Thursday, 28 September, 2006

Jim, where is your shirt?

When I was seven years old, my dad moved us to a house that had a swimming pool. We five children, ages four to ten when we moved in, spent the next five or six summers in the back yard, swimming in the pool, jumping on the trampoline, sunning ourselves, or running around like a pack of yard apes as kids are wont to do.  It was a wonderful way to grow up.

The back yard also contained a very large covered patio with two huge (hey, I was a little kid) picnic tables, some lounge chairs, and an outdoor fireplace where we'd sometimes roast marshmallows at night. Every afternoon, Mom would make a plate of sandwiches and bring them out to the patio, setting them on the picnic table and calling us and whatever friends were there to sit down and eat.

I'd sit down prepared to dig in and Mom would say, "Jim, where is your shirt? You know you can't eat lunch without your shirt on." Whenever we sat at that picnic table, we wore shirts. Even my sisters had to put on shirts to cover their bathing suits before they were allowed to sit and eat.

Almost 40 years later, at my own house now and making lunch to eat out by the pool, I sit down at the table and hear my mother's voice in my ear: "Jim, where is your shirt?" Honestly, I get up to find a shirt, even if that entails walking back into the house and digging one out of the dresser drawer. I think I just might experience a mental break were I forced to eat lunch without my shirt on.

I think others have similar tales: times when they hear a parent's voice in their heads, or rituals that they engage in due to upbringing.  We all have them: the way we tie our shoes, the food we call "comfort food," the way we brush our teeth or groom ourselves. The shirt at the dinner table thing is one of my favorites to relate because it shows how seemingly insignificant things from our upbringing affect our lives in so many ways.

Anybody else have random things like that? Things that you don't even think about, but strike other people as odd?