I think this is going to be required reading for new friends. All of my close friends know about “baby sheep.” You may know of the t-shirt/saying that goes, “Some people think I have ADD, but…OOH LOOK, A BIRD!” Or “something shiny,” or whatever. You know, to denote an abrupt change of subject/change in focus of attention? Well, our term for it is baby sheep.
(And be warned, you’ll find that I use parenthetical statements far too often, even after going through and editing to remove some. Get used to it. This is a long-held habit and I don’t intend to break it. I THINK in parenthetical statements! I have asides in my own interior dialogue. I also misuse ellipses on purpose to give the written word the same cadence as my thoughts. Sue me!)
Here’s how baby sheep came into existence:
My mother, sister, and I were driving down highway 281 in Texas heading to San Antonio. I like to drive I-35, because being rather masculine in a lot of attitudes, I like to MAKE GOOD TIME, but the girls like to take the winding-ass two-lane highway route. So we were driving along, probably at some frustrating speed like 60 mph (about 96 kph for you Canadians; sounds fine from the land of the 100 kph speed limit, but on the interstate in that part of the U.S., the speed limit is 112, the standard rate of speed is more like 123, and I’d push it all the way up to 136 or so). My sis and I were engaged in the then-rare serious sister-to-sister conversation. We were at that stage in life where we were still trying to learn how to be grown-up sisters, and not fighting teenagers. I guess I was maybe 23, and she was 20, or something like that.
So…we were engaged in a serious conversation about a guy she was dating or something, relating to each other as girlfriends and equals for a change, instead of adversaries or me treating her like the kid sister. We nearly forgot Mom was in the backseat (she likes to sit in the back, so she feels like she has a chauffeur) as we wound along that little highway, nothing to be seen in any direction except Texas hill country and livestock. LOTS of hill country. LOTS of livestock. It’s the kind of road where, when you slow down (as you OFTEN have to do) to drive through some town too small for a stoplight, you’d better get gas (at the SINGLE one-pump station in town) regardless of price, because there’s no telling how far along the next little town will be…or if they’ll have a gas station. I was driving, eyes on the road but totally engrossed in what my sis was saying.
Out of NOWHERE, with no warning, Mom flung herself forward between the passenger’s and driver’s seats and pointed enthusiastically ACROSS my field of vision, partially obscuring my view of the road. Then Mother yelled, “Baby sheep!” After smacking her arm out of my way so I could see, my sister and I sat there stunned for a second. Then we looked around. Sure enough, there was a flock of sheep along one side of the road. Some of which were (you guessed it) baby sheep. So we both had that moment where we were like, “Yeah, okay, Mom. There are baby sheep over there. In a field. You know, where sheep and LAMBS – not baby sheep – tend to live.” And my sis and I kind of shook our heads and went back to talking.
In our family and amongst my circle of friends, *baby sheep* has become a very useful conversational tool. If we are engaged in conversation and wish to interject a totally unrelated point, it is no longer seen as rude to interrupt with a totally out-of-nowhere tangent if one says, “baby sheep.” So for instance, if you and I were talking about the joy of language and were quite engaged in the conversation, I could say, “Baby sheep! I have on the most awesome polka-dotted socks today, and that makes me happy!” And then we could go back to what we were talking about. Baby sheep works best when you do intend to go back and pick up the original conversational thread (though you don’t always have to, by any means). And when someone “baby sheeps” well, it means they’re good at wandering down a random conversational bunny trail but still remembering where the conversation derailed and getting back there at some point.
I knew I really liked my husband the night we first met. The man has the gift of gab. And beyond that, after I’d described baby sheep to him earlier that first evening, he flawlessly baby-sheeped me mid-sentence and then we got right back on track. September 28th, 2010, and my first sign that this one was a keeper.