My grandmother had a poetic saying for every occasion. UJ and I spent a lot of time with her during our childhood, and heard every one of her sayings multiple times. They’ve become part of my permanent mental landscape and simply pop into my head, unbidden, from time to time.
Like when I saw this morning’s sunrise, shown above, with its striking red sky. It immediately made me think of one of Grandma’s weather-related favorites:
Red sky at night, sailors’ delight,
Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.
To my knowledge Grandma never lived in a coastal community. She didn’t have any close friends or relatives who were mariners, and I don’t remember her telling us any stories about receiving instruction from a grizzled sailor about his rules of thumb on the weather. She may have been on a boat once in a while on her travels, but being on the open water wasn’t a regular part of her life in land-locked Akron, Ohio.
Nevertheless, as a kid I believed that Grandma knew what she was talking about. But these days I’m not so sure. This morning the lobster fleet chugged out of port as it always does, without batting an eye about that red sunrise. And my weather app indicates its going to be sunny today, with a high in the mid-70s. Could Grandma have been wrong?
Or maybe the warning to sailors was about sunburns.
Yesterday Kish and I were talking about health, and before I knew it I used the phrase “fit as a fiddle.” As soon as I said it, I realized that it’s a phrase that no American has probably used for the last 20 years,
That’s what happens when my Inner Grandma surges to the fore.
“Inner Grandma” refers to the vast repository of sayings that immediately come to mind about the small realities of everyday life, like weather, and eating, and getting up in the morning, and how you’re feeling today. All of the sayings were chiseled deeply into the synapses of my cerebral cortex as a result of spending huge chunks of my formative years with my mother and my two grandmothers, all of whom used some of the same core sayings. I probably heard them hundreds of times as a callow youth, and was proud of myself the first time I used them correctly and participated in a conversation with Mom or Grandma Webner or Grandma Neal. Now those sayings bubble up, involuntarily, whenever those everyday moments arise, even though the sayings themselves have long since lost their currency — and don’t even particularly make sense, come to think of it.
“Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”
“It’s raining cats and dogs.”
“I’m in the pink.”
“You’ve got an appetite like a truck driver.”
“Good morning, Merry Sunshine!”
“He’s happy as a clam.”
And that’s just scratching the surface. I guess it shows how much of our thinking is shaped by our childhoods, and how we remain the product of our upbringing long decades after our childhoods have ended. Mom and my grandmothers will always be with me.