Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Odd Old Thoughts

I have to say that I'm getting weirder as I get older, a thought that conforms, of course, to the general conception that many (younger) folks have of the older. I remember thinking my great-grandmother Osborn was weird--and my grandmother Dyer (and they were!). When I was a kid, Grandma Dyer, who was in a nursing home out in Oregon at the time, told me a strange story about a guy who'd been hit in the head by lightning. And lived. And was kind of ... bizarre ... afterwards. (Really?) I thought it was so funny I had to go outside to laugh some more. Now, I find myself wanting to tell stories like that, too--though I've not yet encountered someone zapped in the head by Thor.

Another certain sign: I think about the damnedest things in the shower. Today, emerging, I looked at the towel on the rack and wondered: Should the fold be on the left or the right? I think I remember some movie or TV show where a rich woman--a character we were supposed to dislike--yelled at her maid because the fold was on the "wrong" side.

And that memory made me think of Emily Post. And that made me think of her book Etiquette, which was on our parents' bookshelf for as long as I can remember. It's now on mine. Why? Surely they didn't give it to me because I needed ...?

The edition I have (see pic at the bottom of this post) is the seventh printing of the 1937 edition (pub. in 1939), so my memory is correct: It was in our house throughout my boyhood (I was born in 1944). My mother has written her name on the recto of the front endpapers--on the top. Mom always printed (sort of) her signature and printed pretty much everything else, too. I should ask her about that ... about why ...

Anyway, Emily Post and Etiquette were touchstones in my boyhood home. Mother would consult the book to settle disputes about where tableware should lie. And numerous other things. (I always found EP annoying.)

So this morning--after I dressed--I found Etiquette on my shelf (where it has stood, unconsulted, for decades--I actually blew dust from it) and decided to settle the fold-in-the-towel question. The word towel does not appear in the index, so I tried bath towel; nope, but I did find a listing for Bath robes in country houses--not something I've ever had to worry about.

I went to the chapter "The Well-Appointed House" and read about how many servants I need ("The Butler in a Smaller House" is a subhead); in fact, Post has a little section about all kinds of servants (valet, lady's maid, tutor, etc.). There's even a "Working Schedule for a One-Maid House." At ten a.m., the maid should Go upstairs, make beds, clean bathrooms, sweep, dust, empty waste-baskets (217). That would be nice.

But I couldn't find anything about towels. So I checked Google and found a YouTube video that explains how to do it (link to video). Watching it (yes, I watched it!), I discovered you can fold them so that both sides have the fold. Oh, what have we been doing in our bathroom-towel-hanging for decades?!?!?! Shame!

I was stunned to see how many sites Google had found for me, by the way--all sorts of advice about towel-hanging. (Ms. Post should be ashamed.)

I couldn't leave Etiquette without going to Chapter 42: "Table Manners" and to its subheading "Talking at Table." Here's the opening sentence: When older people are present at the table and a child wants to say something, he must be taught to stop eating momentarily and look at his mother, who at the first pause in the conversation will say, "What is it, dear?" And the child then has his say. If he wants merely to launch forth on a long subject of his own conversation, his mother says, "Not now, darling!" or "Don't you see that mother is talking to Aunt Mary?" (748).

Yeah, that works.

And in a section called "Embarrassing Difficulties," here's this: If you choke on a fishbone, leave the table quickly. To spit anything whatever into the corner of your napkin is too nauseating to comment on (749).

And let's end today with this: When children behave like hoodlums and eat like little pigs, it is solely and entirely the fault of their elders (753).

I could go on--and I think I will in some subsequent "posts." (It's always polite to warn readers in advance.)

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