My Mother Always Said

April 30 2012

    My Mother Always Said  By A. Y. Stratton

       Even though my mother died years ago from complications of Parkinson’s Disease, I still think of May as her month.  First, of course, there’s Mother’s Day, and then two weeks later is her birthday.    

      Mom’s greatest gift to my big brother and me was telling us she loved us every day.  In addition, however, she enjoyed spouting bits of philosophy to teach us about REAL LIFE.  Invariably she authenticated her wise sayings by beginning with the phrase, “My mother always said.”  

      As my kids grew up, Mom’s aphorisms magically spilled out of my mouth, word for word, including the “my mother always said” part.  When our oldest child became a mother herself, she encouraged me to collect the sayings.   Appropriately, the first one that comes to mind acknowledges the inevitable fallibility of parenting:  My mother always said, “If you don’t punish the child right the first time, you’ll get another chance.”  That always makes me laugh, because it’s so true. (It also offers tolerance for our inadequacies in the parenting role.)

     Though this next saying has never been proven by a scientist and was obviously cooked up by a parent desperate for sleep, deep down I still believe it.  (As a result I’ve been tired all my life.)    “MMAS (my mother always said) the sleep you get before midnight is the most important.” Try thinking of that at three a.m. before your Physics exam, as you lie in your rumpled college bed, worrying about flunking out of college. 

     Here’s another bogus one I fell for.  Despite my wish for loafers or patent leather party shoes, I spent my childhood in tie shoes and so did my kids, as I dutifully followed Mom’s rule:  “MMAS if you wear sensible shoes when you’re young you’ll be able to wear the highest high heels when you’re grown.” Today I love wearing high heels, even when my bunions yearn for sensible shoes.

     I admit I used this one more than all the others. It wasn't magical, but it felt right, especially when the sweet eleven-year-old begged to wear make-up or attend a rock concert: “MMAS there’s a time for everything and everything in its time.” Mom even had advice for anyone who happens to spy a kid being naughty in a harmless way, like tossing toilet paper over the neighbor’s trees.  “Remember, God gave you eyelids as well as eyes.” 

    Mom summed up the erratic nature of a high school girl’s social life, and believe me, I heard it echo in my head a lot:  “When it rains, it pours.”  Or put another way: “With men it’s feast or famine.” 

    With the exception of eating chocolate, I try to live by this motto: “The key to a good life is moderation in all things.”  Then there are times when I echo Mom's weekly rant: “Everyone’s crazy but you and me, and sometimes I wonder about you.”

    All the folks who no longer speak to their neighbors or uncles, thanks to some business deal gone bad, could have learned from Mom. MMAS “never do business with friends or relatives.”  Mom’s warning for both personal and business situations was this harsh version of the Golden Rule: "Be kind to everyone you meet on the way up.  You never know who you’ll meet on the way down.”

     Here’s an adage that might be tattooed in my brain, since I heard it whenever I wished for something I couldn’t have: MMAS, “Nobody can afford to buy everything they want, dear, even the Rockefellers.”  I was certain the Rockefellers, whoever the heck they were, had a really cool bike and all the dolls ever made by Madame Alexander.

     Each saying reminds me of the sweet woman who thought her children were the most wonderful treasures in the world. 

     Mom always said that part of her would be with me forever.