Friday, May 11, 2012

Mother Knows Best. I Know Because She Told Me So.


Mom at age 70. She lived to be 85.
In honor of Mothers’ Day, I’ve collected a sampling of photos of my mom, plus some of her oft-repeated phrases that shaped the person I am today.

"A little dirt never hurt anyone." My mom was an immaculate housekeeper, but she never made her family nervous about getting dirty. I am thankful she passed along a respect for nature and even chaos instead of a fear of disorder. These qualities have helped me live a more adventuresome and carefree life, to pursue absorbing hobbies and interests, and to not waste time and attention with things that don’t matter.

"Never leave the house with dishes in the sink." This was one of my mother’s strictest commandments, and I still adhere to it in my own home. Coming home is never disappointing or overwhelming. Just like FlyLady teaches, a clean sink builds a feeling of optimism and power.

"Money is the root of all evil." Mom was fond of quoting scripture, and this was one of her favorites. I suspect she used it as a compass to make life decisions, as well as a reminder to herself when it appeared that other people had more money than she did.

"It’s just a phase." I have an older brother. As adults we're pals, but as children, he teased me. If I complained, my mother reminded me that he’d grow out of it. Her response wasn’t much of a consolation at the time, but the phrase subtly taught me that everything changes with time. 

In the early 1930's she took the ferry weekdays with friends to work in New York City. They were all   stenographers and bookkeepers. They all carried books to read. Mom is second from the right. 
    
'"When you’re young, anything looks good on you." I never believed this one when I was young, but now that I’m old, I do. Complaining about how you look when you are young wastes youth.

"An education is something that no one can take away from you." It was a given in my childhood household that my brother, sister, and I would go to college, even though my parents did not. Although I was raised in a comfortable, middle class family, I realize now that my parents made sacrifices to educate us beyond high school. I wish I could tell them now how much I appreciate the education they paid for and the emphasis they placed on the value of learning.
  
"Never contradict your parents in public. No matter what." The worst thing you could do to my mother was to act like a smart ass or loudmouth, especially in public and especially if you made her look wrong or bad. It was a simple lesson in being polite that I still try to live by. Everyone likes people who make them look better.

My parents on their honeymoon, in a motorized carriage on the boardwalk in
Atlantic City, New Jersey. She was almost 30 when she married.

My sister, me, and Mom. It was 1951. They had been married
only eight years before my parents bought their first house.  

In the early 1950's they flew to California for a vacation.
The palm behind my mom only looks like her hat, and
my dad looks like a character from Mad Men.  

Early in 1970 they bought a VW camper and toured the United States 
for a year. They were hip before it was cool to be a hippie. 
They just don't look that groovey!

My parents often traveled with my aunt and uncle. Here they are
on the beach in Waikiki, Hawaii, in the 1970's. They also traveled to 

Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, the Middle East, and Europe.  

 While visiting me in California, Grandma read to my son, then two years old. My mother loved 
reading and belonged to a book club when she was a young bride until she was 80-plus years old.   

During the same California trip, my mom, my younger son, and me.

Shelling peas from the garden on the back porch. I learned my love for cooking
from my mother. We grew lots of our own organic vegetables and
even raised some of our own meat and had chickens for fresh eggs. 

Mom had four brothers and this is the
youngest one with her at the beach in 1933.
"You’re smart. You’ll do fine." My parents were not overly demonstrative. They did not pump up my siblings and me with self confidence. But neither did they make unreasonable demands or belittle us. The simple message we lived with was that intelligence was what mattered and that we had sufficient amounts. It would have been nice to believe I was talented, beautiful, and special as well, but lacking confidence in these areas made me work hard to earn the respect of people.

"You never know who you’ll meet." If I ever ventured out of the house looking a little rag-tag, Mom would remind me that people judge you by how you look and treat you accordingly. Even though standards have relaxed since the days when she wouldn’t go shopping downtown without wearing a hat and white gloves, her reminder haunts me. I have seen the truth of it repeatedly over the years. She’s the reason I dress business casual on an airline flight and change out of messy painting clothes just to walk the dog around the block. You never know.

"Everything works out for the best." Honestly, I don’t remember when or why Mom would say this, but I do know that it’s hardwired into my brain. Have you ever had someone pat you on the arm when things looked bad, and recited some version of this line? It’s all about having faith that Someone is looking after you, and that's a comfort during tough times. 

"I’m very proud of all my children." Everyone wants to be the favorite child, and I was no exception. But my parents let my siblings and me know that they valued each of us and no one was better than the others. My sister and I were so close that we did everything together and never once had an argument. My brother, well, boys will be boys, and that’s another Mom-quote!

"When you have your health, you have everything." I'm so glad that my parents understood the importance of taking good care of one's health. This common phrase of hers carried with it the understanding that when you don't have your health, you have nothing. I grew up in the best of times, when eating healthfully, staying active, and getting plenty of fresh air were common practice.

My mother would be 103 years old next month if she were still alive. We share the same birthday, so I feel especially close to her on that day, and on Mother’s Day as well. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

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