“I have a good mind to call the town on them!”

Do you share any long-standing “inside” jokes with family members? Anytime my second-oldest sister comes over to visit and sees trash at the end of my driveway waiting to be picked up, she scolds me good-naturedly. Allow me to explain:

Our father was a VERY regimented, strait-laced kind of guy. I think he and many of the other second-generation European immigrants of that era were DRIVEN to be exemplary citizens. Their goal was to quickly assimilate into society and become even better Americans than the long-established WASPs. My father held himself, his children, his house, and his neighborhood to the highest standards of deportment and appearance. Let’s put it this way, my Dad would keep his suit and tie on for our occasional picnic lunches after Sunday mass. I’m sure Dad’s stint in the Army Air Corps during WWII also played a part in his disciplined approach to life.

Our father meticulously maintained our house and lawn and expected the neighbors living on our short street to do the same. According to Dad’s strict standards, garbage cans and other trash could only be brought to the curb the night before refuse pickup day so as to maintain the neighborhood’s aesthetics. As you can imagine, the neighbors didn’t think the same exact way about the issue and would regularly deposit their trash at the curb one day, or two, or three, or even an entire week before the pickup day. Well, that would absolutely drive my father UP THE WALL. It was amazing to observe this very staid, conservative man getting so emotional about the neighbors dropping some trash bags at the curb a couple of days early. From his reaction, you would have thought they had stolen his favorite lawn chair!

Years later, I purchased my own home, followed by the one we’re currently living in. I also like to keep the house and yard well-maintained, but I don’t make it into my religion like my father had. I have no compunctions about taking fallen tree branches, bags of shrub clippings, etc. to the curb a week prior to pick-up. When my parents were still alive and came over for a visit, as a favor to Dad I purposely didn’t take the bags of yard debris that had been sitting at the curb for a couple of days to the back of the house. I was trying to help him loosen up a little. 🙂

We all have our quirks and there’s no doubt I have mine. Dad had plenty of good points and was a good provider for his large brood. But my sister and I still get a good chuckle recalling his livid anger when neighbors took their trash to the curb “prematurely.”

What’s an “inside” joke shared in your family?

Postscript: My Dad was not an overtly religious man, but he did attend mass every Sunday. He was a Polish American and, like all Poles, Catholicism was an important part of his family fabric. The exhaustive legalism and ritualism of Catholicism also appealed to his sense of order and merited reward. He was especially proud that fellow-Pole, Karol Wojtyla, reigned as pope John Paul II from 1978 to 2005. My wife and I presented the Gospel to him and my mother many times, but they responded that their “2000-year-old” institutional church and its gospel of sacramental grace and merit trumped anything we could offer.

10 thoughts on ““I have a good mind to call the town on them!”

    1. Thanks, Wally! I think you recently mentioned something about whether a particular issue “is the hill you want to die on?” and trash at the curb was definitely one of those hills in my father’s mind.

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      1. Being an orderly person in a disorderly world can be difficult Tom. I used to be that way really bad. At one time I could close my eyes and lay my hands on things in my closet and tell you what they were. Now I just let chaos reign. I still get the heebie jeebies if my schedule gets messed with. I sort of feel your dad’s pain

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      2. Well, being very well organized does have its advantages although it can lead to obsessive compulsiveness. I think my Dad’s devotion to order caused me to react and to be more at ease with less structure. We also have the other extreme in our family; hoarding.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. LOL I got a chuckle out of this as my Father in Law is very particular about the front lawn. Your story of your father reminded me of my own immigrant parents working hard to assimilate and simply work hard period.

    Liked by 1 person

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