woman, loose woman, easy woman, woman of easy virtue, pickup, nymphomaniac. What the heck was a nymphomaniac? But at my age, I certainly knew the meaning of the others. I was no loose woman or Jezebel. I remember watching a movie with Betty Davis, titled Jezebel. She was not a very nice lady in this movie. I was no Jezebel either! My Uncle Paul should be ashamed of himself! He might not be going to Heaven, after giving me a nickname like that, especially knowing what it meant all along!
Grandpa saw the horror in my face. He told, “Uncle Paul always made you laugh, didn’t he?” I answered, “Yes sir.” He added, “And didn’t Uncle Paul always give you nickels for the player piano, even though Aunt Margaret didn’t like anyone messing with her piano?“ Again I answered, “Yes sir.“ He continued, “If he didn’t love you, he wouldn’t have given you that name. He was only kidding about the floozy part, but you do have flat feet.” We both looked down, as I raised my foot up for both of us to look. Yep! I did have flat feet all right, just like all the other Skrobacks.
I thought about it awhile and remembered his deep voice and rough laughter. I remembered that he allowed me to drive his apple green John Deere tractor and all the things that he taught me about farming. I smiled. I was his “Flat-Footed Floozy!“ Then I came to the conclusion that Uncle Paul was in Heaven after all! Yeh, he’s in Heaven farming the crops and probably assigning nicknames to all the angels.
(WRITTEN FOR & DEDICATED TO MY UNCLE PAUL OPECHENSKY, PRINCE GEORGE COUNTY, VA
A SELF-INVENTOR, A GREAT UNCLE AND A GREAT FARMER, UNTIL HE FELL OFF HIS APPLE GREEN JOHN DEERE TRACTOR FOR THE SECOND TIME.)
Paula Leslie (PAL)
"Give a little of yourself each day to someone in need and you will be rich in your heart."