Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cookie Campbell: Q Is for Quirks

Cookie has been using the letters of the alphabet as writing prompts, creating a chronicle of her life from A to Z. She read her latest entry to the Morning morning group this week:

Q is for "quirks." The world is full of them. Or should I say the world is full of people who are full of them? Whatever.

Think of all the people who won’t walk under a ladder, or do a quick turnabout to avoid a black cat.

The elder Clayton Campbell would have been my father-in-law if he had lived long enough. He would not sit at a table with thirteen diners. Nor would he leave the table. His wife was supposed to do that, and long after his death she still left the table if the count was thirteen. I knew “Old Clate” for as far back as I can remember, and I was never aware of any noteworthy quirks except for the number thirteen. However, there must have been many, and as I look back I realize quite a few of them rubbed off onto his sons. . . .

A new job started on Friday always brought trouble. Things broke down, the weather turned foul, livestock came down with something, or maybe even the farmer would be hurt or catch a bug. The answer to this was simple. Thursday night, 9 pm, dark as a pocket and guess what: the job was well started. This particular son would plow two or three furrows or mow two or three swaths; then he would go to bed and sleep the sleep of the just, knowing all would be well.

For about two and a half years after our marriage Bun and I lived on the family farm. Bun farmed with two of his brothers and I helped with the household chores and worked at the hospital off and on. I was not allowed in the kitchen except to set and clear the table, and dry and put away the dishes. I kept the house clean and the ironing done. It was a good arrangement, even though it sounds a bit strange. I loved my mother-in-law and we got along well. She did have a quirk or two that I just couldn’t seem to get my mind around. No one wrote checks on the first day of the month. You’d spend the whole month writing checks and that was bad. The same went for Mondays, too. Birthmarks didn’t just happen. Each one was an indication of something that happened during the pregnancy. Usually something unpleasant. She had a favorite example. Years ago, when dresses hung to the floor, a mouse ran up the leg of a pregnant lady. She grabbed a handful of skirt and the mouse and squeezed it to death. How brave! When her baby was born it had a birthmark on its leg—right where Mommy had latched onto that mouse! Now really. I had a very small mark high up on the inside of my leg that I never told her about. I was afraid of what she might concoct about my mother to explain it. You paid for your sins. She truly believed that, and it did make for some hard feelings once in a while. Only “bad” women wore red.

Are you beginning to think I picked the wrong letter? Well, live with it. I’m going to continue in this vein. It seems kinder than the “S” word.

I grew up with some of these (actually, I think I grew up with all of them, and I’m sure many of them will ring your bell, too):

You can’t swim for an hour after a meal. You’ll get stomach cramps and drown.

Sneakers are bad for your eyes. Something about the rubber.

Fresh water saps your strength, but sea water is fine.

Death comes in threes—ask any one.

There’s something about dropping silverware and why is it we throw salt over our shoulder?

If you sew on Sunday, you’ll have to pick all the stitches out with your nose when you die.

If your nose itches or your ears ring someone is talking about you, and if you forget what you were about to say it means you were going to lie.

You do not walk on a grave.

You do not count the cars in a funeral procession and if you have a sudden unexplained shiver or shudder, well, someone just walked over your grave.

I’m sure there are thousands more and I may think of a few or you can jog my memory. Either way, I have had fun with this.

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