My mother, Lynda, passed away last week. She fought against her illness, but unfortunately, when she was ready to rally like she always had before; her body just wasn’t strong enough. I love and miss my mom, but I am choosing to remember her as the person who tried to raise me. Mom loved words and reading and she always appreciated a well-turned phrase. Raising her three children often challenged her and she frequently used her quick wit to try and make her point with us.
There are certain phrases that I think most of us have heard while growing up:
“If you fall and break your leg, don’t come running to me”. – because parenting and logic are oftentimes mutually exclusive.
“You always want to wear clean underwear in case you’re in an accident.” – Because the cleanliness of my underwear is the first thing an emergency room physician will be assessing.
“You’re going to the Doctors, change into nice clothes.” – because even though the first thing the nurse tells you to do is take off all your clothes, you still want to make a good impression just in case the doctor sees you in the waiting room.
These saying are all humorous and are pretty universal for the parents of Mom’s generation. However, every parent is unique and they bring their own unique twist to the phrases they use to try and raise their children. One of my favorite sayings that I heard someone else’s mother say:
“Keep that up and we’re both going to wind up in the hospital; to get MY foot out of YOUR ass.” – This resonated with me when I heard it and my poor children heard it occasionally during their teen years. As far as I’m concerned, it says it all.
Besides being smart, funny, irreverent, and stubborn, Mom was also a plain speaker. She swore freely and often. I am not exaggerating when I say I have never said a word I didn’t hear my mother use; she even used a word or two I won’t use. That says a lot about her vocabulary.
Some of her sayings are shocking to some people, but having been raised with them, I now find them pretty damn entertaining. You could go to Mom for sympathy, but you better never go to her asking for pity. She didn’t say the next phrase often, but then again, she really didn’t need to:
“You know where to find sympathy; it’s between shit and syphilis in the dictionary.” – this is a difficult fact to argue with and a brisk wake-up call when you were spending too much time having pity parties.
When my brother left home to go to college in the early 70’s Mom was newly divorced and decided to take it upon herself to give him the advice she thought a father would give his son:
“Never sleep with anyone crazier than you; never sleep with anyone you wouldn’t be willing to marry; never sleep with anyone with more problems than you .” –I always remembered these pearls of wisdom, but I also always wondered why she didn’t think her daughter’s needed the same advice. I assume it’s because she was sure her daughters would stay “good girls” and this advice was unnecessary. Maybe if she had shared it with me I would’ve made some better decisions at times.
I have no memory myself of this next saying, but my sister swears it’s what our mother said when my brother was swimming next to a bilge pump that started discharging its contents:
Close your mouth and keep treading water.” – Everyone who’s heard it tends to agree this is good advice for lots of situations.
Along with her entertaining pearls of wisdom, Mom also did not hesitate to express her opinions or stand up for herself when the situation called for it. Sometimes her openness was perplexing, sometimes it was entertaining.
Not too many years ago she proudly told me about how she explained homosexuality to one of my cousin’s young sons. Evidently, she was in the car with my cousin and her family when someone mentioned a slang term for homosexuals. When the young man, who I believe was all of 8 years old at the time, asked what the term meant, Mom explained in detail what it meant and even gave a somewhat graphic description. I can only imagine how my cousin and her husband reacted to this tidbit of information being shared.
One of my favorite memories of my mother occurred when she and my step-father were newly married. My mother brought her three children to the marriage while my step-father brought a spoiled dachshund, Sonny, to it. (Please note: the dog’s importance was considered to be of at least equal value to the importance of the children by at least one of the parties.) There was an adjustment period for everyone involved, but in some ways, it was hardest on Sonny, who was used to being the sole claimant to my step-fathers attention. After one too many times of the dog snarling at her, my mom had had enough; she got down on her hands and knees and got nose-to-nose with the dog. She then proceeded to snarl and bark back at him. I have never seen a dog get such a confused look on its face, but he never barked or snarled at any of us in Mom’s presence again.
I don’t know a parent alive who hasn’t, at one time or another, been horrified to hear their own parent’s words leave their mouth. When my children were young there was more than one occasion when I would say something to my children and then, horrified, rush to the phone to call my sister to tell her I was channeling our mother.
My children are now adults with children of their own. I am sure they have had the same experience of repeating phrases to their children that I used to say to them. My only hope is that they, and their children, find the same humor in these sayings that I found in Mom’s.