Mary Beth Writes

3/14/2023  (Happy Pi Day)

Idiosyncrasies are like cave drawings; enigmatic clues that say once upon a time something happened here. A story unfolded. Someone tried to solve a problem. The solution worked, or at least it kept the person comfortable or comforted long enough for the idiosyncratic habit to form.

Such as Rosie the Holstein Cat who joined our family after Len’s sister found her huddling in a Chicago alley. She couldn’t move very well; Lindy had seen some kids trying to kick her which was a miserable way to begin one’s story. She was precariously tiny and had soft fur that blew gently off her all the time and everywhere.

We took her to the vet who did surgery to smooth a hip bone that was broken and poking her on the inside. Poor kitty.  (In case you were wondering, there’s no such thing as a free cat.) After that, Rosie was delightfully lively and spent many years purring her way through her life. 

But she had her idiosyncrasies, that’s for sure. She liked to nab dish rags to hide hither and yon. There was the year we took down the Christmas tree and under the tree skirt found all the dish rags of that holiday season. She also deeply enjoyed milk rings. We bought a new stove years after Rosie had gone on the Great Tea Party in the Sky. We pulled out the old stove to discover hundreds of Rosie’s plastic rings. I kept two that are in my kitchen now.

Rosie had known trauma. She knew treasures need to be protected and hidden and she had the idiosyncrasies to prove it. 

I looked up “famous people idiosyncrasies.”

  • Truman Capote wouldn’t begin or end a piece of work on a Friday, would change hotel rooms if the room phone number involved the number 13, and never left more than three cigarette butts in his ashtray, tucking the extra ones into his coat pocket.
  • Victor Hugo only had a few months in which to write The Hunchback of Notre Dame so he bought one bottle of ink, locked his clothes away, and only wore a grey shawl to keep warm. (Didn’t he have family?) He finished the book in time and considered naming it What Came Out of a Bottle of Ink.
  • Agatha Christie ate apples in the bathtub while thinking up plots.
  • Michelangelo would focus on one project at a time until he finished it. He hated interacting with others so much while he was thinking that he would walk away from people in the middle of a conversations.
  • Model/TV host Heidi Klum carries a pouch of her baby teeth wherever she goes. (Gah!)
  • Mary Shelley wrote with a boa constrictor around her neck. (?)
  • Charles Dickens carried a compass with him to be able to ensure he faced north while he slept—he believed sleeping north increased creativity.
  • Dr. Seuss had a collection of 300 hats. When he had writer’s block, he’d pick one of them to wear.

Idiosyncrasies are poignantly related to our sense of being too small for the tasks at hand. We feel anxious, nervous, not sure if we can pull off the next thing we need to do. Consciously or unconsciously, we develop small, weird tics that somehow give us the spirit we need to go forward. Superstition is when a whole bunch of people agree to take on the same idiosyncrasy.

Athletes. Politicians. Saints. Serial murderers. The rest of us.

Idiosyncrasies help to channel us through our days and lives.

I think I’m done writing.

Time to take off my baseball cap, go downstairs, get a cup of coffee to drink as I stare out the kitchen window and slowly transition to whatever I’m going to do next.

What idiosyncrasies do you have?

Do you know why you do those things?




Had to comment on what you wrote about Rosie knowing trauma and knowing that treasures had to be protected and hidden. Beautifully written! Thank you

Baby teeth in a pouch. A boa constrictor around ur neck. Hmmmm. I gotto think. I suppose I do have some. Ha. Interesting - a good read!
Mary Beth's picture

The baby teeth is really yucky. The boa sounds extreme but interesting. I'm always interested in what motivates writers...

I sure love envisioning Rosie at the great tea party in the sky with her favorite dish towels and lots of milk rings decorating the table. I am sure everyone at the tea party appreciated her idiosyncrasies!
Mary Beth's picture

Awww, I love this, too.

Love this

Cigarette butts in his coat pocket - Truman Capote appeared too fastidious for that.
Mary Beth's picture

One wonders what happened to make him think that was a saving strategy!

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