USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘grandma’
Childhood
Game
Gestures
Kinesthetic
Magic

Silly Grandma, Smart Grandma: Children’s Folklore Impressing Protection in Silly Ways

Folk Practice:

My grandma has a thing where first she’d look at you when you’d be looking away and she would do this [Informant puts one hand under chin and wiggles fingers in my general direction] and if you didn’t do it back then she’d go like this [Informant puts both hands under his chin and wiggles his fingers faster] and you’d have bad luck or something.”

Context of Practice:

“She would do this to all the kids in the family. My siblings and I are the oldest of all my cousins. It was me and my two cousins who are one year younger than me and then like five years younger than me? Six years younger than me? She would do it literally like all the time. It would be like two or three times an evening. It would be when she was walking past you or when you weren’t expecting it. Usually when people were in pissy moods and thats how she’d get you out of it. She was like a scary old lady from Brooklyn… I don’t know. She was very intimidating.”

Informant Background:

My family has a lot of superstitions I think cause they’re catholic. On my dad’s side. I think [my grandma] was already in New York because my great grandpa was a county lord in Ireland. I think my grandma was born in New York. She’s probably in her 80’s or 90’s now. I think she just turned 90? I don’t know.”

The informant himself is 21 and grew up in Los Angeles.

My Analysis:

This practice could be a way to impress the importance of spatial-awareness and attentiveness in children. The informant specified many times that his grandmother would do this when the children were not paying attention or least expecting it. The idea that children would have “bad luck” if they were not cognizant and responsive to their surroundings is another way of impressing upon them that they could be harmed if they are not careful. “Bad Luck” is just a substitute for actual sinister things in our world. This is a common lesson in children’s folklore. For example, Little Red Riding Hood not being as quick-witted to realize that the big bad wolf is her grandmother before it is too late ended up getting her eaten in some iterations.

The reason she did this at times when people were upset could be that it is when we are caught up in our emotions that we pay the least attention to our surroundings. Those are the times we are most vulnerable to harm.

 

general
Proverbs

Bones

The informant was born and raised in Colorado. She all her life has used proverbs that her grandmother taught her to develop relationships. Her grandmother helped in assisting her by giving her proverbs to live by that apply to any situation and any human.

A dog that brings a bone takes a bone

Informant…

When I was a lot younger and still in my adolescent years, I would try and keep up with the latest drama and gossip. I was all in his business or her business and always had the latest gossip. So and so would tell me something about someone and I would talk to my grandma like oh so and so said that she’s been doing a,b,c and my grandma would respond with A dog that brings a bone, takes a bone. At first the didn’t really mean much to me, I had to experience it on my own to have a full understanding of what she meant. A dog that takes a bone brings a bone to me means that if someone is coming to you with gossip, they are going to leave with something about you and talk about you to other people the same way the were talking to you about so and so. I just always have kept this in the back of my mind when someone is gossiping  about someone else to me. I realize that if i egg in that conversation, there might be something that I said that would give the person a bone to run off with. I guess what I get from this is be aware of conversations you engage in and how much you trust to tell people.”

Analysis…

A dog that brings a bone takes a bone. I haven’t heard this before, so it is new to me. When to informant was explaining it to me I think she could sense my confusion probably by my facial expression and thankfully she continued to elaborate until she thought I could make sense of it. I think this just goes along with the proverbs about being careful who you trust and spend your time around. Not everyone in this world has good intentions and I think that in informant’s grandmother kew that and she was wise enough to share them with her granddaughter to hopefully help her in life. A dong that brings a bone takes a bone puts an all new perception of people and relationships into my head. It makes sense that a gossip who gossips to you is most likely gossiping about you, so it is important to choose carefully who you also yourself to be around.

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Long Handled Spoon

The informant was born and raised in Colorado. She all her life has used proverbs that her grandmother taught her to develop relationships. Her grandmother helped in assisting her by giving her proverbs to live by that apply to any situation and any human.

“feed them with a long handled spoon”

Informant…

“My grandma use to tell me Feed them with a Long Handled Spoon when she said this it was usually in regards to when I would have a fight with someone, if one of my friends really hurt my feelings, or even now while I am in my profession she will use it if I don’t necessarily like someone I am working with. It means, if someone does you wrong, you deal with them, you are still nice to them, but you don’t have to trust them anymore or let them get close to you. My grandma really was big on how people interact with each other and she thought that if someone was going to violate you and your trust, you keep them in front of you so they can’t stab you in the back again, you are still nice to them, and you deal with them when you have to, but you donut rust them enough to let them get close to you.”

Analysis…

When the informant was telling me her proverb, I could tell that she was excited to tell me about it and share with me what her grandmother had previously shared with her. This information the informant uses whenever she feels like she needs guidelines on how to act of how to feel she remembers the proverbs that her grandmother taught her and tries to apply them.

This proverb I connect with the proverbs keep your enemies in front of you and keep your enemies closer. I think that I associate the three because the al have something to do with people who have done you wrong or you don’t like for whatever reason. Differences that I can point our is the informants proverb says if anyone wrongs you to keep them at a distance and don’t allow them to have a chance to be close to you. Whereas the keep your enemies closer that I mention says to keep the people who have wronged you closer than anyone else. They are different because one thinks you should let them no where near you because they will wrong you again and the other believes you should keep them close so the won’t wrong you again. The point of both of these is trying to generate a way to prevent enabling harm to yourself from others but from two different perspectives. The informant’s proverb is similar to keep your enemies in front of you because then they can’t stab you in the back again, so it is protecting yourself without being close to someone who has wronged you. I was glad that I was able to make sense of this proverb and have my own thought process behind it.

 

Proverbs

“Looking for a nurse with a purse”

The informant explains that his mother had met her husband during high school and had married him soon after.  They lived a long life together in a small town in Minnesota, but the husband died a number of years earlier than she had and the mother had eventually moved into a retirement home.

The informant explains that his mother had a number of sayings, but in the retirement she would describe a number of the other men in the retirement home – the widowers – as “looking for a nurse with a purse.”  The informant explains that by that she meant that the men were looking for someone who could take care of them.  Not only someone who could cater to them and take care of them, but also have financial resources to support them.  The informant explains that his mother would sometimes quip, especially about this man named Ed who his father knew, that those guys are just looking for “a nurse with a purse.”

The informant explains that his impression of this saying was that his mother thought that all men should be self-sufficient and not look for women to take care of them – even in old age.  The informant explains that his mother had a rather tough like since childhood and had little compassion for those who needed help.

My impression of the saying is that the informant’s mother’s tough upbringing did have a strong influence on her lack of sympathy or hostility towards others looking for help.  The line shows how one can sum up an ideal in few words.

Childhood
Customs
general
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Nightly Bible Stories

Here my informant recounts a tradition she shared with her Mom in childhood:

My mom used to… We had this old book of Bible stories, but they were kid versions, it was like, our kid Bible which our grandma bought us, and so we’d read a story from that every night and that was always really with my mom.

This tradition shows how the informant and her mother combined the common family custom of mothers and children reading stories before bed with her religion, sharing nightly Bible stories with her mother. The informant explained how she feels this not only strengthened her bond with her mother, but it is now a large part of her faith, and the stories she read as a child are still her favorite Bible stories today, as they carry the added significance of her Mother’s love.

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