Mary Ann Ellis

Not long after children start talking, they begin asking a most important lifelong question--“Why?” 

“Why’s the grass green, Mama? Why do I have to pick up my toys, Daddy? Why can’t I have ice cream for dinner instead of spinach? Why do I have to go to school? Why can’t I live with Grandma and visit you on vacation?”

As we age, we learn that life is full of mystery. Everyone asks why. Volumes have been written about some of our unanswerable questions. “Why do bad things happen to good people,” and vicy, versy, as my grandpa used to say. 

Many questions boggle my mind in the wee hours when I wake up and can’t go back to sleep. For example, my sister said to me one day, “Do you remember those matching yellow dresses that Mama made for us when we were little?” 

“No,” I replied. “Are you sure they were yellow? I never liked yellow, especially when I was little. Why would Mama make me a yellow dress?”

“I don’t know, but we sure had them. We wore them to church often.” 

Now the main question here is not the why of the yellow dresses, but why Sarah Nell and I have different memories of them. It’s a rare occasion that we remember the same thing. 

I wish I could chat with Mama for a few minutes, to ask her why, but last week I realized that even that might not work. Calvin, my eldest son, asked me just last week, “Mom, do you remember when you whipped my butt with the old car antenna when I talked back to you?”

“Calvin, I never in my life hit you with a car antenna. I would never, ever do that.”

Laughing, he said, “I remember it well. I was a cocky teenager and I deserved it, but I was shocked.” 

I think he made the whole thing up, but he and I don’t share a lot of the same memories of his childhood either. Are all memories skewed? Why?

I spend a lot of time wondering why. Why do we dream of January in July and July in January? Why do air conditioners break on the hottest day of the year and heaters on the coldest? Why did so many different religions evolve from one single book--the Bible? Why does everyone think only his interpretation is the right one? Why do we allow our minds to play tricks on us day after day? Why don’t we ever learn? 

I stood impatiently in the check-out line the other day and scanned the headlines of the magazines. One proclaimed a miraculous new way to walk off 120 pounds in six months with exercise and the diet provided in the article. I am a sucker for diet plans. I know of course how to lose weight: decrease your food intake and increase your exercise. Nonetheless, I was intrigued enough to buy the magazine. 

“Maybe the article will have some good advice,” I convinced myself, as I left the store. Not only had I fallen for the store’s ploy to sell me a magazine as I waited to checkout; now I had also allowed myself to fall for the “perfect diet” gimmick. Again! For the millionth time! Why?

On the front of the magazine right next to the diet article was a picture of several luscious cupcakes. The recipe was inside. Why did I suppose I might find diet help within?

We all know that when something sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. Why are we so gullible? An armband that gives you energy? A cream to make you look young? A miracle diet pill? Someone’s buying all that stuff or the advertisements would stop.

Here’s one last why for you. When Josh lived in Tampa, he came home one day with two cartons of blueberries.

“Mom, look at this package,” he said.

“Grown in Alma, Georgia” was printed boldly on the front. 

“How much did you pay for these?” I asked.

“$.98 each,” he said.

Why could Josh buy Alma blueberries way down in Florida cheaper than I could buy them locally?

Someone please tell me why.