Monday, June 27, 2016

Wondering Why We Do What We Do

          I'm slicing with the Two Writing Teachers community today. It's always a pleasure to read what everyone writes about their lives.

         “We do what we do, because of who we are. If we did otherwise, we would not be ourselves.” Neil Gaiman


         Because I'm a teacher and a writer, I observe and wonder about many things. Today as I worked in my garden, my thoughts turned to an old story, then to my own actions.
            
        One of the stories that has been passed around concerns a "reason why something is done", rather like a tradition, but smaller. A family member asked a mom in the family why she always took the bone out of the Sunday roast? She answered, because my mother did. They found her mother and asked the same question. She didn't know either, just did it after watching her own mother prepare the roast. Luckily 'her' mother still lived, so was asked that question. She looked up and said: "I didn't have a pan big enough for a big roast so had to remove the bone so it would fit."

         I thought of this story today and began to think about certain things I do, "just because", or perhaps they come from years of growing up with watching others live their lives. Some I understand; some are mysteries.


         My grandmother had gorgeous flowers, and I grew up watching my grandfather digging coffee grounds into the soil, among the other composted items. I've looked it up, and it isn't necessarily good to do unless one needs to add more acid to the soil. But he did it, so I do it, but now only sometimes. My flowers do well. Is this luck, or the soil just needs the acid? And I wonder why he thought it was important to do? Maybe it was just to get rid of the grounds? No trash collection back then. Some was burned and some taken to the town dump.

         I still never walk under ladders, and suspect it's because that same grandfather was so, so superstitious. I also do NOT step on cracks, DO knock on wood, spit in an open fire. I think that the 'spit' was like a "good-luck thing" to ensure the fire kept contained. I remember doing it as a young girl, but not who taught me and its origin.

         One of the first arguments my husband and I had as newlyweds was where to place the kitchen trash receptacle, out in the kitchen or under the sink. Really, it seemed to be a big deal! He had grown up having the trash under the sink. My family always had it out. 

         I fold sheets so the back side is out. Don't know why.

         I always leave something on my plate when eating. And I buy a new broom for any new space I move to, house or in the past, classroom.  

         Are there things you do and are unsure of why you do them? 
         

46 comments:

  1. No whistling inside - it might bring fire. I think that the younger the generation the less and less they do things in a certain way just because it was done this way in the past - they all the time google.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I heard "Sing at the table and whistle to bed, and you'll see the devil before you are dead." in my grandparents' home!

      Delete
    2. Terrific to hear about these. As superstitious as my grandfather was, nothing was ever said about whistling!

      Delete
  2. Linda, your post is so very true. there are just so many things that a person does without really thinking about the reason. One thing I always try to do is leave by the same door that I entered. I have been raised that it is bad luck and that you may never return to that spot. I even try to get my guests to leave by the same door.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is that just leaving a house/building, Bernadette, or does it apply "inside", too? Interesting how ingrained these habits are.

      Delete
  3. We always put money in a purse or wallet we give as a gift, as a good luck wish that the recipient will never go without. I've also gotten into the habit of saying "Rabbit rabbit rabbit" on the first day of the month, though I didn't grow up with that tradition.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have a friend who does the "rabbit, rabbit, rabbit" at the month's beginning, too, Chris. I had to ask about it, had never heard it before. Love hearing about the money, too.

      Delete
  4. Interesting post, Linda! I wonder if your broom tradition originally helped prevent carrying old germs into new spaces--literally and figuratively. Initially the topic of this post seems light-hearted, but it got me thinking! How often are those non-thinking actions less benign than those you noted? How often do people treat others poorly or dismissively merely because that's how they saw it done and they've never questioned it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't research about the broom, but will now that you've added this idea, Molly. I almost shared about my grandmother teaching me to greet every person as we walked downtown (a little town), no matter who it was. There were some quirky characters in that little town, often teased, but we would stop to say hello & I saw my grandmother use respect with them as she asked how they were, etc. I still greet people on the street if we make eye contact. So, I think you're right, children learn by watching!

      Delete
    2. I'm so glad you shared this lovely memory of your grandmother, Linda.

      Delete
  5. Now, you have me thinking, Linda! For me it's hospital corners on my bed...even in hotels. That's a legacy of going to boarding schools as a child and bed inspections!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! Fun to hear, Tara. We bring baggage along with us, don't we?

      Delete
  6. My father had a worm bed for fishing worms, and he would put the coffee grounds in there for the worms. Guess the worms needed a little caffeine? :-) Now I will have to be on the lookout for things I do, just because it's always done that way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One uncle was quite a fisherman & he had a worm bed, too, but I don't remember about the grounds. It's fun to hear about, Elsie.

      Delete
  7. Can't put newly purchased shoes on a table. They won't fit. What the connection is I haven't the foggiest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love that each of us carries these things with us, Bob. I'm glad you shared!

