Saturday, September 17, 2011

formative phrases

Whether we think of them as rules, wisdom, or advice, most of us can probably recall a list of such items that our parents or elders recited to help shape our manners and even, perhaps, our worldview. My father had three favorites that were repeated at meals: chew with your mouth closed, put your napkin on your lap, and keep your elbows off the table.

It was with some delight that I came across this list on Pinterest espousing those same bits of ettiquette, with a few others thrown in. With less regularity we also heard the good counsel to sit up straight and refrain from playing with our food. We learned early on to ask to be excused from the table, and I never did manage to eat my vegetables.

What's interesting to me as I hear these instructive bits in my head is that images of where these meals took place pop into my mind. The triad of fatherly advice puts me at the kitchen table at the home to which we moved when I was 9. I'm sure Dad used those words earlier, but for whatever reason I trapped them in my memory at a particular time in that particular place. I have no doubt that the chewing and elbow portions were directed to my brothers. I can't say one way or the other if I might have been guilty of breaking the napkin code.

I'm absolutely grateful for stumbling across the cornerstones and staples of other peoples lives to evoke my own. I'm not good at recalling memories out of the blue. For me a "memory keyword" is necessary to go delving into my brain to return with a slice of my earlier life to remember or share.

How about you? Are there phrases of advice and counsel that have followed you from childhood? Is your memory like mine, needing a catalyst to release its riches, or do you have stories to relate that don't require evocation? Do tell!
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The Bug said...

I'm the same way with memories - & even then I'm not sure how accurate my "memory" is. But I'm not sure it hurts to fudge a little :)

My dad was fond of saying, "for someone so smart you sure are dumb" - which meant that I was doing something that defied common sense. Again. I was a teenager - what did he expect? Heh. I also had to have at least one bite of coleslaw at every meal. I hated the stuff & it was often our green veggie (although I know we ate lots of green beans & peas too).

Terri said...

My husbands biggest table manner rule; chew with your mouth closed. He can't stand the sounds...mine, use napkins, preferable cloth, and don't reach across people, ask to pass, use please.

These days, with kids grown, I focus on teaching my dogs to have manners. Sit, no barking, wait....etc

Jules said...

Manners make the (wo)man so the saying goes. And while I do not feel manners make the whole man, I do believe that lack of civility is either a lack of childhood training or just plain rudeness.

Things I was taught:
1. Offer your seat to anyone older
2. Please and thank you are magic words
3. Wait your turn
4. Be polite and "mind your manners"
5. Do not interrupt a conversation (one I struggled with and sometimes still do)
6. Be civil /civility is what set gives us dignity for ourselves and others.

and my all time favorite, keep your elbows off the table! lol


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