The Dog Days of Summer isn’t just an expression that indicates summer days so hot dogs are driven mad. It’s an actual astronomical event when, Sirius, the dog star rises in conjunction with the sun. The Dog Days are listed as starting on July 3rd and continuing through August 11th.
In my family, the Dog Days of Summer marked the beginning of birthday season. I have three brothers and three sisters. Then there are my children, nieces and nephews, in-laws (or as we insist out-laws) and now the grandchildren and grandnieces and grandnephews. A significant number of them have birthdays in July and August.
Birthdays around our place were always a bit different. With so many relatives we seldom had friends to our birthday celebrations. We rarely severed cake but rather baked from scratch (including the crust) birthday pie. There were favorites – quite a few apple pies, pumpkin (made three days ahead of the feast and refrigerated to the proper coldness), lemon meringue, peach, and rhubarb for my mother.
And when my mémère (French for grandma) was alive, if it was your birthday, you got your nose buttered. It was supposed to make you side through the year to your next birthday.
Now Mémère assured us this was an old French custom, but I never met any other family who practiced nose buttering –even the few friend of mine when we were growing up who also had a mémère and pépère.
So, a few years ago I googled it. Sure enough, other families butter noses, but the articles I read listed the custom is either Scottish or Irish. I suspect Mémère would be upset by these claims as she was very proud of her French ancestry even though the family arrived in the New World well before there was a United States. She and Pépère spoke French at home, and my dad and his siblings didn’t learn English until they went to school.
I must admit that she frequently got things wrong. She was also very proud of being born on June 13th and every year would tell us that she just missed being born on Friday the 13th (it happened to be a Thursday that year). But when she died my aunts found her birth certificate. She wasn’t born on June 13th, that was the day she was baptized. She was really born two days earlier and forever celebrated her birthday on the wrong day.
My aunts were upset, but I would like to think Mémère would not have cared if she had ever noticed. She was happy to have a pie baked by my mom, and she would laugh her head off when we would sneak up and butter her nose so she could slide through another year.
Does your family have different birthday customs? What are they?
Marianne H. Donley makes her home in Tennessee with her husband and son. She is a member of Bethlehem Writers Group, Romance Writers of America, OCC/RWA, and Music City Romance Writers. When Marianne isn’t working on A Slice of Orange, she might be writing short stories, funny romances, or quirky murder mysteries, but this could be a rumor.
If you want to know more about the Dog Days of Summer here are some links:
I recently posted a picture on my Facebook site of a Simplicity sewing pattern from around the 1970’s. The banner on the top read, “ SHARE IF YOU REMEMBER WHEN MOM WOULD MAKE YOUR CLOTHES.”
Boy, did it stir some special memories of a different time and place. In one short afternoon, hundreds liked it and over the days that followed many more liked, shared and commented. The comments keep coming. It’s probably one of the most active posts I’ve ever had and I’m guessing that many of the comments came from men and women in their 50’s and 60’s.
Some remembered their mothers (or grandmothers) sewing them everything from pajamas to school uniforms to prom dresses. A few bragged that their moms made clothing for their Barbie, Ken and even GI Joe dolls. Some struggled through Home EC classes themselves and shared tales filled with evil task masters and measuring tape miracle workers. It was not uncommon to hear about failed sewing projects that made their way home only to be resuscitated by mom. A few said that they themselves now successfully sewed for their kids or that they had friends who had become master seamstresses.
There were some lovely, often humorous, memories shared and it really got me to thinking.
I have four real passions in my life: Family, Writing, Reading and of course, Sewing. And as I was thinking about it, I realized that each of these passions grew from time spent with my mother. To mom, family was everything and she raised us to always remember that. She was an avid reader, a poet and a phenomenal seamstress. And through her example, she ingrained a love for each of these things in me. Those are such wonderful memories to have.
My own kids have grown up watching me living a life centered around my family, always working on a sewing project, with a book close in hand. Recently they watched me as I’ve thrown my hat into the writers’ ring.
