Mother knows best, I guess

Published 12:55 am Saturday, August 13, 2011

I am surprised how many times an old saying or caution pops up that prove things my mother used to tell me.

I must have been in the only child on the playground at my elementary school that wouldn’t dare eat berries from a vine that grew in the schoolyard. Yes, they looked ripe and juicy and the other kids said they were delicious. They gorged on them without reservation. I wanted to. But whenever I was tempted, my mother’s cautious words loomed before me: “Never eat unwashed fruit. It could be loaded with germs.” Visions of all kinds of horrible things came to mind — I might get something terrible and die from it.

To this day, I never “sample” a grape’s sweetness at the grocery store as I’ve seen other shoppers do. Sometimes I wind up with grapes that are not sweet, but at least I don’t subject myself to germs from unwashed fruit. Even when I visited my maternal grandmother’s prolific pear tree or my paternal grandmother’s fig tree, I did it with the knowledge that I wasn’t supposed to eat that fruit the minute I picked it. These days, I think it is common knowledge that you should always wash fruit before eating.

Mother spent a majority of her working years in the retail business. She worked in a clothing store, a china shop, and many years either clerking or managing grocery stores. Money passed through her hands every day.

Children handed her a couple of pennies at a time, fistfuls of assorted coins, or even a few dollar bills to pay for their purchases. She waited on the railroad men who spilled off the local work train and lined up at the counter for cold soft drinks, cheese, crackers, Moon Pies, candy and the like. They pulled out wadded up bills and various coins from their pockets with work-stained hands, and plunked the money on the counter to pay for those treats they enjoyed during their work breaks. Almost everybody in the community – young, old, and in-between – traded at the company store my mother ran. Apparently, she was conscious of the many hands that handled money and noticed how dirty some of those hands were.

At least she convinced me by her admonition that every coin and every bill was dirty and germ-laden. She told me never to put money in my mouth and to wash my hands after handling it.

Throughout my lifetime though, I never read any such precautions about money. I knew it made sense, of course, that money was bound to harbor germs.

Then recently I happened upon the following statement: “A study of American coins and currency revealed the presence of bacteria, including staphylococcus, E. coli, and klebsiella, on eighteen per cent of the coins and seven per cent of the bills.”

So I guess that proves another one of Mother’s sayings rang true: “Mother knows best.”