Published in The Great North Arrow, October 2019: Why Do You Do That, When You Do, Do That?

(He said ‘Doo-doo’)

- jim Young 

In some ways, siblings, and especially sisters, are more influential in your childhood than your parents. - Deborah Tannen


We are all creatures of habit. We often do the things we do without ever really knowing why we do them or where we learned them in the first place.

When asked “why do you do that when you do, do that?” the answer will likely be something like, “It’s just the way I’ve always done it.”

But that doesn’t really answer the question “why?”

Some people will put both of their socks on and then put both of their shoes on while others will put one sock on followed by the accompanying shoe before moving to the other foot.

Whichever way you do that, you probably don’t know why you do, do that.

I always check to see how others eat their corn on the cob.

Some people eat their corn right to left with no regard as to whether the tapered end is facing left or right.

Others will take their bites randomly at any spot on the cob, jumping all over the place. 

I like to eat my corn, typewriter style. Starting with the tapered end on the left, I will clear a neat row, left to right before moving down to begin the next row. 

I don’t remember who taught me to do that when I do, do that.

When I am drying dishes, I will take 2 or 3 stacked plates to dry at a time. I will dry the exposed side of the plate on the top and the exposed side of the plate on the bottom, then move the top plate to the bottom and continue until all the plates have been cycled through the process and all are dry.

But I do remember where I learned to do that when I do, do that. 

When I was about 10 years old, I was watching my older sister Leah drying dinner plates that way. I told Leah that I didn’t think she was getting all the plates dry so she patiently showed me the process in detail to convince me it was an efficient and effective method for plate drying.

I have dried plates like that ever since. 

Leah - why I do, do that.

What I DON’T know about that, is why I remember so clearly such a trivial event that happened over 55 years ago.

What I DO know about that, is that every time I dry plates, I have very fond memories of my sister that was taken from us far too soon. 

I have another very clear and equally fond memory of one of Leah’s lessons. One day I was intently watching my sister while she peeled an orange. I already knew how to peel an orange, but Leah was doing something a little different. When she had completed peeling her orange that day, Leah held it up to boast that she had managed to remove the peel, intact - all in one piece.

It’s quite likely this was a one time event for Leah and she may very well have never done it that way again.

To this day however, whenever I peel an orange, it is still always my goal to remove the peel all in one piece in the hopes that Leah will look down upon me and smile with pride knowing that her “student” has learned his lesson well.

Growing up, Leah taught me how to do many other things such as adding vinegar to my plain potato chips (there was no such thing as Salt & Vinegar chips in those days), taking a bite out of an apple and then sprinkling a bit of Lik-M-Aid on it before taking the next bite.

In later years as young adults, Leah even taught me that if you’re in a hurry, a small amount of dirt on the carpet can quickly be wiped with your hand to disperse and temporarily hide it and await a more convenient time for vacuuming.

This year marked an important but sad anniversary. Leah has now been gone for longer than she was alive.

As I grow older and my memory begins to betray me as it often does us all, I sometimes struggle to remember all of the happy times I shared with my older sister.

How fortunate I am that I do know why I do the things Leah taught me to do when I do, do them.

So there’s that, when I do, do that.

- 30 -


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