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L. E. Hughes

Away With Words: I Used To Think
By L.E. Hughes
Oct 10, 2006 - 11:18:00 AM

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When my daughter Holland was little she thought that two tiny men lived in the traffic lights. One man was in charge of the color green and one was in charge of the color red; they took turns changing the light. She thought that if one of the tiny men fell asleep the other man had to switch the light to yellow so he could take the time to run up or down the interior of the light (as the case may have been) to kick his sleeping colleague in order to wake him up. Kicking your co-worker if he falls asleep and slows down progress sounds reasonable to me.

My sister-in-law used to think that pussy willows turned into caterpillars. When she saw a vase of them on her mother’s dining room table she told Mom she had better put the caterpillar-to-be laden twigs outside before they made the change and crawled throughout the house. That was when she was twenty-three.

As a small child, a friend used to think that tiny fairies lived under her bed and played in her hair while she was sleeping because her hair was tangled every morning when she woke. This is true, actually. The fairies still live under there. Don’t bother to look; you won’t find them even though your eyes are bigger. The fairies are hidden by the dust bunnies that are bigger too because there is no way you are a better housekeeper than your mother. Now that you are older the fairy teasing has evolved from hair styles to painting age spots on your face and hands.

I used to think you could unscrew your bellybutton, but if you did your legs would fall off. The reason I believed this is because my father told me exactly that. Shame on you, Papa.

I used to believe if I swallowed my chewing gum that my stomach would stick to my backbone. I believed this because my mother told me exactly that. Shame on you too, Mama.

My sister was born when I was eleven months old, still just a baby myself. My older brother thought because I was the “old baby” that my parents had to throw me away. If I had been the mother of two babies in diapers at once, I would have gone for the toss.

My friend used to think chicken eggs came from under the chicken’s wing. She now owns over thirty chickens and knows precisely where eggs come from: a ‘vent’. See? It’s nature’s intent that females take you under their wing and then vent.

Another friend thought her dolls came alive and carried on conversations with each other while she was at school. I suspected the same. Perhaps our dolls talked to one another, which would explain the outrageous bill on my pink plastic princess phone.

My daughter Kelly, when she was three-years-old thought she could talk to anyone, anywhere by speaking into her fist. I don’t believe communicating with your fists is wise, but it certainly would be convenient otherwise.

My daughter Emily, just a small child at the time of her great-great aunt’s funeral, asked me, “Is Aunt Dot dead?” When I answered yes, Emily tilted her head, let her tongue hang out of her mouth and looking every bit like a dead deer asked, “Then why doesn’t she look like this?” When you die, your tongue hangs out; that’s a true Maine kid way of thinking.

When my mother was a child she was told by her aunt that if her heart stopped beating she would die. Mama sat on her bed the entire afternoon, her finger on her pulse, horrified that it might stop. It was probably deer old Aunt Dot who told her that.

L.E. Hughes is a columnist, author and owner of Diamond Corner B&B in Stratton, Maine. She welcomes your thoughts and comments:

© October 2006, Lew-Ellyn Hughes. All Rights Reserved and Retained by the Author.

L.E. Hughes has selected new and previously published columns "laced with love, humor and whimsy, creating a rich paean to the world of rural Maine" for her new book, A View from the Corner. The book is available online at, and through the publisher, James Rock Publishing: You can purchase a signed copy direct from the author by sending $19.70 to P.O. Box 176 in Stratton, Maine 04982 or by calling L.E. at 207-246-2082.

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