I have often spoken about my childhood growing up surrounded by the REAL 50s homemakers. Women who unlike June Cleaver did not wear pearls every day, though Nanny did own one set that she kept tucked away in an old jewellery box for special occasions (usually funerals). Women who worked all day keeping their homes, cooking and raising their children, then the night shift in the cotton mill to ‘help make ends meet.’ They were the true Steel Magnolias long before any movie.
Today, I want to share a special memory of them with you…as wives. A really important lesson that they taught that little girl about relationships.
Good manners and respect are as important to any relationship as love and trust.
I was around Aunt Mildred and Uncle Frank the most. I remember lunches with her the most. If it was just the two of us, then it was in the family room in front of the television, watching our soap operas. But on those rare occasions when Uncle Frank came home, I had the chore of sitting the table in the kitchen. Even the same sandwiches warranted napkins folded into triangles and fork, spoon and knives that were never touched.
I remember too Uncle Frank coming in, hugging and kissing her on the cheek. She insisted he wash up before lunch. Perhaps it is a trick of my memory, but I would swear that one earned her a quick slap on the bum and a girlish giggle.
We then sat around the table and ate those same sandwiches…cut into triangles of course…and the ends off this time. The conversation may have seemed trite. “How is work?” “What have you been up to?” “There is a social at church on Sunday…” But it was polite and…calming.
And Uncle Frank ALWAYS kissed her on the cheek and said “Thank you” after every single lunch. Yes, he worked hard to provide for their family. Yes, her sewing for people brought in far less money. But he valued her other contributions to their life. A clean home, fresh shirts and those special lunches. He valued her.
Most importantly they RESPECTED one another and showed it through their manners.
But somewhere along the way, over the past fifty years, we have forgotten those things. We have forgotten that ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and holding doors open make days, even rough ones better. We have forgotten than dinners with folded napkins and silver ware that never gets used make even a tomato sandwich taste gourmet. Most of all we have forgotten that how we speak to one another over those lunches matter. That pleasant conversation aids digestion.
Instead meals are fast food. Gobbled down in front of the television or computer. And conversation…is strife ridden. “Did you remember to pick up the dry cleaning?” “Sorry, I forgot. I’ll do it at lunch tomorrow.” “Damn it, I told you this morning…I’ll just do it myself.” Or worse…
The other week I issued the cuddle/hug (cwtch in Welsh) challenge. Today it is the ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ one. For the next week, I want you to remember to say those words at least a dozen times per day. I think you will find that does not even come close to being every time that your partner deserves one…that is just the bare minimum to maintain a cordial existence. Civility…if you will.
Give it an honest chance…and see the difference it can make to your relationships…and lives.
Then we can move onto polite dinner conversation…