Author Archives: Courtney Berck

“If you don’t try, you’re lazy.”

The informant shared this proverb that he learned from his father in law.  I laughed when he said it, but he asserted, “It’s actually quite a good one though.  I learned that from him.”

The informant learned it in the context of their shared business.  To him, it means that “if you just, when something comes up, if you don’t try to resolve it or if you just do nothing, then you are lazy. Also if you can do better, but you don’t try new things because it is too much work…  You should always try things or else you are lazy.”

He uses the proverb when talking to his employees.  He says that they never try new things; they just do.  They think that this is how they have always done it so they just continue even if it isn’t working, but he tells them this so that they will try something new.

I think the proverb is very true especially to the more modern generations who rely more on technology to get things done.  I think the proverb is really saying not to complain if you aren’t going to do something to change the situation.


Tuxedo Nights

“If you want to have a wedding at night in Nashville, you have to wear a tuxedo.”

The informant was told this from his mother and father in law.  The reason that they gave him was that that’s just what you do.  The informant is from New York, and he wanted to wear a Giorgio Armani suit for the wedding.  “I didn’t want to wear a tuxedo.”  His in-laws told him that if he wanted to wear the suit that he could have the wedding on a Sunday afternoon because at night weddings, he had to wear a tuxedo.

The informant ended up getting married on Sunday night so he had to wear a tuxedo.  He told the story with a bit of resentment under his voice, and he ended saying that “it doesn’t apply anymore, but it did apparently, according to them.”

This tradition of wearing a tuxedo stuck with him because he hadn’t been allowed to do what he wanted to because of previously existing tradition.  Because he was joining a new family, he had to go along with their traditions instead of doing what he had wanted, and he still holds on to a tiny grudge for it.  The folkloric ritual held strong on this occasion.


Hiding Presents on Chanukah

On Chanukah, when we were young, my dad would hide the presents around the house for each night of the holiday.

He learned the tradition from his parents, and he chose to do it because it adds suspense to gift giving.  Also, there are eight days so it makes it more interesting.  He kept doing it because he thought that we really enjoyed it.  Whenever my mom would say that we didn’t need to do it, he would assert that it is a tradition and that we do it because it’s more fun when it is a tradition.

The tradition gives my family something to look back on and laugh about when we think of the holiday.  The informant, my father, remembered a time where we hid the presents and didn’t find them till two years later.  The ritual has become in grain, but because we do not come together for the holiday anymore, the ritual has stopped.

He hopes that we will continue the tradition if we have children and celebrate Chanukah, and he thinks that we will just because “it is something in our heads.”

Saying Thanks

Every Thanksgiving, the informant’s family goes around the table while each person says what they are thankful for before they eat the meal.  The informant records all of the thank yous on tape, and he says that many people who have shared Thanksgiving with the family have brought the tradition home with them and adopted it as their own.

The informant said he liked to do it, first of all, because it made all the kids nervous, but also because it got everyone involved.  Each person would have their own version of a thank you from his sister in-law who would read a pre-written 4 page one to the kids who year after year would repeat “Thank you for the food.”

He got the tradition from his in-laws and started recording them, but then the traditional meal moved to his house so he could control it a bit more.  The thank you is also a bit of an initiation for new members of the family because everyone has to say something.

I asked if he ever plans to watch them, and the informant replied, “Oh yeah, some point I will.”

The tradition of saying thank you brings the family together, and it gets everyone to really think about their lives in the past year.  It allows people to say the things that are normally too cheesy to say in public.  For the children, the Thanksgiving where they say they are thankful for more than the food also represents a rite of passage where they are now adult enough to say something more meaningful to them.

“Always try to look at it from another person’s point of view.”

“It was something my dad told me, and I really liked it.  It stuck with me.  Usually it would be because my sister and I were fighting.  He wanted me to have compassion for my sister who had kind of a tough childhood for a number of reasons, but I don’t know that it really helped me that much for her.  It helped me many other times.  We are all ego centric and we look at things from our point of view.  Sometimes when you pause, you can realize where other people are coming from and it benefits you also in so many ways.  You can be more compassionate because you understand them.  Not manipulate, but you can change the situation so both people get more of what they want.  Its just smarter. Its just plain smarter not to live only in your own mind.  You really should do that.  You can use it to your advantage in addition to helping someone else.”

The informant relies a lot on having compassion and understanding for others, but she also understands that by helping others sometimes you can help yourself.  Hearing this as a child has helped her better understand how to deal with people in her present.  This goes to show how some things really stick with children and the weight that proverbs can carry as wisdom from an “older generation.”