Friday, February 22, 2008

Front Porch Wisdom

When I was a few months past my fourth birthday, my parents had to make a quick change in the child care arrangements. Nanny Dodd, who had long said, “I raised mine, now you raise yours,” relented, and my paternal grandparents, Lee and Nima Dodd, were my baby-sitters until I began school.

Child psychologists tend to agree that the most formative years are those prior to age five, so Nanny and Papa found themselves with an audience with a sponge for a brain. The gray matter was there, but it needed filling up. During that next couple of years, I got a very practical education.

“It won’t matter a hundred years from now” was one of Nanny’s favorite sayings, especially when there was some job she’d just as soon put off. One look around my house lets a visitor know how much I took that one to heart. The stacks of books which need homes, the kid’s book bags on the floor, the stack of clothes upstairs that need to go to charity are all tasks I ought to do. But, really, in a hundred years, those items will be trash, so I just might find something else to do a while longer.

“Get yourself a good education. If you have money or property, someone might steal it, but no one can steal an education.” Papa told me this, over and over, and I have a higher level of education than either of my sisters (but not as much income.) In fact, I have worked in education most of my adult life, and while I have grave reservations about what is happening in public education, I am still a believer in both formal and informal education.

“Let ’em soak for a bit,” Nanny would say, as she placed the dirtiest dishes in the sink and went out to water her touch-me-nots. This morning, hubby was fussing about a dish that the didn’t come clean in the automatic dishwasher, so I told him to run some water in it so it could soak for a while. That technique works pretty well on ingrown toenails and rough patches of skin, too. Even a sore back will benefit from a half hour in the Jacuzzi. I wonder what Nanny would have thought about that contraption?

“If you have a problem, don’t mess with the first person you see. You go talk to the man that owns the business.” Papa told me this as he went around town, paying his bills. Folks used to do that here. Using stamps was a waste of money, and you can’t do much visiting down at the mailbox, either. As for the advice, I talked with seven different people when my laptop broke in December. If I could have followed Papa’s advice, I would have. On the other hand, the fellow who finally okayed the repair was named Steve. (If you are saying, “huh?” Steve Jobs is still the head honcho at Apple Computer.)

Lastly, when I learned to drive and got my license, Papa Dodd looked me straight in the eye and said he had some advice for me.
“Yes, sir?”
“If you can keep from hitting anything, you do that. And if you can’t; knock hell out of it!”
“Yes, sir!”

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At Feb 23, 2008, 1:23:00 PM, Blogger Sun Singer said...

High-quality, old-fashioned wisdom. Often hard to find these days.


At Mar 1, 2008, 9:02:00 PM, Blogger Pamela J. Dodd said...

Hi Malcolm,

Someone once said that we start and end with family. Certainly, the elder Dodds were the beginning of what I consider wisdom. Or maybe it is really just pragmatism. Whatever works, I suppose.



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