The other evening as I was drying my hair with a hairdryer I had a childhood memory. When I was a child, one’s hair was dried by lying in front of the gas fire first on one side, then on the other, and finally, on one’s back. It was always much more pleasurable to dry one’s hair on the one side (i.e. the side which enabled you to see the TV clearly) than it was to dry it on the other side (facing the sofa) or the back (facing the wall). I grew up thinking that everyone (at least in the UK) dried their hair like this after the Sunday-night bath. I can still remember the smell of burning hair and burning nightie and the sensation of hot nightie against cool, wet back.
However, as I grew older I realised that, some people at least, used these things called hair dryers to dry their hair. Other people just let their hair dry naturally. Both seemed so odd.
My weird thought is this: there are certain habits or behaviours that we grow up with that we assume to be ‘normal’ and we go through a period of disillusionment when we discover that they aren’t normal. I have a friend, and I can’t now remember which friend (hopefully someone who will read this blog and say ‘that’s me!’), who grew up with a fridge in their bedroom. They reported to me a few years ago that as a child they expected everyone to have a fridge in their bedroom. They felt quite shocked and upset when they discovered that this wasn’t normal behaviour.
I also grew up believing that everyone ironed their clothes on a towel on a floor (or on the cooker hob, also on a towel) as that is what my mum did. At university I discovered that there were these things called ironing boards. What an amazing invention!
I find it interesting that when you live with someone for the first time, these odd family quirks have to live together too and you are introduced to a whole host of weird and wonderful ideas. One example I can think of is that my husband has a collection of cloth hankies. I had never encountered such an indulgence before I met him. I grew up wiping my nose on toilet paper. I thought that was normal. However, here was a man (younger than 85) who used real material for his nose wiping needs. It still bothers me that he wipes his nose on cotton and not toilet paper or kitchen towel. It just doesn’t seem right.
I wonder what family quirks my children will discover one day to be eccentricities rather than the norm. A few years ago, one of my children expressed surprise to me after going to a friend’s house for tea at discovering that not all mummies painted pictures.
They will probably grow up thinking that everyone has ‘milk and a biscuit’ in the middle of the morning. This is something they still ask for. This originated out of a mid-morning feed when they were babies and has stayed with us. They also still request ‘milk and yoghurt’ before bed. This was a habit I adopted to keep number one son going until morning as he was a hungry baby. He’s eleven now and he still has milk and a yoghurt before bed. Will he go to university and wonder why nobody else has a glass of milk before bed, along with a petits filous?
At least we don’t keep a fridge in his bedroom (for those petits filous). Although, thinking about it now, that’s not a bad idea.