Author Archives: Claire Birnbaum


“Money doesn’t grow on trees”

Eric is a 23-year-old USC graduate. He grew up in Beverly Hills and attended Beverly Hills High before continuing on at USC. He continues to live and work in Los Angeles. Eric and I were discussing proverbs, and he remembered “Grams” (his grandmother) first teaching him this lesson. “She always used to give me the “money doesn’t grow on tress shpeal.” Eric grew up in a Jewish family and he explained that he heard this proverb so many times throughout his childhood. Although he thought it annoying when he was younger, “its now something I say and use when its appropriate.” Ironically, Eric is now an accountant at a big firm in Downtown, Los Angeles and truly understands the meaning of “money doesn’t grow on trees.” Eric and I were at his parents’ house when he told me this familiar proverb and his dad was laughing because he first heard it from his mother (Eric’s grandmother).

While growing up, Eric would most frequently hear the proverb when his grandmother and grandfather used to pick him and his brother up from school every Monday and usually they would all go to an arcade. For Eric, it was the day he most looked forward to and him and his brother would always beg to stay longer. The response would usually be, “money doesn’t grow on trees boys so you’ll have to wait until next week!” Eric probably chose to share this proverb because it reminded him of his grandmother and grandfather and his childhood. Being an accountant, especially as Tax Season approaches, is stressful and I think it was a relief for him to laugh a little and remember what used to be so important to him.

The proverb “money doesn’t grow on trees” means that money isn’t indispensable and that it has to be earned. I found the proverb in an article for The Cornell Daily Sun:

Levy, Julia. “Money Doesn’t Grow On Trees: One Year Out.” The Cornell Daily Sun Online. April 20 2007.

I also found the saying on many websites including… (3.18.07). and’t+grow+on+trees (3.18.07).

Children’s Rhyme/Superstition – Los Angeles, California

“Step on a crack break, your mother’s back”

Eric is a 23-year-old USC graduate. He grew up in Beverly Hills and now continues to work in Los Angeles as an accountant. Eric and I were discussing childhood riddles and superstitions when he remembered, “step on a crack, break your mother’s back.” Eric first remembers learning this superstition from his parents. His parents, who are also born and raised in Los Angeles, remember learning the saying when they were kids themselves. Eric explained, “well I think it made walking more interesting, especially on my family trips when we would do a lot of walking.” He continued on to say that “it made no sense at all, but I used to wonder if I did step on a crack by accident would something really happen?” Eric shared this childhood superstition/riddle with me when we were out to lunch at Mulberry Street Pizza. The restaurant was crowded so we had to talk loudly. Eric was animated when he shared this superstition with me, and he was also laughing because of how seriously he took it when he was very young. There was a woman, probably in her 30s, at the table next to us that overheard our conversation and chimed in about how she used to avoid all cracks because she was convinced that it was true.

For Eric, learning the superstition was only part of it, but then actually practicing it was what made it important. He avoided cracks since he was about 4-years-old and continuing for about 5 years, but he says that sometimes even now if something reminds him of it, then he’ll avoid big cracks in the ground if he can. There is something about childhood superstitions that is extremely convincing and exciting. With this particular superstition, it is almost that little kids are given some power because it is up to them to protect their mothers’ backs. I am sure Eric was compelled to share the item with me because it was such a huge part of his upbringing and because for him, it was something passed down from his parents. I also remember this superstition and how my friends and I would skip and still try to avoid the cracks, we made it as complicated as possible so that it was more of a game and more challenging.

