My sister and I were reminiscing lately about our childhood, and in particular our mother’s eccentricities.
I don’t mean to say my mother was weird. Everyone has family memories of their parents that, in the light of 30 or 40 years later, seem somewhat funny.
I commented that the one thing I remember my mother always saying was, "No one will notice on a flying horse."
She meant that whatever little thing my sister and I were complaining about was not worth the effort to fix, as we were not as important as we thought we were and no one would notice. The older I get, the more I like that philosophy. Enjoy life and don’t sweat the small stuff.
I also remember that mother did not like us using the work "hey’’ to mean hello. She used to recite, "Hay is for horses and hay is for cows. Their mothers use it to stuff up their mouths." That rhyme didn’t work. I still say "hey." But I guess it’s better than "yo," or whatever is in style now.
My sister said that what she remembers is that mother always lied to us.
"Lied?" I asked.
She said mother always told us that if we ate the crusts on our sandwiches, our hair would be curly. My sister ate her crusts religiously and never got curly hair, she observed.
I had curly hair when I was little. Great big, fat Shirley Temple sausage curls. But I had a very bad case of German measles with a high fever. That straightened my hair. So I guess I wasn’t that concerned about curly hair, and the sandwich crust bribe did not bother me.
Mother was also religiously strict about not letting us go in the water until one hour after we had eaten. I can remember sitting on a towel at the beach in an agony of anticipation while Mother counted down the minutes. I believe that particular theorem has been proven false. But I think I enforced it with my children until they got to be teenagers.
We had to drink milk with every meal — Grade-A homogenized milk. It would improve our teeth, mother said. Well, as you can tell from last week’s column, it did little for my teeth. And today, the experts tell us to give children 2 percent milk as they don’t need the fat in whole milk. Another old wives tale that Mother used to tell us was that eating carrots would improve our eyesight. I am living proof that that one didn’t work. I had the worst eyesight imaginable. I think before cataract surgery I had close to 20-100 vision.
While carrots have lots of beta carotene, which is good for you and your eyes, that beta carotene will not improve your vision. That particular myth was deliberately disseminated during World War II to confuse the Nazis.
The Germans had systematically been bombing London and various other cities in England with little or no opposition.
Then the Royal Air Force developed a new on-board Airborne Interception Radar that allowed the RAF to identify German planes before they reached the English Channel.
The RAF suddenly began shooting down German planes in much larger numbers. To keep the use of the newly invented radar a secret, the RAF attributed the success of its pilots to feeding them carrots to improve their vision, particularly night vision. Hence the myth.
My mother also used to use guilt to get us to finish our meals. I cannot tell you how many times I heard about the starving children in China and how they would be grateful to have my English peas. I even offered to send those poor Chinese children a candy bar, but mother somehow could not find a way to manage that.
I’m sure parents today still must use some sort of guilt trip to make children eat their veggies. I don’t know where the starving children are now.
But, today, we are so concerned with childhood obesity that perhaps parents are trying to keep children from eating too much.
Share some of your memories with your siblings and enjoy the laughter.
Paula Travis is a retired teacher from the Newton County School System. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.