Alison Wylegala


Spring 1991

When first faced with the assignment to discuss a folklore tradition of my own family, I was sure I wouldn't have anything to share. Certainly we celebrate holiday traditions, but such celebrations didn't seem to quite fit the folklore bill. As we discussed the three 'streams' of folklore through, I realized that my family has enjoyed and passed on a folklore of its own. Through several generations, the Polish side of my family has passed on a traditional (though greatly altered) hand-play. My earliest (and just about only) memory of my grandfather is my running to him from across the room, jumping on his lap, holding out my hand, waiting for 'Timodowa.' Papa would stroke my palm with his 'giant' fingers, circling around and around, repeating the Polish story we called Timodowa (copy and translation attached). I can vaguely remember large family gatherings with cousins (as well as sisters) lined up at Papa's knee, waiting their turn. My grandmother picked up with the before bedtime ritual after my grandfather died and after Nan's death, we all moved on to my father's lap, as he took on the Timodowa responsibilities. Often, my father would recall for us how his parents had put him to bed with 'Timodowa.'

Eventually, we all got too old (and too big) to sit on a lap and our Timodowa times stopped. Someone got around to asking what the rhyme was about, and we were surprised to learn that the gentle stroking motions were accompanied by a tale of maternal brutality. When the cousins got together, we often laughed about 'Timodowa' but the hand play itself feel out of practice for many years.

The birth of my niece (the first grandchild for my parents) helped breathe new life into the 'Timodowa' tradition. It's wonderful to see Annie perched on my father's knee, nearly transfixed by her Popop's hypnotic finger motions. As he grabs her little finger (chopping off the head of the last hungry child, according to the story) Annie laughs with great delight, just like her mother and aunts did.

The other day my mother found Annie reciting 'Timodowa' (and pulling her own finger) alone in her crib-proof that she's proud keeper of the 'Timodowa' tradition.

An Old Polish Finger Game (Phonetic Version and very loosely translated)

[Move your index finger in the palm of the child's handΣin a circular motion]

Kaw-shee kaw-shee wapki We're going to
Poo-ya dzem daw bopchee Grandmother's house
Bobcha da nam mlich-kaw Grandmother will give us some milk.
Ee ben-ji-mi peelee And we will drink it.
Kaw-shee kaw-shee wapki We're going to
Mama ku-pee-wa yayuff Mama bought some eggs
Ti-moo-dow-wha! She gave this one some
Ti-moo-dow-wha! She gave this one some
Ti-moo-dow-wha! She gave this one some
Ti-moo-dow-wha! She gave this one some
[Grasp the last little baby finger more firmly and pull up and away with great flourish while saying:]
Ah ti-moo whe-pek aw-berr-vow-what! She pulled the head off this one.