This Is The Sound a Vinegar Van Makes

My father’s father owned a vinegar factory in South Africa. Born and grown in Lithuania, my gentle grandfather migrated south to the bottom of Africa via Israel as a very young adult. There he married my grandmother, raised three sons, and made vinegar.

One of the first sounds I ever heard in my life was my father blowing a very loud, put-put-puttering noise through his nose and mouth. “This is what my father’s vinegar van sounded like,” he would say. And do it again.

I don’t know how he creates that sound, with his nose, tongue and palette. But if I don’t have my eyes firmly turned to his at the time, I would swear there is an old, rusty, white van spluttering down the street outside, delivering vinegar.

He made that sound when we were crying. He made it when we were bored. He made it to distract us, to entice a laugh, when we asked him to do it and especially when we didn’t. And always it had the same effect: wide-eyed astonishment and giggles!

The scraped knee stopped hurting. The whiny baby forgot she was hungry. The kid brother ceased annoying me, and even the grown-ups would laugh. Misery, pain, attention diverted by the funny imitation of the vinegar van.

My dad is a mostly cheery, good-natured, laidback kinda guy who is most comfortable amidst jokes and laughter. Sometimes witty, usually corny, he cracks jokes almost all the time and shares funny stories whenever he can. Most of them we’ve heard many times over, and while they get old they never get tired. Not to me, anyway!

“What’s yellow and points north?”

“Um… dunno. What?”

“A magnetic banana!” Ba-dum-bum.

His humor is pure. He is funny because he wants to be. Because he wants to make the people around him laugh. Because funny is often more satisfying than sadness, anger, worry, or even hunger. And if it’s possible to smooth the frown, laugh through the tears, lighten the moment, why not tell a corny joke or make a weird and wonderful sound?

Sadly, I did not inherit my dad’s natural aptitude for making people laugh. I don’t have innate comedic timing, my brain is not quick-witted, and my jokes are usually dry and sarcastic, sometimes funny, often obscure and never the type that leave giggles and “Tell that one again.”

But the magical effect of the spluttering vinegar van has taught me the power of laughter, the power of brightening the mood and blowing away the gray, if only for a few silly minutes so that when the hurt knee is remembered, when the difficult conversation resumes, somehow it doesn’t sting as much as it did before.

“What’s yellow and very dangerous?”

“Um, a spray painted vinegar van?”

“No! Shark-infested custard! But have you ever heard what my dad’s old vinegar sounded like?”



This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, inspired by the prompt, “The best advice my father ever gave me was…” Hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee and Stephanie from Mommy, for Real, and guest hosts Michelle from Crumpets and Bullocks and Ruchira from Abracabadra.