Tradition and Quirks

Many years ago I read a moldy old Reader’s Digest magazine while spending the night with Auntie (our grandma surrogate). I’ve never forgotten this little piece I read, although I have no idea who wrote it.

A young woman always cut her roast in half before cooking it. When asked why she did that, she replied it was the way her mother had always cooked roasts. When the mother was asked why she did that, she replied it was the way her mother had always cooked roasts. When the grandmother was asked the same question, she replied that she’d never owned a roaster big enough to hold the whole thing, so she had to cut it in half.

It stuck with me because it showed how we do things out of habit, and sometimes without understanding why.

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Aunty with three of us. I’m not the one eating her basket.

I have passed on a tradition to my husband and son about making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You ALWAYS put the peanut butter on first, then the jelly.

My dad was diabetic and he loved peanut butter. Every night he would say ‘what are we having peanut butter on tonight, mother?’. (One time I suggested a spoon, which he didn’t find as funny as I did.)

Because of the diabetis, no jelly could contaminate his beloved peanut butter.

My husband and son aren’t diabetic. But still, the rule remains because of habit and training. Peanut butter first.

Dad

Last night we had hamburgers. They wanted tomatoes. When my son was putting his burger together, he put condiments on the bottom half of the bun, added onion, and then waited for the burger. I said ‘don’t forget your tomato’. My husband and son both spoke at the same time, saying the tomato had to go on top of the meat. I asked what difference it made. They couldn’t tell me. It was just the way you had to do it. Not me. I don’t add a tomato. I go for extra onion and I don’t care what order it goes on as long as it goes on.

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But all that got me pondering about the little quirks we have, the odd traditions we follow, the habits we form, all without remembering why, or being able to explain why. ‘Just because.’ ‘It’s always done that way.’ ‘The world will end if you don’t.’

For instance, always leave about an inch of beverage in the bottom of the glass for the fairies. It doesn’t matter what I’m drinking. It doesn’t matter if the glass is full, or partially full. It doesn’t matter how thirsty I am. I have no idea why I do that, and I don’t even realize it until I do dishes. But I’ve always left something behind, even when mom would get mad at me for wasting milk.

Lisa and mom 1994

Always avoid stepping on black ants, but don’t worry about stepping on red ants. Another habit of mine that my son has picked up without knowing why. As a child I read a book about kids shrunk down to ant size. The black ants helped them and the red ants were trying to get them. Ever since, I have to help those little kids and their black ant friends.

And so it goes. Traditions without known cause, habits from forgotten reasons, quirks just because.

We’re so strange.

Us three taken by Kathy

Diaries

I love the concept of keeping a diary. I don’t love the reality.

My mom kept a diary in her later years, during the time when she was suffering from the effects of menopause, a stressful life, and a difficult past. She’d been given antidepressants and other medications which, I think, contributed to her deep unhappiness. The result of that was when she passed away, we found that diary. There were so many cruel things written in there. So many lies that were, for her, truths. Or at least how she perceived her world in those moments of medicated depression.

Mom and Lisa

In the emotional moment, I burned that diary. And then, full of horror that some day my child might read my diaries and be hurt by my words, I threw all of mine on that same fire. I’ve had regrets occasionally. I think that my son would have laughed to read all the drama of my young teenage years. And there were the diaries from my travels. All gone now. But for the most part, I don’t regret burning them.

There have been a few times over the years when I’ve tried to start one again, but it never goes anywhere. I keep a journal of canning recipes. One for gardening. One that has writing tips and quotes. All of those have pieces of me in them as commentary, but they’re not a ‘diary’.

Last weekend I hiked with my sister a couple miles into the Alpine Wilderness area. We talked about that diary I burned, and her regret that I burned it. We talked about the diary she keeps. She writes in third person, (‘she sat down’ rather than ‘I sat down’) as if creating a story, and doing a diary in that manner has allowed her to write in ways that give her insight.

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That intrigued me because it felt like writing a story. As if in third person allows a degree of separation between the writer and the words. For a few brief moments, on that path, I thought that maybe I could write a diary in the same way.

Then she gave me a binder that belonged to the sister who passed away in February. In it were affirmations, poems, thoughts, and happy little stickers. Her handwriting was always rounded, almost juvenile, and I could see the pen in her hand. And in her words I could hear her laugh. I am so, so beyond grateful she kept a diary. That we have her voice to rest our hands on and hold to our hearts.

So, will I keep a diary? Doubtful. I’ll just continue with this blog, which, I guess, fulfills the same thing.

 

Swimming

She goes into the river, swimming, where no one sees the flow of tears in the rush of mountain water. She swims with the salmon, returning, and returning yet again.

She seeks pools and eddies and wild current to sweep her away.

And through it all, her tears soak into the river, flowing, slowing, returning.

I go into the trees, tears soaking into forest floor, seeping between roots and returning, rising up through moss and roots and heartwood.

Rising through leaves to air, to clouds, to rain.

Rain to fall like tears into the river.

She goes into the river, swimming, when sun seeps into the depths, when snow falls, when turning leaves twist in currents. And in the water, in all our tears, she sheds her skin, sheds her grief, and for a moment, is borne away.

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