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Growing up, there were some unwritten rules in my family. I think it’s safe to say that every family has some. These were different from the rules that might have gotten me grounded. In fact, occasionally they would be broken without much in the way of consequences, though my sister and I would submit to the rules if we were confronted. It’s remarkable that there wasn’t more resistance to them, even in our teens when we relished a good argument. (By good, I mean any excuse instigated one.) Yet we usually would just shrug and accept the rule.

One I remember was the “You caught it, you clean it” rule of fishing. I think this rule originated with my mom’s refusal to gut and descale fish, and she rarely took part in the fishing. She had no problem cooking them, but cleaning was a different story. My father


The wily and elusive trout

taught me to do it early in my childhood, when I relished anything slimy or otherwise icky. Had I been differently inclined, the rule might have ruined me for fishing. As it was, I hardly caught any fish, so cleaning them was rarely necessary.

Another rule was that the living room was off limits. We had a family room upstairs, where the TV and Atari resided. The living room, contrary to its name, was more like a museum. It sat just off of our foyer, where its antiques and stone fireplace could be admired but not marred by human hands. At least there weren’t any “no flash photography” signs. I was jealous of the cats who enjoyed the sun in the bay window. This rule was just as silently overturned when I left for college. I returned for a visit home, only to find in the living room a TV and some comfortable furniture that used to inhabit the family room. I laid on the couch, and no one cared. I moved the Nintendo down there to shoot virtual ducks and not finish Super Mario Bros. I enjoyed the “new” room without daring to question it and set about making it lived in (but not too lived in).


Prime family room real estate

Dad owned the recliner and the TV remote. They could be borrowed when he was absent, but when the time came for him to enjoy them, the rule was enforced. Even if the cat had settled on my inclined chest, the chair was to be vacated. The cat was welcome to return, of course. If I were in the middle of a TV show, I still surrendered the remote. Would he change the channel? Yes. Wide World of Sports was on. I should’ve planned better and started my program on the downstairs TV. At least there was a chance that he would start snoring, and I might pinch the remote from under his hand like Indiana Jones stealing the golden idol. Or I could walk all the way to the TV and push some buttons, but what fun was that?

What unwritten rules did your family have? Did you follow them or shake your fist at the Law? Drop me a comment and let me know!