heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 6 of 7: “Keep things neat, clean and tidy…”

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This year, my New Year’s “Revelations” are based on some of the witticisms and words of wisdom that my mother and father imparted to me.

When I was young, I used to roll my eyes and shake my head at them – not really heeding their words.

Or so I thought.

They’ve since passed, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss them.

Most importantly, their words – often colourful and humorous, but always spot-on – resonate deeply with me today.

I now share them with you.

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My father used to say:

“Keep things neat, clean and tidy, for God’s sake!”

My father was a neat freak.  Everything and everyone in our household had to be clean and tidy. Clothes had to be ironed… properly.  Including sheets, towels and jeans.  Clothes were folded or hung neatly – by type and color.  The term “ring around the collar” was an obscenity in our home. Bathrooms were pristine.  You could eat off the kitchen floor – it was that clean.  Glassware and crystal had to be spot-free.  There were never, ever any dirty dishes left in our kitchen sink. Books were ordered alphabetically by the author’s last name, grouped together by genre and subject matter.

My father despised clutter.  He was always reading four to five books at any given time period, so he had them piled perfectly – one on top of the other.  If anyone touched or moved a book, he would know. And World War III would commence.

If he saw a fluff or thread on the freshly vacuumed carpet, he would not rest until he went to pick it up.

Was he OCD?  Just a tad. But that was part of who he was. I could not imagine him being any other way. Nor would I have wanted him to be.

His children – my siblings and I – possess varying degrees of this neat gene. Some are more obsessive than others.

Okay, I confess.

I cannot write unless my desk is clutter-free.

My books are ordered in such a way that would make any old school librarian beam with delight.

Like my father, I always have four or five books piled neatly beside my reading chair. Piled just so.

Framed pictures must be perfectly lined in a row.

Towels, folded neatly on the bathroom rack.

Cooking spices are ordered alphabetically, with the labels facing forward.

Cat litter boxes – neatly lined in a row (with eight cats, cleanliness and tidiness has taken on a whole new level of attention).

My husband likes to shake things up a bit… and every so often, he’ll move some artwork or picture frame – tilting them, so that they’re not linear. Or, he’ll toss a towel over the shower rod and throw his clothes in a pile on a chair.

He is amused by my annoyance.

I quietly place everything in their right place.

Okay, sometimes I’m not that quiet about it.

The way I see it, there’s nothing wrong with being a tad OCD.

I like the sense of order and the smell of a clean house.

So, I thank my father for passing on that neat freak gene to me.

Gotta go now. Remy, one of my youngest cats, just unraveled the toilet paper roll.

My work is never done.

“Certainly it would not be too much to say that the home is the communal embodiment of family life. Thus the purity of the dwelling is almost as important for the family as is the cleanliness of the body for the individual.”

Victor Aimé Huber

 

 

heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 4 of 7: “If you’re a man, be a gentleman…”

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This year, my New Year’s “Revelations” are based on some of the witticisms and words of wisdom that my mother and father imparted to me.

When I was young, I used to roll my eyes and shake my head at them – not really heeding their words.

Or so I thought.

They’ve since passed, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss them.

Most importantly, their words – often colourful and humorous, but always spot-on – resonate deeply with me today.

I now share them with you.

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My father used to say:

“If you’re a man, be a gentleman – always. If you’re a woman, be a lady – not a strumpet.”

My father was the quintessential Gentleman. When he  went for a stroll with my mother, he would always walk on the  curb side of the sidewalk – to protect my mother from passing cars or rain puddle splashes.  He would open doors for her, sit her down on a chair before seating himself, exit a bus or train first and then extend his hand to help her down, and he would always (without hesitation or a word of complaint) wash the dishes after she cooked us one of her savoury meals.

He was most certainly NOT a male chauvinist.  He was a gentleman – in the old-fashioned sense.  There is a difference. And he dressed impeccably – complete with a perfectly pressed handkerchief in his pocket. No kleenex or tissues for him!

His behaviour and manners taught me what I should expect of a man. That’s a long, tall order in this day and age.  However, when he met my husband (at that time, my boyfriend) for the first time in 1979, I could see that he approved.  How could he not?  Their characters were similar in many ways.

And, yes, of course my husband is a gentleman. He doesn’t use handkerchiefs, but he always sports a very nice hat.

My father expected the men in his household (he and my brother) to be gentlemen and the women (wife and daughters) to comport themselves like ladies. My mother was very much a lady.

Although our manners are ladylike, my sister and I are products of the Baby Boomer generation and when we started wearing jeans…. well, all hell broke loose in the household.  I remember my father lecturing me about how slovenly and unladylike jeans were.  Try as he might, he could not come to peace with modern casual wear.  If he were alive today and saw some of the skimpy, body-clinging dresses that a lot of young women wear…. he would be speechless (with horror).  He would probably prefer jeans to some of their outfits (er, fabric swatches).

Are gentlemen a dying breed?  I don’t think so.

Just the other day, I was on a MetroRail during rush hour.  The train was packed with people and there was standing room only. A young man – twentysomething – stood up, smiled at me and asked me to take his seat.  I gave him one of my most radiant smiles, thanked him and sat down.

His parents taught him well.

In my generation, women were fighting for their positions in professions like law, medicine, engineering and business. Unfortunately, some women felt that they had to be hard and aggressive in order to compete and excel in their fields.  Many mistook gentlemanly overtures for male chauvinism and, as a result, they rejected any gesture that would differentiate the genders.

Well, be careful what you wish for, ladies. If you don’t want a man to be a gentleman, then he won’t be.

This twentysomething generation, however, never ceases to amaze and impress me. They don’t have the gender struggle of the Baby Boomers.  Today, most professions enjoy a fairly even ratio of men to women. And for the most part, these young men and women are polite, respectful, environmentally conscious, and have a sense of family, community and an interest the world at large.