      Delete
  8. Great slice topic Linda! I was thinking about things we do because-my parents always leave out the same door they enter...also, my dad always sits at a restaurant where he can see the door.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It might be interesting to research the "door" actions, Amy. I wonder if it has to do with being free?

      Delete
  9. What a wonderful post & comments! I'm going to pay attention to those little things I do, and see if I can figure out why I do them the way I do!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Terrific. If you find any, I hope you'll share, Jane.

      Delete
  10. Love this idea -- great way to get ideas for writing!! We always celebrate birthdays with breakfast cakes -- just what we do!!
    Clare

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wonderful tradition, Clare. You might need to share this sometime, with a recipe!

      Delete
  11. Such an intriguing post, Linda! I'm a wood-knocker too. I also grocery shop on Thursdays (because that's when my mom did it) and tell my husband to "strap out" the rugs when we clean the house. (That language also came from my mom, but it's so old fashioned and doesn't mean much today.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, my grandmother that lived on a farm only went to town on Wednesdays. I shop any time, but on Wednesday I still remember her habit. Love hearing about "strap out".

      Delete
  12. This post really made me stop and think...I try to remember to go barefoot on the first day of May, if only to run out and get the mail, because my Granny always said that brought good luck.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love it, Lori. This is new to me, a wonderful part of what you do.

      Delete
  13. Beautiful writing as always, Linda. I always get lost in your words. <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Ricki. Fun to write this one!

      Delete
  14. Such a fun post and reading everyone's comments is also fun. I remember that my mom always said to never let anyone vacuum under your feet. If they did, you'd never get married. Those hospital corners mentioned by Tara were taught to me by my mom. I still do them. My mom could fold fitted sheets as flat as the flat ones. I've never been able to match that skill, but it doesn't keep me from trying.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know how to do the folding, but spend little time on it. Almost is good enough for me! The vacuum thing is new to me. I've loved everyone's stories!

      Delete
  15. Love this! Such a fun thing to think about. Automatic, mindless actions/rituals. I loved your example about the different ways your husband and you thought about the trash can. For me, I collect feathers - seeing one means good luck; he admonishes me each time - "you are going to make yourself sick!" One fun one I have - if I forget what I am thinking about, I walk backwards for a few steps, ideally through the nearest doorway, hoping it will trigger my thoughts. Someone told me to do this and I don't know who!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've recently heard that walking back through a door can help the memory, and now you're sharing you've been told to do it from someone. Love hearing about the feathers, too. Some who may have read this might be laughing, but perhaps they don't realize they do things too.

      Delete
  16. Since wonder is my OLW, I had to read your post, and now you have me wondering about the things I do just because. You can bet I'm going to be paying attention to it! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you'll share if you think of any, Melanie.

      Delete
  17. Back in my own apartment, living on my own for the first time in 20 years I feel like I'm creating a new set of just because rituals and they make me feel peaceful but at the moment I can't think of just one... But I'm thinking...
    Bonnie K.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I imagine you are creating your own things that you do. Me, too, some, but there are still other actions that come from way back as a girl, too. Thanks, Bonnie.

      Delete
  18. Oh I just love this. One that comes to mind is my mom always changed the beds on Mondays. I did too, until I was working full time and then it became Sunday afternoons. And now it's so haphazard. I wonder why Mondays.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I "guess" it's that old "Monday washday", Lisa, but not sure. It is true that we still do some chores the same way because of long ago needs.

      Delete
  19. Linda, what an interesting post. I don't come from a family who are superstitious but one that has precious ways of doing tasks such as folding towels. My sister and I fold in different ways. I like items in their place but items don't always seem to make their way back to the destination spot when life gets in the way. Then, the piles form. My mother used to like to bake when she was alone. Alone that never suited me, I am finding that a better option these days. Family routines usually make their way to the next generation whether we consciously think about them or not.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Carol, I had forgotten about the folding towels. My mother and I had two different ways to fold, too. But later I realized it was probably because she didn't have much space in her linen closet. Fun to hear about the baking alone, too.

      Delete
  20. This is such a fun post, Linda! I can't think of any household routines, but there are many cooking methods I use because "that's the way my mother (and grandmother!) did it." Try as I might though, my scrambled eggs are never as good as the ones my grandmother made.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am the same way about poached eggs from one grandmother. She just knew how, and had eggs straight from her chickens, FYI. Yes, the cooking styles are a strong part of how we do things.

      Delete
  21. What a wonderful post - and great discussion as well. There are many things I do - just because. And it did cause discussion when my hubby and I did things different ways - just because it was always done that way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember one couple of friends who insisted on different methods of what goes with certain meals. I guess we think that is the "only" way.

      Delete
  22. So much story and character potential unearthed from your observation, Linda. Nifty! A long-time habit I had was noting down each fuel purchase in a car log book. When I realized I was only doing so because I had watched my dad do it forever, I stopped.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never did it, but I had an uncle who faithfully kept notes about his car fuel, etc. Yes, there are those actions we do and then realize it's only because parents did. Fun to hear about yours, Brian.

      Delete

Having a conversation is a good thing!