Habits That Stick

I was talking with a friend yesterday.  She said she was visiting a friend in San Antonio this weekend, and she was washing clothes and cleaning house before she went.  It rang a bell with me, and I probed a little into why she was doing it.

“I have this thing where I feel like I must do my work before I enjoy myself.  Otherwise, I don’t deserve to have fun,” she said.  Hmmm, she must be working from the same script I once was.  I remember my husband was amused when I scrubbed the entire house before a vacation, furniture included.  I had no idea why I did it, but it sure made me feel good.  Then I could go have a good time without any guilt hanging over my head.

Where did we get this strange practice?  Our mothers saying we couldn’t go out and play until we did our chores?  I don’t remember “going out to play.”  I sneaked out so I wouldn’t get caught with more chores that never seemed to have an end.  My friend had a mother who taught her girls they weren’t worthy of pleasure unless it was for the mother’s benefit.  I’m surprised how really lovely my friend turned out, coming from a dysfunctional home.  But that’s her story, not mine to tell.

I briefly considered if there was a co-relation with the clean house and another saying my mother had. “Don’t go out with holes in your underwear.  You never know if you will get in a car wreck, or something,” she cautioned.  I had this little picture in my mind of a girl laying beside a wrecked car and the ambulance personnel coming over and pulling up her skirt.  “Yep, no holes in these underwear.  She has a good mother and comes from a nice family!”  My mother would be proud, I thought.

My parents lived by a code of honor.  We didn’t take charity.  Now, we would trade fruit and vegetables with the neighbors, or better, give them away without any expectation of getting any in return.  But we usually did.  Neighbors would help with big chores like bringing in a harvest or building a house.  My mother would not think of moving to another house without scrubbing and mopping our old house before leaving.  She said nobody wanted to deal with someone else’s dirt.  It would be shameful.  I kinda liked that about my mother.

My sisters grew up with a longer list of appropriate behavior than I did.  Pushing my boundaries, I was a little more of the wild child much to their  discomfort.  They’ve spend the better part of a lifetime trying to reform me, and I think they have finally given up for the most part.  However, they still keep a eye on me lest I embarrass the family name.  We still have differences of opinion of whether a woman can do much more than work in the nursery or the kitchen at church.  And here I have a degree in Bible, and preach occasionally.  That last part isn’t proper according to them; I don’t even pull scriptures on them to the contrary.  It wouldn’t help.  Their minds are made up.  I love them anyway.