Go Ask Daddy About Gift Giving, Table Manners and Necessary Mind Games


photo credit: Can you see the cat? via photopin (license)
photo credit: Can you see the cat? via photopin (license)

Church wasn’t my favorite thing as a little boy.

GAD GRAPHICNot that I hated it. Like bedtime and math, church served a function in life. I had the sense of its moral compass, fueled heavily by tradition with a dash of fear. (My Sunday school teacher told us all the bad words we weren’t to use; she also warned us we’d go to Hell if we yawned in church.)

My church, though, seemed a circus with free cotton candy when compared to Margarita’s.

On birthdays, back in the 70s and 80s, your mom could bring cupcakes for the class. Mine many years was “class size – 1.” Margarita left quietly before the celebration of icing and noise and a spirited game of Thumbs Up could begin. I wonder how many kids noticed?

I always did, and I always wondered.

Margarita took all science tests and lined up with the rest of us for recess. Demure and sweet, she never got out of line. In fact, she cried softly while the class got reamed for abusing a sub. Margarita was the only kid who behaved.

I always wondered what became of her. What she thought of the rest of us, so high on sugar and low on self-discipline. Mom told me her family belonged to the Jehovah’s Witness Church, a place of mystery and no Christmas lights. Until today, I hadn’t thought of them much.

When they’d come to the door and stuff pamphlets describing their brand of salvation, I couldn’t even understand. The literature depicted faces brown like mine, with Spanish words, of which I knew little. Today will be my first dive into what they believe, thanks to Grace.

1. If Jehovah’s Witness don’t celebrate birthdays or Christmas, how do they get new stuff?

Kids receive gifts from their parents year round, just not on their birthdays.

According to JW.org, birthdays aren’t celebrated – not even Jesus’. Birthdays have pagan roots, including candles, which are believed to have special powers for wish-granting. The site says Jesus’ death (Easter) is more significant than his birth (Christmas.)

It cites Hebrews 1:4, which says “By the end of his life on Earth, Jesus had made a good name with God, making the day of his death more important than the day of his birth.”

2. Is Amazon like Netflix?

The parts that overlap between the two are alike.

You can’t, for instance, buy thermal underwear or Bug Bots from Netflix. I’ve done those things on Amazon. I haven’t, though, watched video from Amazon. It’s available though. Netflix delivers nothing but video content; Amazon does that, and is famous for much more.

It’s like going to Walmart to buy tropical fish. You might be better off getting fish at a store that specializes in fish. Or, maybe your luck will be just as good at place you can also buy a Subway Sandwich, get a haircut and stock up on Duck Dynasty casual and glassware.

3. Do umpires wear padding?

They’re as padded up as a catcher – but only half as padded up as a goalkeeper.

An ump has to get right in there behind the catcher to see the pitch delivered. It’s an inexact science performed at an inopportune angle. How can a guy in a mask obstructed by a catcher determine with any validity whether a ball thrown at 93 mph crossed over a 17-inch slab of rubber?

Umpires wear extensive padding: A facemask, a chest protector, pads that cover the nee and lower leg, and plate shoes, that protect the toe and upper foot. Oh, and the smart ones wear a cup. Why?

4. What’s so bad about elbows on the table?

That’s what I’m barking, kiddo.

I feel more comfortable with elbows on the table, particularly during taco night. Or when we’ve had to divvy up pizza slices. You savage children aren’t above swiping a spare rib or cheese stick off my plate. You think baboons are casual about how they protect their vittles?

I just imagined Grace Kelly doing that with me in a buffalo wings joint, and it certainly made sense.

It’s an outdated kid-shaming technique, on the order of “your face is going to stay that way” or “clean your plate – there are starving kids in china” or “you’re going to turn into cheese and butter because that’s all you eat.” (Wait, was that just for me?)

Etiquette goddess Emily post implores women, when in a noisy restaurant, to lean in on their elbows to be part of the conversation, saying such posture “makes a more graceful outline.” I just imagined Grace Kelly doing that with me in a buffalo wings joint, and it certainly made sense.

5. Is it true that we’re upside down on earth, but our brains make us think we’re right-side up?

It’s like the whole concept of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump supporters, too, if you think about it.

Who’s to say which way is up? Is up only in one spot in Greenland, where the globe model tells us is on top? Even in Dominican Republic, near the equator, I didn’t feel as if I’d suddenly fall sideways into the abyss, or even spill my rum and Coke Light.

Upside down as a concept comes with its own set of uncertains.

Our brains probably do trick us both then, the hungry writer and the tired Australian fisherman.

Right here, right now, in Waltham, Mass., I fee ever bit vertical. My bum’s down, my head is up. At exactly the same spot on the opposite side of the earth – off the southwestern coast of Australia – maybe there’s a dude on a fishing boat who feels like he’s the same way.

Our brains probably do trick us both then, the hungry writer and the tired Australian fisherman. Sounds like a decent non-birthday present for us both.

brain quote

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29 thoughts on “Go Ask Daddy About Gift Giving, Table Manners and Necessary Mind Games”

  1. Living out in the country as we do, I order a lot of stuff from Amazon. And as such, I take advantage of Amazon Prime. Part of that is some free streaming of videos and my favorite: prime music. I can actually download “prime” music to my devices and listen to it offline (as long as I have the Prime membership). When I work in the kitchen, I love to listen to all sorts of music; from a playlist of classical music, to pop to rock.

