Family habits are a funny thing.
Your family is, as your family is. As a child you believe what you’re experiencing is normal and everyone has a family similar to yours. Depending upon your life and who you meet along the way will determine how quickly you discover normal doesn’t exist and that thing your family does isn’t necessarily a thing other families do.
I’ve spoken of some of these habits before. Some of these differences are minute. Tiny little differences you only observe once you start living with someone who grew up in a different family. Like, do you leave the pegs on the line, or off?
[A surprising number of these relate to washing.]
I inadvertently discovered that my family’s rules for washing jeans are not universal. We always dry them inside-out because it frees up the pockets and allows them to dry faster.
My husband’s family always pegs clothes by the ankle, my family always pegs socks by the toe.
As we were bringing in the washing today I was reminded of another ritual that never ceases to make me smile. I find it endlessly and ridiculously amusing which my husband finds similarly amusing because we’ve really been married long enough now that I really should be over it.
And when I tell you what it is, you’ll be underwhelmed.
As we fold the sheets, I’ll pull on my right hand corner and he’ll pull on his right-hand corner, diagonally stretching the fabic taught. You’ll then do the same from the left-hand corner. He says it makes sense, it squares-up the sheet and be that as it may, it’s still funny.
What are your family’s quirks?
“I don’t understand,” I said, “Nothing has changed, except we now know.”
“Yeah, “Mum said, “It’s like we’ve put on an extra coat.”
We have. It’s cumbersome and lacks warmth. It’s a weight of knowledge
We’ve slipped into this coat as it was handed to us and we can’t take off.
We have many coats.
We all do.
Some make us lighter, some warmer.
Some we grow into. Some we grow out of.
Some are in storage.
Some we didn’t know we had.
The coats we love wear thin.
We all have this coat. The coat of mortality – the knowledge that life is finite.
The longer you live, the more you wear it.
It’s not a coat we like to air.
We put on the fighting coat.
And we have love.
We have now.
This coat fits best.
It feels as though time is in short supply. Usually I put up the Christmas tree on the last weekend in November, but with other commitments this weekend it didn’t happen. Next weekend isn’t looking great either so I’ve spent the evening raising the Christmas tree!
With my Christmas enthusiasm, this isn’t a quick task. So I find myself neck-deep in boxes, sneezing from the dust with the decorations mostly up.
It’s late now though, and with work tomorrow and a caffeine free beverage at my side, I shall post a quick cheerful photo of some of my favourite decorations and then head towards sleep…
This evening, instead of writing a post I played with words in a different way.
I think I enjoyed it more than my husband as my letters were kinder to me – and I managed to score 304.
What’s your favourite game?
When I was growing up, Mum made her rules clear. If we ever objected to her rules she’d offer her reasoning although, sometimes that reasoning was ‘because I said so’. She’d then follow that up with ‘if you still don’t agree, you can do what you like when you’re an adult and have your own home’.
And as an aside, well done Mum for having the foresight to add the ‘have your own home’ disclaimer, accurately anticipating I would still be living at home into adulthood.
Of course, now that I am an adult (mostly) and have my own home, sometimes I curse owning the rule book. When Mum had it, it was essentially a list of behavioural expectations. Now that the onus is on me, they’re more like suggestions. I probably should go for a walk. We probably shouldn’t watch TV during dinner. I probably shouldn’t finish off the ice cream. I probably shouldn’t stay up this late on a work night.
On the plus side, if I’m having these internal monologues I guess I’m a responsible adult.
Metaphorically speaking, how is your rule book?
Did you take the family rule book with you when you left home?
Do you regret letting some rules go?
I’ve spoken before about the stories of objects and my struggles to let things go because of their associations. Because of who owned them and who they were important to. And perhaps proving I’m not a complete hoarder, I do and try to have a clean out from time to time.
I’m thinking about having a market stall soon, to clear out some clutter and my mother is pitching in with some of her own things.
Today though, she handed me Grandma’s sewing kit to sell.
Mum sighed, ‘I know. And look, the handle.’
Grandad had fixed the handle. He was practical with ideas to make things better. He was a fixer. It was Grandifcation.
I took it home and stared at it. I remembered Grandma using it. I unpacked it of things Mum clearly didn’t intend to dispose of and I knew Mum hadn’t opened it. She couldn’t. She’d let the sewing box go, but the rest was too much.
Grandad died in 2004, Grandma in 2012
It’s still raw.
What was left in the sewing kit was unremarkable and yet these buttons and spools of cotton panicked me. I feared they were important to Grandma and I did not know it. There were two dried rose buds and I wondered if they were from a wedding. Should I keep them?
This is the hardest part. Trying to reconcile objects with heartache. Trying to convince yourself that the memories matter more.
But it’s hard.
The next person who inherits these things will know even less, will care even less. And while this is life and perhaps even how things should be a lump forms in my throat and my eyes ache with unshed tears.
Strangely, Grandma was the most unsentimental person I’ve ever known but knowing that doesn’t make this any easier. Though, Grandad was the opposite. They were an odd couple.
I miss them.
I miss them muchly.