Habits

Written by Mary Rose Betten

Habits like rabbits multiply.     I find it curious a nun chooses an order, takes a vow and wears a habit.  “Make it a habit,” my father would yell (he never spoke but bellowed) “Return things to where you found them.”  That might come naturally to salmon but I found it unoriginal.

When we buried him I wanted to shout,  “Look we got it right.”

In the course of becoming an old lady I now care less about order and more about comfort.  It’s difficult to release the foot rest on my recliner and  get up to retrieve  what I want.  Never mind returning it.  A sound repeats: “Forget about it.” Consider the sound of Hobbit and habit.  Definition of Hobbit?  Small with hairy feet.  Nothing grows on my feet,  though  my size grows along with a mustache.

Growing up I had a habit of leaving the light on while I walked out of my bedroom to go across the hall to the bathroom.  Down the hall with the speed of a freight train came my Father whooping:  “You burn holes in the daylight.”  Before I could explain: “I’m making a pit stop.” he’d be slapping at the switch like a mad drummer  after mosquitoes.

As a child my mother taught us to make windows in shoe boxes, cover them with tissue, attach a string and fill the box with lightening bugs. Of course I was only five so I went by Daddy’s white wooden lawn chair and said:  “Look Daddy, they turn on and off the light all the time.” As I say I was five not fifteen or I’d have gown up with the box implanted in my lip.

In our country church we had baptisms following a Sunday mass.  During mass nobody noticed but a bird flew in, took a quick bath in the baptismal font and left.

The priest didn’t notice.  My father was oblivious.  But the bird could fly.  There’s the answer: flight!  Before high school graduation I heard it cost more to turn off a light than to leave it burning a short time but I was too busy cleaning out my drawers, packing, determining how to pay my own  electric bill.

Today  AARP speaks advice to the elderly.  They claim by developing new habits your brain will easily adjust. Take something you don’t do well.   Like I am hopeless with numbers.  My father tried to teach me Algebra and my answers caused him to break pencils and masticate his tongue.

I’m going to rush out and take a course in mathematics so my brain can rejoice while my body has a nervous break down.  A full happy life to that AARP writer.  Whenever I feel the need for  studying mathematics I’ll pop some corn, sprinkle  sea salt, climb in my recliner and let the good habits roll.

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11 thoughts on “Habits

  1. Mary Rose, the lightening bug image is lovely as is the observation of the bird flying into the church and taking a quick dip in the baptismal font. I would quibble that the word “masticate” might be too high falutin for the story, a bit too studied, and self aware. Keeping the language simple when relating memories seems best to me. Sometimes childhood memories ring more true when written in the vocabulary of a child. The Carnegie audience is going to love your work. I just received The Prodigal Son’s Mother from Finishing Line Press but have not read it yet.

    • And I loved the word “chewing” when you read that on Sunday! It evoked, for me, a picture of a rural man who’s mouth was always chewing on something, always in motion, to yell about lights or other bad (and good?) habits!! It’s amazing how a word here or there becomes so evocative!

  2. very thoughtful and thought prevoking
    I can see grandpa bellowing for sure and I keep a copy of your e-mail dated 9-9-2004 “Bill get up and dance” on the board above my desk, thanks for sharing

  3. Wonderful writing, and reminded me of my childhood as well, the concern for economy that focused on the electric bill. Mary Rose captures a time period in our US history that followed the depression when families had to count their pennies. Turning off the light was a symbol of that concern. Well done, Mary!

  4. Yes, habits. My own have become habitually overwhelming. Lovely piece, my friend. Now get up from the recliner and put those chips back where you found them.

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