Mary Ann Ellis

When I prepare carrots to cook, Larry teases me about my chopping methods. Whether for a stew, soup, salad, or even a side dish of carrots with butter and chives, I never cut the carrots into rounds. Oh, no. They must be long or diagonal—never the typical rounds. Why? Who knows? I just don’t like them round. They even seem to taste different, which logically, I know is ridiculous. I never said my preference was reasonable. It’s just one of my little idiosyncrasies. 

I suspect that we all have these peculiarities that make us individuals. When I was growing up, Mama always cooked big hearty farm breakfasts—homemade biscuits, eggs, grits and butter, and sausage or bacon. She and Daddy grew up on farms and they both were accustomed to filling breakfasts before a day of hard labor in the fields. However, we lived in town and about the most arduous thing I had to do was sit in school all day, but one of Daddy’s idiosyncrasies completely turned me off to that kind of breakfast. That could be why I am not a breakfast person to this very day.

Every morning Mama would place his plate of grits, eggs, and biscuits before him at the head of the table. He promptly stirred the grits and eggs together along with crumbled bacon and two more pats of butter. He then opened a biscuit, allowing the steam to escape, and laid it on top of the mixture on his plate. Then came the cane syrup, made every November on Grandpa Hayes’ farm. Daddy poured a liberal amount over his food and then ate it enthusiastically. He used a second biscuit to mop up any leftovers. When his plate was empty and practically clean enough to return to the cabinet, he said goodbye and walked off to work. 

For some reason, I’ve never liked cane syrup or grits or . . . . Oh, well, you get the picture.

When I was a freshman at UGA, I lived in Church Hall on Lumpkin Street—third floor to be exact. Many were the nights we gathered in one room or another to talk or to play Bridge. Well, we did a bit of studying now and then, but we didn’t congregate for that lofty pursuit. When we gathered, we had fun in mind. My roommate could not bear to have the door open on these occasions, no matter whose room we were in. For the most part when we walked down the hall during the day, all the doors stood open to facilitate conversation and easy banter. Never ours. Marsha had to have it closed. We’d stuff as many people as possible in our miniscule room, but they all had to come on in and shut the door. And her reason? The same as my no- round-carrot reason. Just because. 

We human beings are truly pieces of work. I didn’t understand that expression for much of my life although I’ve always heard it. 

“Your mama’s a piece of work,” Daddy used to say, laughing. “You can’t live with her or without her.”

I didn’t understand back then, but I surely do now. It’s usually easier to notice the oddities in others. We, after all, and everyone like us are completely normal. Let us do a minor exercise this week and watch ourselves and our friends. I’m not talking about the OCDs among us—there are some, of course. No, I’m referring to our ordinary, run of the mill idiosyncrasies. When you see your friend putting peanut butter on her hamburger, score one for her. What an interesting world we live in and our oddities make it so. What if we were all just alike? Oh, the horror!

And by the way, the toilet paper in my bathroom always comes over the top of the roll.