On Strings and Things

I’ve written before about what a picky eater I was. Cooked carrots were my worst nemesis, but I also hated all foods with strings. You’d be surprised how many foods have strings.

Bananas, for one. Kids are supposed to like bananas, and I did like the taste. But before a banana was placed on my plate, I insisted that it be peeled and all of the stringy fibers removed. I preferred them sliced, so any remaining strings were only a quarter inch long.

Corn on the cob, of course, has lots of strings. Seeing corn silks on my plate could make me retch. We usually had canned corn, which I ate no problem, though sometimes an errant string found its way into the can. I made my mother pick the strings off any fresh corn carefully before she cooked it. Even then, I usually did my own second combing to pick off the silks before I would butter the corn. And today, when I’m in charge of cooking corn on the cob, I am still as careful as I wanted my mother to be, though my tolerance has improved a little bit.

Then there are sweet potatoes, a very fibrous food. Mealy, milky mashed potatoes are much better than those orange tubers.

And string beans—they’re even called string beans. Like with corn, the canned ones were acceptable, but when fresh green beans are snapped into bite-size pieces, sometimes the string doesn’t snap cleanly and remains clinging off of one piece. Not going to eat it.

The list goes on.


Me, wearing one of the jackets I chewed, 1959

My mother never really understood my abhorrence of strings. “Why can’t you eat the fibers, Theresa?” she asked. “You’re always chewing the strings on your jacket.”

And I did.

As a child, the winter coats I played in usually had hoods. The hoods had strings to tie under the chin. The strings frequently came undone and hung down my chest. I put the ties in my mouth and chewed the ends. I chewed them until they were frayed and disgusting. The taste improved the more I chewed.

Why were those strings different than food fibers?

Because I was a kid. I have no better answer.

Other strings didn’t bother me either. For most of my childhood, my parents had one of those white cotton bedspreads with the pulled loops that created a pretty design on the top of the bed. The loops fascinated me.

When I was three years old, I took my naps on my parents’ bed, while my brother slept in his crib. He and I shared a bedroom, and if we were both in our room, neither of us slept during nap time. I was growing out of naps, and many afternoons I couldn’t sleep. I got bored lying on my parents’ bed, and sometimes I pulled the loops on the bedspread. I knew I wasn’t supposed to, but they were so tempting.

One weekend afternoon, I pulled a very long loop out of the pattern on the spread, and then another, and another. When nap time was over, my mother came into the room, took one look, and asked if I had pulled the loops.

I shook my head. “No.”

She asked again. Again I lied. I didn’t want to get into trouble.

My father was home, and she sent him into the bedroom. “Your mother says you pulled the loops on the bedspread.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Here’s the thing,” he said. “It’s naughty to pull those loops because it wrecks the bedspread. But it’s worse because you lied about it. You have to tell the truth. Because you lied, I’m going to spank you.”

And he did.

My dad was in graduate school at the time, and my parents had to live with that bedspread for several years. My mother tried to repair it, but they couldn’t spend their scarce money on a new one. And every time I looked at the damaged spread, I remembered the lie. And the spanking.

I won’t say I never lied to my parents again, but I didn’t do it often. And not about matters where I could be so easily caught.

When did you get in trouble as a kid?

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  1. Oh, Lord! Too many to mention here! I do have a solution to the banana string problem. Peel it from the bottom instead of the top and you won’t have the strings. On fresh corn, microwave the whole corn and silks for about three minutes per ear. Cut the cob from the base, and pull the shuck and silk off from the top. For the green beans, I don’t have a solution. As for chewing your coat strings, you didn’t have to swallow them so they didn’t bother you. And there you have the extent of my wisdom!

    • I’ll have to try microwaving the corn before shucking it. But I have my doubts that will get it clean enough for me. (The rest of the “strings” I’ve learned to live with.)

  2. I used to drive my mother crazy because I wouldn’t drink orange juice. I’d tell her, “I don’t like the hairy things floating in it.” To this day, I still don’t like pulp in my OJ.

    • Jill, I agree! Though in my case, it’s both the pulp and the sour taste of the orange juice. (But I’ll drink pineapple juice and Tang, the first has pulp and the second tastes like oranges. Go figure.)

  3. I remember being only about five years old and finding one tiny square in the door screen a bit out of alignment. Somehow it seemed like a good idea to stick a pencil point in that misshapen square. It was the classic round peg in a square hole syndrome.
    But then came one of older sisters. She had lonnnnng fingernails. And Gail thought her nail would fit in that hole much better.
    In no time at all the wee odd square became a gaping hole in our kitchen screen door.
    And when Father asked “Who DID this?!?”
    Of course Gail pointed that long nail at
    I tried to lie but the quivering lower lip and tears gave it away.
    My Dad was an angry alcoholic so I’ll spare you the punishment details.
    Suffice to say I’ve never played with another square hole. Ever.

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