Friday, February 26, 2010

Known Laws of the Physical Universe

When I was a little girl, there were certain rules my mother drummed into me that have transformed themselves and are still with me in their new form in my adult life.

One of these is that you must finish the open box of cereal before you are allowed to even touch the new box. I don't care how much you want that new cereal, you can't have it until the old box is gone.

I still do that. Not with cereal, because I don't eat it very much, but with everything else that's made to not be finished at one time. My mom was very effective with this rule, and it's become a source of wonder for me now that I have a roommate who (shocker!) is not exactly like me.

My roommate and I attended a Women of Faith conference a few years ago at which Nicole Johnson was talking about women and their purses. She said that when it comes to purses, there are two kinds of women: sorters and stuffers. Then she pointed her finger at the audience and said, "And you know which one you are." My friend and I looked at each other and smiled. She is definitely a stuffer, and I am definitely a sorter.

I've noticed that in the long run, it doesn't seem to matter which one you are. When she and I go to the movies and the guy tells me, "That'll be a billion dollars" (Okay, I'm exaggerating. We go to the matinee, so it's only half a billion dollars...), I reach into the zippered pocket inside my purse, pull out my wallet, grab a billion-dollar bill from the cash slot, and hand it over. The guy hands me my change and movie ticket, and then I stand there while I put the money in the right order, slide it in between the right bills so the ones are in the front and the bigger denominations are behind in ascending order. Then I stick my wallet back in the zippered pocket and leave.

My roommate, as a stuffer, gets told, "That'll be half a billion dollars," and she starts digging through her purse, because she just saw a bill down there somewhere this morning when her phone was ringing and she was trying to find it so she could answer it. She looks at her wallet, which has receipts sticking out of it but no cash, and she checks a couple pockets on the outside of her purse, and then she comes across a billion-dollar bill and hands it over. When the guy gives her the change, she sticks everything in her purse and leaves.

So from the moment we're told the ticket price to the time we leave the counter, it's about the same amount of time. I know I've digressed, but I'm getting back to the point.

Last September, when I was moving in where I live now, my new roommate left for a long-planned cruise, and she called after a couple days to see how I was doing. I told her, "I've learned that you treat your kitchen the same way you treat your purse." She laughed for a really long time, and I did too.

It's all a source of great amusement for us, the way we're trying to blend a sorter with a stuffer under the same roof. I can't speak for the way my friend sees my three bottles and one tube of personal care products lined up in the shower the same way all the time: shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and my tube of face cleanser. I need for them to stay in the same order, because I shower in the morning before the vast majority of brain activity has begun for the day. One time the cleaning lady mixed them up and I didn't notice, so I washed my hair with body wash and when I put what I thought was the conditioner (2nd bottle, so it must be) in my hair and it sudsed up, I figured out that something was wrong. I rearranged the bottles and started over and finally got everything washed with the right product.

Back to my mom. When one of my shower items gets emptied, I bring in a replacement, just like I was raised to do. My roommate, on the other hand, has all kinds of products in there, and I can't imagine what they're all for because, silly me, I don't shower with my reading glasses on. There's a matching set of lavendar bottles that I figure must be shampoo and conditioner. And there's a matching set of skinny golden containers that might have something to do with hair color, but I really haven't got a clue. And there are bottles that look like children's shampoo, and there are black tubes that fall down the back of the shower-head-hanging toiletries rack when I'm not looking and startle the heck out of me. And then just this week, two more containers showed up in the shower, but none of the other bottles got thrown away, and I just don't understand how that's even possible.

Oh man, this is going to be a long post, because that's only the first rule.

My mom's second rule was: Don't you even think of riding anyone else's bike, and don't let them ride yours. As an adult I understand about how, when your kid breaks the neighbor's bike, you have to buy them a new one, which is tough on a Navy enlisted salary. As a kid, though, I understood about the Wrath of Mom. I did not ride anyone's bike.

To this day, I don't drive other people's cars unless it's nearly an emergency. It's not an insurance issue, because you're covered when you've got the owner's permission to drive her car. I just... can't... do... it.

Rule number three is the earliest one I remember. It was burned into my very being by the time I was five years old. We lived in Norfolk, Virginia, on a huge corner lot across the street from the nice old lady who drove a school bus and had a parrot that said, "Polly want a cookie." On the next block to the right, if you're facing the school bus, lived a girl that we played with. She's the same one who scared the bejeebers out of me one time when it was getting dark outside and she came running down the side street toward me screaming in fear, "The moon mans are coming! The moon mans are coming!" I ran home crying, and my daddy put me on his lap and explained that there's no such thing as moon mans, and he talked soothingly to me until I was calmed down again.

It was that girl that my brother and I saw when we went outside to play one Saturday morning. She was playing in the street in front of her house IN HER PAJAMAS!!! I didn't know that was possible. It was a Known Law of the Physical Universe that a person had to be completely dressed before they could go outside. There were No Exceptions, and yet there she was defying all that was real in life.

My brother and I were scandalized, and we went back inside to tell our parents about the girl's sordid, shocking attire. It shook my world, but it didn't change the rule one bit.

Finally (and this isn't a Law as much as it is advice), my mom told me something when I was an older teenager. I don't remember the context, but she and I were standing near the kitchen table with the bright afternoon sunlight pouring through the windows. She told me that if I'm ever drinking beer, I should NOT have ice cream with it.

I didn't press her for details, and she didn't offer any, but I always remembered what she said and have never done such a thing. And, yes, there were a few times when the opportunity presented itself.

It was probably about ten years later that I mentioned to her that I had indeed followed her advice on this. She gave me a puzzled look and said she had no idea why she might have told me such an odd thing.

No matter. It is one of the Known Laws of the Physical Universe that beer and ice cream don't go together.

So how about it? What are some of the Laws that you grew up with that you still obey today?


janice said...

No PJ's outside,
Finish the open ANYTHING first, CHECK.
Never ride someone elses bike, CHECK.

We were never allowed to eat anything in the car. Her car was not meals on wheels, she'd say.

Going to McDonalds was a treat, not dinner.

Never go to bed angry at your brother.

My Mother told us if we tricked someone, lied or did something we'd be ashamed of if our parents found out; we should remember that God knows what we did and sees everything we do. This has keep me out out of trouble on many occasions.

Great post BYW.

Anonymous said...

Mom, I'm using your computer and don't want to log you off.

I'm sure you remember this, and I've been able to mention it to a good number of people:

There's ALWAYS time to brush your teeth.

It's never let me down. You're such a good mom.

Tsofah said...

Wow, rules. I remember those. They kinda went out the door when I married hubby.

Well, not completely.

Rules I remember are:

Do not kiss a dog or cat on the mouth.

Do not drink out of the same glass as anyone else.

No double dipping.

No picking your nose, which she didn't have to tell me, cause it's just gross.

Always wear a bra with good support so people will know you are wearing a bra. (yeah, I know..HUH?)

Always wear clean underwear in case you have to go to the hospital.

A very memorable rule was to NOT crunch up your cornflakes. They are flakes and are to be eaten as such.

(Maybe that is because Dad ate cornflakes that way. Dad also made bologna gravy.)

The same rule went for potato chips. No crushing them, putting ketchup on them, then eating them with a spoon.

Hubby eats cornflakes crushed. He doesn't do that with potato chips.

My mother in law and father in law crush their cornflakes too.

I'm grateful our son does not.

Me? I don't eat cornflakes anymore.

janice said...

For the longest time I thought cornflakes were the ONLY kind of cereal in the world......besides oatmeal and cream-o-wheat.