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Kathy Tofflemire, Published January 06 2009

Familiar sayings and characteristics are all in the family

My mother used to twiddle her thumbs. I always thought that was just the silliest habit I’d ever seen. And now I periodically catch myself doing the same thing. Is it an old lady tendency?

Looking in the mirror and seeing your father’s eyes or your mother’s smile or some other physical link is often comforting. I thank my mother for handing down her lack of wrinkles. Her lack of height? Not as much.

I inherited my mom’s love of words: reading and writing. My daughter did not. But we both have my mother’s dislike-of-housework gene.

My daughter and I are both attracted to people who make us laugh. And my younger grandson – the Romeo of kindergarten – says of his various “girlfriends” that the one he likes best is the one who’s funny.

And then there are those sayings you grew up with and swore you’d never repeat.

When my mother left the house, she would often admonish us not to put beans up our noses. Since my brother was 10 years older than I, I’m not entirely sure if the story is he couldn’t resist testing what would happen if he did that, or if her admonishment was because he had, at some point, stuck a bean up his nostril.

When we left the house, she would often say, “Write if you get work” – a line from an old Bob and Ray radio program.

I have found myself saying that to my daughter and other people over the years.

In fact, a former co-worker e-mailed me with delight when he moved on and “got work.” He said he had been waiting years to be able to send me that message.

And I don’t recall if it bothered my daughter when I told her “she made a better door than a window” when she stood between me and the TV.

But it sure annoys her sons when she says it to them.

And there are characteristics that you wish you could somehow remove from the family line. For my clan, it’s procrastination: Never do anything today that you can put off until tomorrow.

I don’t know how far back this trait goes, but my mother and my brother were procrastinators. I am one, and so is my daughter. It’s a little too soon to tell if my grandsons are so afflicted, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

My mother, a talented seamstress, offered to make my wedding gown. I think now what a wonderful thing that would have been. But at the time, I couldn’t handle the stress. I envisioned myself walking down the aisle with my mother on her knees behind me, hurriedly hemming my train.

I’ve always said it’s a good thing I have a job that involves deadlines, or I might never accomplish anything.

My daughter has herself convinced that she works best under pressure. I think all procrastinators believe that.

My late brother had a theory. He believed that we procrastinators are also perfectionists and that we blame any shortcomings on not allowing ourselves enough time to complete our tasks.

That may be true. I know my daughter is a perfectionist. She constantly moves merchandise around her store until it’s “just right.”

In my case, I think it’s more laziness than anything else. But one of these days I’ll overcome my tendency to put things off. Just you wait and see.


Kathy Tofflemire is a copy editor at The Forum.

Readers can reach her at (701) 241-5514, or ktofflemire@forumcom.com