Particular? What does that mean?

Published 11:50 pm Friday, March 30, 2012

I have considered Atmore’s Murray Johnson – with whom Andalusians might be familiar as the guru of baseball in those parts – a friend for more than two decades. After we became “Facebook friends” about a year ago, I started noticing something I thought very interesting.

Murray ends Facebook communications with his children with these words: Be careful and be particular. In turn, his children include the same words in their posts to him.

A couple of weeks ago I asked his daughter Susan where the tradition started.

“My papa began saying that to us as children,” Susan recalled. “We are to be particular in all our choices ~ think before we make them and then be careful while doing them. It’s something we have been told by our grandparents all of our lives. Then Dad began telling us, along with our children.”

Essentially, the generations were saying to each other, “I care about you, so make good choices.” With five words, they sum up those feelings and many others to each other almost daily.

I thought that was kind of neat. As I left home before dawn recently, knowing that my husband was going south to visit his sister later that day, I thought I’d try out the phrase. His was a trip without an ending date, so I shot him an email. “Pack plenty of blood pressure medicine (Oh, the crises we’ve had when he didn’t!). Be careful and be particular.”

He thought it was nonsense. Almost two weeks later, he’s still asking me, “What does that mean? Particular? Carol wanted to know what you meant by that, too. What did you want me to be particular about?”

The lexicons of the Johnson family were lost on him.

As he quizzed me again yesterday about “being particular,” I started to think about the language of my own family. When we were children, our father always gave us the money we needed for a trip, and then there would be a little extra. He called it “just in case” money. What that came to mean is that as a parent, he wanted to take care of us no matter what, so he added a little extra in case of an emergency.

I suppose it’s no different from signing communication with an “XOX,” drawing a heart, or any of hundreds of other ways people communicate. Some people drop “I love you’s” like quarters in a slot machine, others find ways that work better for them.

We’ve never been really big on the “L” word in our family. Then again, if you show people you love them, you don’t really have to tell them, do you?

How does your family say “I love you?”