It all started while watching one of those late night black and white movies. A woman had plastic surgery after an accident. After a bout with amnesia, she finally returned to her family, but they were never really sure if it was her. This led to the creation of our family’s secret handshake. These days when one of us does or says something out of character, we use it in a humorous way as if to say “…Is it really you?..”
When Big A* was a little boy, I told him to remember “…It’s what you hear…” If I was not there to pick him up after school, he was not to leave with anyone unless they said the word “oreja” (the Spanish word for “ear”). When he was a teen, he knew he could always whisper our code word “despacio” (Spanish for “slowly”) when he wanted me to take it down a notch in front of his friends.
Throughout the years, Mr. Wiz* and I have unwittingly developed an entire communication system. Through facial expressions and eye movements, we can express ourselves in a clandestine manner, even in a crowded room. We can complement each other, ask if that’s what we’re really going to wear, agree to leave early or stay late, accept or decline an invitation on the spot or suggest that we not tell that story again.
Of course, all covert operations have their glitches. Once at an auction, my sudden sneeze was misinterpreted as a signal to hold up our paddle. Luckily, we were out-bid and the Picasso never joined our art collection. Likewise, innocent tapping of fingers on a table could be misconstrued as an emergency Morse Code message.
This combined with some made up words and an alpha/numeric system that my dad taught me as a little girl (whereby numbers 1 through 10 are replaced by letters) makes for techniques that rival CIA intelligence operations.
Though we have been approached and asked that we share this complex, intricate methodology with operatives around the world, we have decided to keep it between us as just another way for our little family to huddle together in our private club and smile as we celebrate what makes us unique.
*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.