Every family has it’s quirky sayings — pithy little proverbs that express volumes in a few words. These bits of wisdom might come from a line in a movie or a quote from a book. Or perhaps the maxims were handed down from past generations and the source is unknown.
My sibs and I recently had a conversation about sayings we heard in our home as we were growing up. One such saying would have been said as the car backed out of the garage and we headed down the driveway, perhaps late for a school concert or a ballgame —
“And we’re off….like a dirty shirt.”
Evidently, dirty shirts were supposed to come off fast, because the gravel was usually flying in all directions as my dad pressed down on the gas pedal. There was a sense of relief that we were finally on our way after numerous trips back in the house for something or another.
I had that feeling this morning — the first Monday of the new year. After the slow, soft, easy days of Christmas break, this morning the pace picked up. Back to responsibilities, back to schedules, back to gravel flying under the tires as I was off and running.
And so we are “off like a dirty shirt” into 2015.
Next Monday: another family adage.
In the meantime, what were some of your family’s unusual sayings?
I was the flower girl at my cousin Candy’s wedding in June of 1965. The only thing I remember about that day was how long the aisle looked as I dropped rose petals, one slow step at a time. I wasn’t used to wearing a ribbon in my hair or fancy gloves and it all felt very special. The photographer posed us for this picture, but the look of adoration in my eyes was genuine.
Candy and I were the bookends of our generation. She was the oldest, I was the youngest, with seventeen years in-between. Candace Mae passed away this week — and my end of the book case suddenly feels weak and wobbly.
Family is like that — we don’t realize that we are holding each other up just by being together on the same shelf. When one is gone, the rest need to move in a little closer.
ELINOR BRADLEY BIDDICK
April 26, 1922-August 31, 1973
On this day, 38 years ago, my mother passed from this life into the next. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1972 and died within a year. I was 13. It was the first day of my freshman year in high school.
As a teenager, I had written some of my thoughts and feelings down about the pain of losing a mom. When I was a freshman in college, I pulled out my old journal from 1973 and re-worked the raw words into a creative writing assignment for an English class. The next week, as I came into the classroom, the professor approached me and asked for my permission to read my essay to the class. It was the first time I’d ever heard someone else read my words aloud, to strangers no less. When she finished, it was quiet for a long time. I think I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since.
This morning I was looking for some papers in an old file cabinet in the basement. As I opened up a dusty yellowed file, there it was: “You Win, Cancer, You Win”, English 132 sec. 8, January 25, 1978. I had been looking for that paper for years and had given up hope of ever finding it. I figured it had gotten lost in one of our moves. But today, of all days, it found me. Thanks, mom.
*For anyone interested, I have created a Page entitled “The Paper” where the college essay can be viewed.
This is what we put up with here in Wisconsin in the springtime:
Early in the week…..
…and a couple days later.
I remember a snowstorm on April 24th when I was a little girl. I recall the date because it was my big sister’s birthday. I also remember that particular storm because an elderly gentleman showed up at our door that night. His car had gone into the ditch out in front of our house and he had trudged his way up our driveway in a blizzard. I watched as my mother helped him into the living room and tenderly took off his wet shoes and socks. I remember being fascinated by his socks; they had batteries built into them to keep his feet warm. I’d never seen anything like that. My mother warmed up some supper for our unexpected guest and made up a bed on the couch. It was a bit unsettling going to bed that night, knowing that a stranger was sleeping in the house. I don’t remember him leaving the next morning or getting his car pulled out of the ditch or ever hearing from him again.
Mostly what sticks in my memory is how my mother made an old man feel so welcome and comfortable in our home during an April snowstorm.
Several years ago, PB and I took a long drive across the state and went to visit my cousin, Marjorie. (She was actually my second cousin once removed or something like that.) The woman was the epitome of an elderly spinster relative. She was an only child and never married, but took care of her mother and taught piano lessons in her little unincorporated town. I was always a little scared of Marjorie when, as a child, I accompanied my mother on trips to visit all the old relations every summer. I remembered her as being quick of tongue and blunt of opinion. We never hugged Marjorie. She never seemed all that happy to see us.
Now that I was older, I had a desire to reconnect with the last living relative of that generation. I had heard bits and pieces about Marjorie’s younger days. Something about being engaged to a mysterious man named Tony, whom I was told never to mention on our yearly visits. And something about her entertaining audiences with her violin at the traveling Chautauqua shows and even in Europe. Obviously, I didn’t really know my cousin and so I went to see her in hopes of changing that. I wanted to hear her stories.
We went in early April to the nursing home where she was living. But she wasn’t there. She had died. The previous August. It took the lady at the front desk a few moments, but she located and opened the notebook entitled “Deceased” and there was Marjorie’s name. Six lines up from the bottom of the list. That was all.
Did she die alone? No husband, no children, no family? Did she want it to be so? Did she choose that for her life? Was there a service, a funeral? Was anyone there to share a memory? Is there no one left to tell me about Tony and the virtuoso violinist that traveled the world? Her stories are lost, I fear.
A tear rolled down my cheek as we left. Not because I loved her, but because I missed hearing her story by eight months. I was too late to meet my late cousin.
Our stories need to be told, or written, or recorded, or blogged. Otherwise, they are no more.