Cumberland Times-News

September 24, 2011

Finally, there are few things I’m sure about

Maude McDaniel, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

— It took me a while, because, really, although you probably won’t believe this, I am basically a very shy person. Except in certain areas of behavior, where I was taught early on to stand firm, I have always tended to assume that other people usually knew better than I did. (Especially doctors and ministers.) Sort of like that old saying, “The meek shall inherit the earth — if it’s all right with you!”

This is probably not the wisest approach to life, and about 30 years ago, I started to realize it. I have at last arrived at the place where I don’t necessarily assume that everybody else knows better than I do.

Finally! There are some things I am sure of.

I am sure as I can be that I will never subscribe to a magazine over the phone again. I got scammed for a number of subscriptions that used my credit card number to send me a a lot of magazines I didn’t want, luckily not including Playgirl. Now I renew a subscription only through the magazine itself, and I advise you to do the same.

Here’s another thing I have learned to be sure about — laziness is not all bad. Out of laziness, for instance, came baked potatoes. Just wash them, pierce them, and put them in the oven. You’ll never find that on Iron Chef, but they’re hard to beat, with butter and salt..

Okay, here’s something else I swear by — echinacea. It really does ward off colds. And don’t bother to remind me that periodic reports keep coming out that it doesn’t make any difference — it makes a difference for me! I haven’t had a cold for two or three years — and I used to get several a year — because whenever I sneeze, or get a sore throat I take two herbal-leaf echinacea, and then, if necessary, two more in an hour or two. And so on. By golly, it works.

Or else maybe by my age I’ve run through all the available cold germs.

Here’s another late-life certainty for me — everything tomato-y is improved by sugar. I realize this is a no-no for great cooks and chefs everywhere, but when Mother gave us stewed tomatoes from her huge cache of canned ones, she added sugar to them, and I loved them. Sliced tomatoes with sugar on top — yeah! I prefer even pizza sauce that has an obviously sweet component somewhere in there. Call it the German instead of the Italian in me — but there it is. Tomatoes taste better with sugar, and that’s all there is to it. I will never change my mind.

Did you ever read any old books in which people said “tsk, tsk, tsk”? I never could figure out what that stood for, until recently, but now I am sure of it It’s that motherly sound that women everywhere (even some young ones) make with their tongue against the back of their teeth. It should be written “st, st, st.”

Yes, it’s great to be sure, especially when you’ve spent a lot of your life being unsure. I trust myself now, and sometimes I’m even right. For instance, I always thought that “Eight glasses of water a day” was a crock (unless you carry your own bathroom along with you.) But I never dared express my doubt. Now the experts (when they can bring themselves to say it out loud) seem to agree with me.

I no longer doubt that we are born with only so many possible kneebends, and it’s a mistake to use them all up too soon. Any moment I expect to see a a study come out that supports my deepest suspicions along that line.

Finally, I always had the vague impression that leaves started turning gold and red and brown, well, sometime in the fall which meant, say, around the end of September. I never seemed to learn that in the Middle Atlantic states (let’s make that Maryland — no, Western Maryland) autumn foliage doesn’t really arrive in its full glory until the last week in October. (I’m talking Cumberland here — not Oakland, or even Frostburg.)

Back in 1983, a daughter was getting married in the fall, and wanted to choose her date to coincide with the peak point of autumn glory. She asked me my advice, and I happily suggested — October 22. When the great day arrived, despite all our begging, pleading, and imploring, the leaves were still mostly as green as Ireland. (Besides that, it poured down rain all day.)

If I had only known what I know now. In this neck of the woods, the leaves don’t really turn fully totally gorgeous until — the last week in October. That’s all there is to it. No matter how wet it has been, or how dry, around here the leaves only arrive at their peak — the last week in October. You will be sorry if you ever count on all-out fall foliage before — the last week in October. (Now that I have committed myself to this, just watch them, for the first time in history, reach their full glory — the third week in October. Life does that to me sometimes.)

Phew! It’s wonderful to finally be sure of so many things.

But beware of getting carried away here. I am also now absolutely sure that being absolutely sure about too many things is — absolutely stupid.

Maude McDaniel is a Cumberland freelance writer. Her column appears on alternate Sundays in the Times-News.