Tradition – Beverly Hills, California

“The Snatch Breakfast- Well it was when I was younger, on my birthdays before any of my friends could drive so my mom would drive… to pick up all my friends. Then um they would all come back to my house and wake me up and then we would all go to breakfast…”

“In theory it’s a really fun thing but in reality it was awful because I wasn’t a morning person, and I wouldn’t continue the tradition on with my kids if they weren’t morning people either because I hated it, but it is a family ritual that I went though, then my brother, and now my sister” After recounting the family ritual of Snatch Breakfasts, Eric asked his parents where they had the idea of Snatch Breakfast and his mom explained that her parents had Snatch Breakfasts for my her when she was young. Eric is a 23-year-old USC graduate. He grew up in Beverly Hills and now continues to work in Los Angeles as an accountant. Eric and I were discussing childhood traditions and family rituals at my house with my roommate when we got stuck on the cycle of birthday rituals because every family has their own and they are always fun to share. Eric and I met his senior year of high-school so I was too late to be a part of the Snatch Breakfast but I have attended a few for his younger sister.

The Snatch Breakfast is synonymous with the their family so it was obvious that Eric would share this ritual with my roommate and I. It really is a part of their family and although he doesn’t like being woken up by a room full of his friends, Eric does like idea of it being a generational thing and no matter how crazy everyone gets, there is no doubt that on a birthday morning there will be a Snatch Breakfast.

The Snatch Breakfast is the perfect example of a family tradition. It has been done for many years and I’m sure it will continue to be done for many years. It provides a great story to share with friends and its fun to partake in.

Ritual – Beverly Hills, California

“I never got dollars from the tooth fairy- I always got coins… special coins though, like silver dollars. It was always a surprise to see what coin I would get… they were always coins that are never used though, so I had a box that I saved them in… As I got older, I learned that my mom actually saved my teeth…”

The tooth fairy comes to almost everyone I know, and as a kid it was an honor to loose a tooth, it was a prize to be able to show off a gap in your smile and then on top of that you got a present from the tooth fairy. Eric is a 23-year-old USC graduate. He grew up in Beverly Hills and now continues to work in Los Angeles as an accountant. We were talking about teeth one day at my house because I had a dentist appointment over spring break. As we were on the topic of teeth, I remembered that when I was little I opened a drawer in my mom’s dresser and found my teeth. Of course I was devastated because I thought the tooth fairy had my teeth, but my mom calmed me down by explaining that what the tooth fairy actually does is take the teeth from under my pillow and replace it with money and then put my teeth under my mom’s pillow. Apparently, the tooth fairy did the same for Eric when he discovered that his mom also had a collection of his teeth. However, there was difference between Eric and I, I got some money, usually a $2 bill and a little stuffed animal while Eric usually got some collectable coin. Eric first heard about the tooth fairy from his parents who had to explain to him about loosing a tooth and then how to put it under his pillow and wait for the tooth fairy’s surprise.

Eric and I were laughing about how seriously we took the tooth fairy and how other kids we knew also cherished her. Loosing teeth is a natural stage in life but making it into something magical and mystical because of the fairy makes loosing teeth monumental. Almost everyone has a tooth fairy story but each one is unique which is why I think people love to share their own version.


“Doorknob… I think this was mostly a boys game… maybe not… so basically if someone farted then they had to call safety immediately, and if they didn’t and someone called out doorknob first, then that meant that everyone was allowed to punch the farter until he touched a doorknob. It was so stupid, but we all took it so seriously, and we thought it was so funny”

Eric is a 23-year-old USC graduate. He grew up in Beverly Hills and now continues to work in Los Angeles as an accountant. He is from a modest Jewish family and is the oldest of three children. Eric and his friends have been close since they were in elementary school and used to make anything and everything into a game. So of course when the boys were at the summer camp Hess Kramer in Malibu, California and they learned about the Doorknob game they were instantly hooked. Eric thinks that the game was significant because it reminds him of summer camp and of course all the other games they played. I had a bunch of friends over, including many of Eric’s friends and we were all hanging out when I asked out childhood games and instantly Eric and his friends burst out laughing because they all remembered Doorknob. This was the first time that I had ever heard of the game and so they had to explain the rules to me but none of them could give me a purpose for the game. I guess when they were all in 6th grade they were so amused by the game and that was the purpose of it.

The game is apparently well known and Wikipedia even has a page designated for it… (3.24.07).

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