by Alysia Bartley

Idioms and Memories – Old Photos in the Attic

photographer

I was cleaning out the attic one rainy afternoon and I stumbled upon a box of old photos.  Guess I hadn’t seen these in years.  It was a big box.  Lots of photos. There were pictures of the family. Some of the relatives.  And some of my friends, too. Let me share some memories.  Of the family. Of the relatives. Of my friends, too.

First, a picture of my sister learning to ride a two-wheeler the summer she turned six.  She looks as awkward as a cow on roller skates (very awkward).  But later that week I remember biking with her to the swimming pool about almost a mile from home.  Who would have thought that she could beat me to the pool.  Glad there’s not a picture of that.

Then there is my uncle who started a new business twenty years ago.  I guess he mortgaged his house and everything to get going. No one thought he could do it, but my dad.  But you should see his business now. I’ve heard it’s a cash cow (a product or service that makes a lot of money).

Then a picture of mom who looks like she is having a cow (to become very upset) when I painted my bedroom that bright orange color that was on sale at the hardware store. I could have sworn I asked her .

Hey, here’s my brother who is debating at the local high school and he’s just hitting the bulls-eye (focusing on the main point; succeeding; doing well) with all of his arguments. Yep, there’s another one of him with yet another trophy.  Never could win an argument against him. No way. Never. Not then. Not now.

Oh, there’s another one of me. “Holy cow!” (an expression used to show strong feeling of surprise, pleasure or anger) I remember when I scored that winning goal in soccer just when the whistle blew and the team came and carried me off the field. That’s when they dropped me and I broke my arm.

And here’s one of dad.  He’s taking us in the car on a Sunday ride. It was his favorite thing to do every Sunday when we were growing up.  We would stop for ice cream cones.  Those Sunday drives were his sacred cow (something or someone that is never criticized or changed; the expression comes from a cow valued as sacred in India). I have to admit that I liked them to0, well actually the ice cream.

This is my aunt who is leading a group of women to protect the local park from being bulldozed down and made into a parking lot.  I always heard stories how she took the bull by the horns (to take direct action) and called up some friends to join her giving speeches at city hall to try to keep the park.  Well, it worked and the park by the river now is named after her.  Guess it shows what a group of people can do.

I could look at these pictures until the cows come home (for a long time: until late).  Let me see if there are any others;

Oh, yes, here’s one of my older brother looking as strong as a horse/as strong as an ox (very strong) when he was lifting weights at the high school his senior year during football season.  The coach would work out with the team in the mornings before school.  My brother hated getting up so early but he loved football.

Oh, and my sister again. She looks as stubborn as a mule (very stubborn) when I wanted to switch rooms when she went away for university. I should have waited to move into her room until after she left.

Hmmm, I don’t remember this one.  Let me think …Oh, yeah, now I do.  It’s one from college and elections in the dorm.  Guess we backed the wrong horse/bet on the wrong horse (support someone or something that didn’t or couldn’t win) and our floor didn’t get any nominations.  Well, you can’t always get your candidate in office.  We had a pretty decent dorm after all.

And here’s a picture of one of my best friend. I admitted that Charlie finally beat me in checkers when he got me cornered and I couldn’t move anywhere, but he kept bringing that up over and over again. I mean for years.  It was like beating a dead horse/flogging a dead horse (to continue arguing a point, fighting, or repeating something that has already been completed or agreed upon).

This is when we bought the run-down cabin and there was so much work to do. We were chomping at the bit (anxious to do something as a bit is put in a horse’s mouth to take control) to get started.   Yes, here’s the carpenter we hired who gutted the whole cabin and then my parents decided to change horses in midstream (to make a change) and hire a different construction company to finish the work.  I guess they weren’t totally happy with the first carpenter. He was a dark horse (to know little about someone or something) and he really didn’t do the work as carefully as he should have. The new crew worked as hard as horses (worked hard like plow horses) and within a month the cabin was all remodeled.

Here’s a picture of my brother and me horsing around (goofing around in either a loud or physical way) on the living room floor.  We always enjoyed arm wrestling. And our favorite babysitter who often rode herd on us (watch closely and strictly supervise), but we liked her.  She took us to the park and brought over lots of fun games to play.  And, don’t tell mom, but she let us stay up way past bedtime and she even ordered pizza for us.

This is when dad first taught me to sail at the lake.  Wild horses couldn’t drag me away (nothing can stop you) and I must have sailed almost every day that summer.  It still is my favorite sport.  I would get up early and hoof it down to the dock (to walk or run as a hoof is the foot of a horse/sheep/cow, etc.) to sail all day and then come home for dinner and eat like a horse/wolf down dinner (eat a lot; eat quickly).

I wanted to buy my own boat but mom said to hold my horses (to wait; to be patient) and see if that is how I wanted to spend my money first.  She encouraged me to continue to save my money in my piggybank (a bank shaped like a pig) and just see if I continued to enjoy sailing before buying my own boat.  She would tell me to put the cart before the horse (to do things in the right order) . . . so she said.  Mom told me to learn all about sailing, and then to learn all about different types of boats, and then to see how much money I needed to earn before I got my hopes up or made any decisions. It was better to do that, she said, than to lock the barn door after the horse is gone (to try to deal with something after it is too late).  You know, just in case I changed my mind about sailing next summer. Everyone knows now that I never did change my mind.

Oh, here’s grandma. I loved visiting her at her house with the big garden. She made me those gingersnap cookies and I helped her with the flowers. I can hear her whispering that it is never good to be on a high horse (to begin to be humble and agreeable) and close my eyes and see her winking at me. She was as gentle as a lamb (very gentle) and it was she who wanted me to understand that it is more important to help people then to become so self-centered.

And this picture is my grandpa fishing in the creek behind the house.  His pole is bent with one of those brook trout he would so proudly bring back for grandma to cook. He would never give up fishing … never be put out to pasture (to retire someone or something much like a horse that is too old is put out to pasture).  No, he would fish well into his nineties.  He took me fishing when I was ten, and he tried to pass on his love of fishing, but you know, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink (you can help someone so much or give them an opportunity to do something but you can’t force them to do it).

And so this picture, how could I ever forget.  This is how Gramps and I met halfway.  I took him fishing in my sailboat.  Yep.  I loved sailing and he loved fishing and together, we would pass many lazy summer days.

Well, I better stop monkeying around (playing with something) and get this attic cleaned out.  I wouldn’t want anyone going ape over (to become angry over something) me not getting this job done.  It has been more fun than a barrel of monkeys (lots of fun).  But I better hurry … in two shakes of a lamb’s tail (very quickly), I’ll have the attic cleaned up that is if I don’t find another box of photos.

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You probably noticed that these idiomatic phrases are all based on animals – cows, horses, bulls, mules, oxen, wolves, pigs, monkeys/apes and lambs.  There’s still more to come next week.  If you have time, you might want to check out some of my earlier blogs on idioms and write to me about how your English is coming along using the comments section below.

About the author:

Alysia is a co-founder of TalktoCanada. Since founding the online English teaching company in 2006, she has gone on to teach over 10,000 hours of online classes and managed large and small English training projects around the world. During her free time you can find her listening to the latest business book, travelling and going to the gym.