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Wisdom of elders

08/22/02 12:00AM By Edith Hunter
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(Host) Lately commentator Edith Hunter has been thinking about a very practical kind of inheritance.

(Hunter) It is probably safe to say that every one of us has in our memory bank bits of wisdom that our parents or aunts or uncles or grandparents handed on to us; now we are handing them on to our children and grandchildren.

One of my mother's favorite bits of advice was, never go empty handed. A useful admonition as one left the table at the end of a meal, or started up stairs. As a kind of counter-balance to this one was another of mother's favorites, Don't take a lazy man's load. In other words, don't try carrying so much that you drop something. Better to take two trips. And speaking of dropping things, mother frowned upon the use of the passive voice. For example: When I was drying dishes and one broke, if I said, It slipped. Mother was quick to say, It didn't slip, Edith, you dropped it. In other words, she wanted us to accept responsibility for our actions. Another bit of advice that I have found invaluable is: If you are avoiding a job, work at it fifteen minutes a day. Before you know it, it will be done.

Probably the most memorable of these legacies from our elders is Aunt Mary's: I took her right off my list. Aunt Mary graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1912, a loyal alumna, president of her class for 50 years. One day Aunt Mary, to our surprise, spoke in a derogatory fashion of the-then new president of the college. We asked why she was so down on her. Well, explained Aunt Mary, soon after Miss X was appointed president, some of the students were helping to get out a mailing from the college. I noticed that she allowed the students to put the stamps on crookedly. I took her right off my list as an educator. Whenever I am getting out a mailing for the historical society, and a stamp goes on crookedly - I mean, when I put a stamp on crookedly - I feel myself being removed from Aunt Mary's list. It has become part of the family lore, that if your standards aren't tip top, you'll be removed from someone's list.

Another favorite of my mother's was: A job worth doing, is worth doing right. Recently I asked grandson Sammy to write out a shopping list for me. When he had finished, it was pretty sloppy looking. Sammy, I said. You know what my mother always said, A job worth doing, is worth doing right'. Silence. Then Sammy said, What if the job isn't worth doing? Hmmmm. I'm still thinking about that. Is there some way I could reword it?

This is Edith Hunter on the Center Road.

Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center, Vermont.
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