I slid the wrapper off the straw, blew air through it and stabbed it through the plastic lid of my Chick-fil-A tea.
Eleven-year-old Jack questioned the move he has likely seen me do a thousand times. “Why do you always blow air through the straw before you put it in the drink?”
(Aunt Eunice was my smart, witty great aunt who taught me how to diagram sentences when I was a kid, just for fun. That’s her on the right, pictured with the cake she had on her 104th birthday. Aunt Eunice always gave me a can of Lipton tea every Sunday afternoon when I’d visit her. She’d pop the top of the can, pull a straw out of her cupboard, and blow air through it before sticking it into the can of tea.)
Jack pressed for a better explanation. “Why did Aunt Eunice always blow through the straw?”
“I asked her that question once. She said you never know whether or not a tiny bug has crawled into the straw, so she’d blow through it, just in case. You wouldn’t want to drink a bug, right?”
“No, I wouldn’t.”
“Well, then, there you go.”
He seemed somewhat satisfied with the answer. But it made me realize just how many things I do simply because the women who came before me did them, too. The straw-blowing habit is one of them and fig jelly is another.
At our house, we eat fig jelly on toast. Why? Because that’s what my mom has smeared on toast since before I could even say the word toast. I love fig jelly. Every other jelly pales in comparison and my three kids agree, even though they definitely wouldn’t be able to identify an actual fig in a fruit line-up.
The only problem is that fig jelly is not exactly winning any popularity contests in the bread and jelly aisle. Lately I haven’t been able to find it at the store where we usually shop. It probably got bumped for a more modern, showy jelly like mango or blueberry lemon. Don’t get me wrong. Other jellies might be delicious, but my heart belongs to Braswell’s Fig Preserves. Anything else is just getting by.
So I drive across town to the one grocery store that still stocks it and hope I’m lucky enough to find it tucked away on the top shelf, overshadowed by red raspberry and blackberry fruit spread. The store usually has only two or three jars of fig, and I buy all of them just in case this is the last shipment.
The straw-blowing compulsion and the stockpile of fig jelly in my pantry help prove just how powerful a woman’s influence is – in little things and in big ones. So often, the “little voice” in our head belongs mostly to our mothers.
When I’m driving in a hard rain, the voice reminds me to slow down so the car won’t hydroplane. When I feel a sore throat coming on, the voice tells me to gargle with warm saltwater, even though I hate it. And when I’m worried or unsure, the voice reminds me God will take care of us.
One of the most humbling parts of becoming a mother myself is the knowledge that my voice is taking up residence in my own kids. I pray that voice will be a blessing and never a stumbling block. I pray it builds them up and makes them feel loved long after I’m gone. And I thank God I came from a long line of women who gave that same gift of love to me.
From our home to yours, Happy Mother’s Day.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.