Today is Mother's Day, a 24-hour period set aside to honor the women who told us there was enough dirt behind our ears to grow potatoes.
I don't know where mothers come up with lines like that. I guess they are expressions passed on from generation to generation of moms.
Or maybe they're just true.
All I know is, my mother told me all kinds of things when I was a kid, including there were potatoes behind my ears. She threw out many other momisms and I accepted them graciously.
Mom: "Eat your peas. There are children starving in China."
Me: "They can have my peas!"
Many of the things our mothers told us when we were kids have proven to be true. But others have never made sense to me.
Here a few momisms and my comments.
"Always wear clean underwear. You never know when you'll have to go to the hospital." Son of a gun, when I was 61 years old I was rushed to the hospital with a heart attack and the main thing on my mind was how glad I was to be wearing clean underwear.
"I hope you have a child just like you." Give mom another point on that one. But when I was a kid I always thought this was a compliment.
"I'm going to count to three." I always thought that was as high as mom could count, but in truth I never stuck around long enough to find out. At one I was gone. Even when my wife told our kids she's was going to county to three I started running.
"Don't ever let me catch you doing that again." I did it again, but as she requested I made sure she didn't catch me.
"How many times have I told you?" From this I learned that sometimes when people ask a question they really don't want you to give them an answer.
"Money does not grow on trees." Of course it doesn't. This is just stilly. Every kid knows it grows inside ATM machines.
"Don't get smart with me." Okay, but if I wasn't supposed to get smart why did I get in trouble for bad grades in school.
"Just because everyone else is jumping off the cliff doesn't mean you have to." This is very good advice, but I never understood how we got from my plans for the after prom to jumping off a cliff.
"Why do you leave your clothes lying on the floor? Do you think your socks are going to pick themselves up?" Speaking scientifically, the only way to find out if it's possible for socks to pick themselves up is to leave them lying on the floor. This response led my mother to say, "Don't get smart with me," leading to further confusion.
Me: "Why do I have to pick up my socks?"
Mom: "Because I said so."
Me: "I thought we lived in a free country."
Mom: "We do. You are free to do as I tell you."
In truth, growing up our mothers gave us lots of good advice. If we all did everything our mothers told us to do, we would never get into any trouble.
We would never have any fun.
But we would never get in any trouble.
The longer I live the more I realize that mothers have been the same through generations, in their momisms and what they do for their families.
I lost my mother last year. I have always been fascinated with the stories she told about her mother, Dagmar, who came to the United States from Sweden traveling only with her brother when she was 16.
My mother always remembered early mornings at her home when she was a child. The first sounds in her home each day came when her mother cranked the coffee grinder screwed to the kitchen wall. She remembered that her mother's kitchen was always filled with the aroma of fresh coffee, bread baking in the oven and homemade soup.
Dagmar was very busy all day cooking, cleaning, sewing, and seeing to all the needs of children. But living in Chicago the house next door was only eight feet away and on pleasant days she would stick her head out the window and call "Yoo Hoo." The women next door would lean out her window and the two would take a break, enjoying conversation. Dagmar did this often. In the neighborhood they called her "Lady Yoo Hoo."
Mothers do make wonderful memories, memories of aromas in the kitchen that never leave us, memories of loving homes and memories of the thousands of ways they quietly help us along the way.
The story I'm thinking about this Mother's Day is the time my mother, in the middle of the Depression, wanted to continue her education beyond the two years of college she had just completed.
The answer from her father was stern and firm. "NO," he said. He had immigrated from Norway as a teenager and saw no need for a girl to have education. He had not even wanted my mother to do the first two years of college and like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof he had bent as far as he would go.
"Get a job," he said.
There were lots of tears, fussing and carrying on in the household, but my grandfather was adamant. He was unmoved. My grandmother remained silent, listening, not wanting to contradict her husband.
Several days later my grandfather suddenly announced that if my mother really wanted to complete her four-year degree, they would find a way for her to do it. As the man and the head of the household he made his decision and he was hugged and thanked for his kindness and insight.
Dagmar was silent. But, she demurely smiled when she saw the look of joy on my mother's face. My mother went on to an advanced degree and an exceptional career in education.
While there is official no explanation for my grandfather's change of heart, there is no doubt in the minds of anyone, then and now, what had happened.
They have always been there for us and always will be, the quite heroes of our lives.
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