    You’re in Waltham? Wow. I grew up less than 15 minutes from there. Now that my folks are gone and our family house was sold, I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to MA. Have a good time there. If you want the best bagels or rye bread, one town over, in Newton probably still has some amazing Jewish bakeries. But then again, I haven’t lived in the area since the mid-90’s.

    1. I’ve heard of Prime. I used it once, one Christmas, the very Christmas I bought the underwear and Bug Bots.

      I canceled it after the free trial was up. That’s how I roll. I didn’t even know you could do music and movies.

      Where did you grow up? It was my first Boston visit. I went through Newton, but didn’t stop. I found not one but two great pizza joints, and a burger place called “5 napkin burger.”

      I managed to conquer my burger there with just one napkin, but burgers are kind of my superpower.

  2. Table etiquette can be tricky if you are ever in a formal setting and I’m glad I know how to do that. Thank God, I’m not in one very often. I was taught not to put my elbows on the table and it was so ingrained that I very rarely do it. I keep one hand in my lap and only use 2 when cutting something up or if I need to use my knife or spoon in conjunction with my fork ie.. spaghetti. Pizza doesn’t count! LOL! However, I do not criticize or look down on anyone else and I certainly do not care when friends are eating at my table… Feel free to sop your gravy and put both elbows on the table at the same time! I only ask that you keep your feet off! 😀
    I don’t care how gravity works, I’m just glad it does!! ha ha! And that poor umpire?? Oh my… I’m going to hell because I laughed at him, aren’t I???? 😛
    Have a great weekend Eli! ❤

    1. I took an etiquette course in Nashville a few years ago with an up-and-rising musical talent. I think she probably practices better table manners than I.

      Gosh, I use both hands when I eat, and I even do that double-bite thing like a shark or allosaurus does.

      I should be on Discovery Channel.

      Gravy asks for sopping. Otherwise, why gravy? My feet remain content to swing under the table as the sopping commences on it.

      Hell will be crowded if laughing at an umpire ranks among the damned offenses, Courtney! If that’s the case … I’ll see you there!

      1. LOL! No doubt there would be a lot of us there then!! I laugh at inappropriate stuff all the time!
        AND Yeah… of course you have to sop gravy! Thank you for leaving the feet under the table! 😀

  3. Is it a bad thing that I don’t know what a Bug Bot is? Your post reminds me that I need to place an order for new water filters and some nice, scented candles… maybe I’ll stock up on office supplies while I’m at it. Not quite the season for thermal underwear anymore, thank goodness. As for elbows on the table… I consider it a success when I can keep the cat and his gross little paws off of the table through an entire meal. Living by myself for the past ten years has not refined my manners. And that, my friend, is my attempt at humor. Painful, I know. Thanks for the clever post! You put a smile on my face today. (Actually, the biggest smile resulted from the shout-out to Waltham… one week until vacation and I’m back in CT/MA!) Take care, Eli! Hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend and that the week ahead is a great one!

    1. Bug Bots are just little toys that jiggle and battle. That’s all you need to know. While you’re on the prime, can you get me some shaving cream?

      Great point – at least my elbows haven’t been rooting around in a litter box. Recently.

      Glad to contribute to your smile. Where in CT/MA will you go? I had a blast up there. I’ve been sick, and hadn’t fully recovered before I departed – i wish I’d been healthier and could have met more of the crew and been more part of what happened while I was there.

      1. Shaving cream… And another bottle of Clorox kitchen disinfectant. Check! I’m headed back to see my parents for a bit. They still live in the same house where I grew up in a suburb of Hartford. I have friends and family scattered all around the Boston area. If the weather is nice, maybe we’ll head into the city. Finishing out the week with my 10-year college reunion in Worcester. Time flies! Hope you’re feeling better. Have a wonderful week!

  4. One story I heard about elbows on the table came from a crewmate upon the “Bounty” before she sank off the N.C. Coast. Sailors were once the lowly totem in terms of occupation. They would put their elbows on the table while at sea to a) keep their plates from sliding off the table while the ship rocked and b) to keep crewmates from stealing their food. So in order to NOT resemble a lowly sailor, you kept your elbows off the table.

    1. That’s brilliant, Eric. Makes tons of sense, too. Probably close to the story of hush puppies, too. I won’t go into that one in case the girls ask about it.

  5. I loved Sunday School when I was a kid. I even loved the annual Sunday School written “exam.” It certainly wasn’t compulsory, but my competitive streak as a kid meant it was a must 🙂 Oh, and the annual Sunday School picnic and prize giving were things you looked forward to.
    You have to have your elbows on the table if you’re eating tacos. Mind you, it does mean you get sauce down your sleeves sometimes.
    Upside down? So that’s why I feel dizzy all the time 😉

    1. I did when I was little, Lyn. That’s when it was fun. Love that you brought it for the exams!

      Elbows on tables are essential. Otherwise you’re just asking for someone to swipe your taco.

  6. Flashback to memories of Girl Guide camp and having to skip around the huge dining hall if you got caught with your elbows on the table. Didn’t understand it then, still don’t today. Now, I don’t let my children lie down on the darn table or slouch like sloths at the trough; but how else are you supposed to balance eating and conversation some times if you cannot rest your elbows somewhere??!

    Was that Ball One? Sports terms are soooooo hard. 🙂

    1. If Girl Guide Camp discourages table elbows, imagine the social impact, Rore. It’d elbow discrimination.

      Where would we be without elbows? They deserve rest on a table.

      1. Since we ate on the ground with bugs flying about us and glitter still on our fingers this camping trip, I am going to guess they’ve relaxed their Guiding standards considerably. 🙂

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