So now I have to I wonder what tales they’ll tell when asked…”Do you remember when your mom would…”
Do you remember when your mom…or dad…would…? What would you say?
Small mobs of kids surrounded our garage every Halloween when my husband carved pumpkins, not because he was especially artistic, but because he used a sawzall to carve them, and pumpkin insides and seeds sprayed everywhere while he worked. Our sprinkler system had “more power”, and when my mixer broke while I was making a birthday cake, Hunky Hubby came to the rescue by inserting a mixer beater into his electric drill. For years our three boys, took turns hiding a large plastic rat…in the dryer, in the pantry, wherever they thought it was most likely to scare me. If I left my phone unattended they would change their brother’s names on my contact list to things like ‘Ugly’ and ‘Creep’ and their own names to things like ‘Mom’s Favorite’ or ‘The Very Best Son’.
If this sounds like a season of Home Improvement, I thought so too. Hunky Hubby and the boys would prefer to eat meat off the grill and watch Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, while I wanted to see manners at the table and watch The Sound of Music. I could have written several seasons without making anything up.
In fact, of all my writing regrets, I most regret not writing an episode of Home Improvement and submitting it before the show ended.
So what is your biggest writing regret? Do you have one? Have you ever felt like your life was a sitcom, or tv drama and wanted to write a script?
You see it on organic foods and on the advertising that is trying to attract an environmentally sympathetic, locally grown, “healthy” type audience.
Can you imagine working efficiently and successfully with your family members? Isn’t it hard enough to get together for special eventsâ€”a shared meal during holidays, a birthday or anniversary, wedding or funeral? Can you imagine actually having not only to put up with everyone day after day, but know your livelihood is in their handsâ€”and firing them may not be an option?
Instead of going to HR or your supervisor about a performance concern as a professional and colleague, you end up feeling nine years old and tattling to Daddy about a sibling. “Johnny just picked his nose! Make him stop!” “Did not!” “Did so!”
Well, you get the drift.
And what about the opportunity for personal retaliation on the home front for a real or imagined issue at the workplace. “I’m sorry, but you’re not getting invited to Thanksgiving because you didn’t get those reports in on time. Now do your homework or you can’t go out and playâ€¦”
Work relationships are challenging. Family relationships are complex. Imagine combining them! The mind boggles. OK, yes, I’m sure family owned businesses can work–indeed do work. But it certainly doesn’t seem easy! And to present it proudly, as if it were an asset, simply boggles my mind. All I can think of is ‘imagine if Thanksgiving dinner were a Board Meeting! OMFG!’
But I have to say I am very fond of profit. The profit motive is clean, clear and lacks hypocrisy. Its consistent, and perhaps most importantly, focused on the customer. For profit companies have to create something that people actually want to spend money on to get. Profit is a demanding proof-of-concept!
Family migrates you away from a focus on profit and efficiency, and adds an emotional component that may certainly have some upsides, but certainly has some significant downsides.
Why is nepotism not a good thing, but a family business is something to celebrate. Doesn’t that strike anyone asâ€¦odd?
It’s all about relationships. And how they relate.
Love my family–but wouldn’t want to work for ’em….
I unfortunately wonâ€™t be at the upcoming OCC meeting. It sounds wonderful, but Iâ€™ll have family in town. And family comes first! Especially since the visitors will include my little grandson, whoâ€™s ten months old. He, and my son and d-i-l, live in Chicago.
I saw them just over a week ago, too, on a Florida trip that I blogged about in my weekly Killer Hobbies blog. Great trip, one on which Iâ€™d intended to do a lot of writing. But despite the best of intentions, I spent more time with family than writing. Since then, Iâ€™ve pretty much caught up on what Iâ€™d hoped to accomplish, which makes me even happier that I did what felt best at the time.
Will I get much writing done next week? Maybe not. But Iâ€™ve fortunately met the most compelling of my deadlines, so I can afford to have fun and spend time with family.
So how about you–does family come first, or your writing, or your day job, or other obligations? Or are you able to juggle them all so nothing is ignored?
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