So there is hope.

And, as far my father (my darling Daddy) – thank you for being such an exemplary role model.

Would you be proud of me today? I’d like to think so.

Except that I do curse a lot.  That would be a big no-no in your books.

I’m trying to curb that.  Miracles don’t happen overnight.

 

 

Images via Crazyyetwise.files.wordpress.com and akrasakis.blogspot.com.

 

heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 2 of 7: “Learn about the world around you”

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This year, my New Year’s “Revelations” are based on some of the witticisms and words of wisdom that my mother and father imparted to me.

When I was young, I used to roll my eyes and shake my head at them – not really heeding their words.

Or so I thought.

They’ve since passed, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss them.

Most importantly, their words – often colourful and humorous, but always spot-on – resonate deeply with me today.

I now share them with you.

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My father used to say:

“If you don’t want to read or learn about what’s going on around the world – in other countries, in other cultures – then, you’re an idiot!”

Those were his exact, emphatic words and they were directed at me. The year was 1974. He was reprimanding me for not showing an interest in an international news story that he was reading out loud to us.  Amazingly, I remember that the article was about Russian novelist/historian and Nobel Prize winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn being deported from the Soviet Union to Frankfurt (Germany) and stripped of his Soviet Citizenship. Solzhenitsyn had spent 11 years in exile, at a Soviet labor camp for criticizing Stalin. In 1973, he wrote The Gulalg Archipelago (Arkhipelag Gulag) – about the Soviet prison/labor camp system under Stalin. The manuscript, which started to appear in installments in Paris, was seized by the KGB in the Soviet Union.

These were some of the stories that my father tried to engage us with at the breakfast table and in the evenings, after dinner. He would get so frustrated with me when I did not show interest.

But, as the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Ironically, I went on to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science and history.  I write books that focus on socio-economic issues affecting everyday people, and I tell their stories by placing them in their political, historical and cultural context.

I feel privileged to have had such an intense, intelligent and well-read father. How I wish that he were alive today. Oh, what wonderful, spirited discussions and debates we would have!

I can’t emphasize enough (as he did before me) how important it is for us to learn about (and appreciate) the wonderful diversity and nuances of our world community. We are all inter-connected, to some degree.

With knowledge, we gain understanding.

With understanding, we become enlightened, compassionate human beings.

With compassion, we can help each other and we can effect change – positive change.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” 
― Augustine of Hippo

Image via Pixabay.com.

Scent and Memory, an Inseparable Duo

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“Nothing revives the past so completely as a smell that was once associated with it.” 
― Vladimir Nabokov

In a very interesting article written by Natalie Angier (of the New York Times), The Nose, An Emotional Time Machine,”  Ms. Angier cites some research findings  (presented at the International Symposium on Olfaction and Taste) which explain how and why our sense of smell has the power to immediately take us back to a place, a person and a moment in time – making the memory as vivid and poignant as if it occurred in the present day.  For example, whenever I smell carnations, I am instantly brought back to the family celebration held after my First Communion (I was seven years old), when my favorite aunt gave me my first bouquet of flowers ― a bunch of pink and white carnations. For me, carnations will always remind me of that sacred (and sweet) rite of passage.

In his novel,  À la recherche du temps perdu (In search of lost time), French writer Marcel Proust describes a character vividly recalling long-forgotten memories from his childhood, after smelling a tea-soaked madeleine biscuit.  Henceforth, the theory of the inseparable relationship between smell and involuntary memory has been dubbed the “Proustian phenomenon.”  

The scientific explanation is pretty straightforward:  the olfactory bulb (located just above the nasal cavities, it is a structure of the vertebrate forebrain involved in olfaction, the perception of odors) is part of the of the brain’s limbic system. The limbic system, sometimes referred to as the “emotional brain,” is the area that is closely associated with memory and feeling.  The olfactory bulb accesses the amygdala (which processes emotion) and the hippocampus (responsible for associative learning).  Despite all these biological components, it is our conditioned responses which actually cause smells to trigger memories in our minds.  When we smell something for the very first time, we automatically link it to a moment in time, a person, a thing, an event (sometimes all four).  So, when smells trigger a memory from childhood, it is most likely because we experience some of our first smells when we are children.

Whenever I smell a good pipe tobacco or a fine cigar, I think of bookshelves bending with the weight of books.  I am brought back to a time when I was just a little tyke, sitting on my father’s lap while he puffed on his pipe and read to me snippets (whether I wanted to listen or not) from a current issue of the Foreign Affairs journal.  He was trying to teach me, to open my mind to the world around me.  Many decades later, I have a cigar lounge in my home – filled with bookshelves bending from the weight of books. Whenever I am in that room, I remember those serene days of my childhood.

Another vibrant memory is evoked by the smell of spaghetti Bolognese.  My favorite childhood meal.  Sadly, I have never been able to recreate my mother’s special sauce.  A few years back, I walked by a neighbor’s home and stopped in my tracks.  From her open kitchen window, I heard the sound of onions sautéing and the smell of onions and tomatoes wafted towards me.  It almost brought me to my knees.  Suddenly, I was a little girl again and my mother was lovingly stirring the sauce, smiling at my exaggerated, comical facial expressions (I was trying to convey to her how much I loved the smell and how impatient I was to eat my spaghetti). 

I stood on the sidewalk for a while longer, just so that I could enjoy the whiff of sauce and the memories that it evoked.  The next day, I knocked on my neighbor’s door and asked her for the recipe.  She quite happily gave it to me.  Strangely enough, I still can’t recreate it – quite exactly.  

Then again, my mother was one of a kind. 

 

Image via top7news.gr.