I'm back to working on the manuscript of my next book, "Yankee Sisters," which will be volume three of the Grenville Sagas. It is very loosely based on the lives of my mother's family, so I find myself doing a lot of reminiscing about the stories she told about her own girlhood. Among those stories, I keep hearing familiar sayings, aphorisms, and lucky charms that guided the lives of girls growing up at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Today, I've been reminded of some of her necessary rituals of everyday life, and I'm trying to work them into my novel, For example, my mother always assured me that if I wanted to grow up to be beautiful, I had to get up very early on the first of May and go outside to wash my face in the dew I found on the grass. My Pennsylvania cousins and I took that warning very seriously, although it didn't seem to make any noticeable difference in our pudgy cheeks or the blossoming of adolescent pimples.
Do girls still do that? Probably not. It would be downright dangerous today, I suppose. I know that in my neighborhood, our lawn service folks come around at the end of April and spray all the grass with a horrible mixture of fertilizer, pre-emergent weed-killer, and a virulent blue-green dye so they can tell which areas have been treated. Just imagine what that would do for the complexion! Every little girl would look like a Smurf!
I still like some of the old rituals, however. I was taught that when a family moves into a new residence, four items need to cross the threshold before any other belongings can enter. (This practice really confused some of our moving companies!) First comes a broom, to sweep out troubles. Then there must be a whole loaf of bread, to be sure that the family will always have enough to eat. Next comes a cup of sugar, for love and sweetness. And finally, we add a shaker of salt, to add a bit of flavor and fun to our lives. Even if there's nothing magical about my thinking any longer, the four items still serve as good reminders about what's important in our lives.
What about your family? Did your folks have any traditional rituals that still remind you of them?