A Matter of Perspective

A recent conversation about shopping in the States sparked this week’s blog post.

My cousin, Shirley, and I appeared to have a lot in common. We were girls, similar in age, growing up on abutting farms in Southwestern Ontario. We shared a surname because our fathers were brothers.

But our mothers had different backgrounds. Mine had been born in the rural community where we lived. Hers had started life in Detroit and still had relatives there.

When I was little, I envied Shirley’s clothes. While my mother made most of mine, choosing fabric that was on sale whenever possible, her mother took her shopping in Detroit.

I recall Shirley showing me a new coat and hearing her say, “We bought it in pennies.”

“Wow! That must have taken a lot of pennies,” I gasped.

She looked at me quizzically until she figured out the source of confusion. “No, not pennies, as in coins. We bought it in the J. C. Penny department store. Everybody calls it Penny’s.”

Okay, so I was a country bumpkin. I had a lot to learn about the world.

Decades later, I shared a memoir, “Making Hay”, with a writers’ circle in Guelph. I described how we mowed the hay, baled it, and stored the bales in the hay mow (pronounced in my mind to rhyme with “cow”).

A young man asked, “What’s a hay mow (pronounced to rhyme with “low”). Several others nodded because they had wondered the same thing when they read my story. It took me a minute to understand the question.

“Oh,” I laughed, “it’s not ‘mow’ as in ‘mow the lawn’. It’s ‘mow’, pronounced like ‘cow’ or ‘wow’.”

The man and several others in the group still appeared sceptical.

Another woman who had grown up on a farm came to my rescue. “It’s true. Farmers call the upper storey of a barn, where they store hay, a ‘mow’, pronounced the way Wilda said.”

I confess I mentally wrote the guy off as an ignorant city slicker.

But his question was valid. When confronted with a comment or question I find odd, I need to stay curious. Maybe I’ll learn something. Perhaps sorting out the confusion will give both of us a good laugh.

Even better, both of our world views from childhood may widen a bit.

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