By VIRGINIA WALTERS
Life in the Pedestrian Lane
Have you ever really considered how much your mother has influenced your life in ways you probably don’t even think of? We give Mom credit when we are successful (or blame her if we happen to be a psychotic serial killer). If our kids are brats it’s our Mother’s fault because she spoils them or worse, doesn’t pay any attention to them. Moms always bear the brunt. Consider your day-to-day habits:
Hubby asks, “Are you ready?” as he heads out the door. I respond, “in a minute,” and he rolls his eyes as I head for the bathroom. Every time! It’s a holdover from my childhood when the last thing Mom would say before leaving the house was, “Go to the bathroom!” I carried it into my stint as a mother, adding the warning, “We’re not stopping until we get there!” Be it 2 miles or 200.
Besides using the facilities, mom hoped we’d run a comb through our hair and wipe any stray dirt off our cheeks. I always glance in the mirror and grab the comb before leaving the little room. Not sure it does a whole lot of good, but I know my mother is happily looking down and nodding her head approvingly.
I still sort the laundry into white, colored and dark piles because Mom did, even though modern fabrics and washers don’t require it. A correlation to this is that I must do the laundry at least once a week because you always wear clean underwear because you never know when you might be in an accident. It’s either do laundry or fill up the underwear drawer with enough ‘delicates’ to last beyond seven days. And I have done that also, when my life was more complicated and laundry lingered in the hamper. Heaven forbid I should wear a pair of panties with the elastic sprung in fear of an elusive EMT guy wondering what kind of mother I had who’d let me go out in less than pristine underwear.
Another mom thing is the way I fold towels. She always folded them in thirds, because that was the size that fit in the cupboard and that was the way she taught me to fold them. Even though I have a shelf that will accommodate a half fold, I still do the over twice thing because that’s the way mom did it.
And how about sifting flour. I know it is pre-sifted now, but I still sift once onto a piece of waxed paper, measure the amount I need, put it in the sifter and sift it again with the salt, baking powder and any spices. Just because! So now you know why most of my baking is done out of a box these days.
We remember all the maxims that rolled off her lips like the truth, carried over from her own childhood, I’m sure: “Actions speak louder than words” as an admonition against saying one thing then doing the opposite, and “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” or best of all, “Children should be seen and not heard.”
We make a joke about hearing our mothers when we yell at the kids, or when we grouse to the husband or comment about the younger generation to a friend. We all have a lot of ‘momisms’ we remember. Some are universal and most of us have carried them into our own kid-rearing lives whether we wanted to or not. For instance, “A job worth doing is worth doing well,” the second time the kid left the frying pans to soak. Of course he might come back with, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” which only proves Mom’s lessons are well learned.
The reality is Moms are the institutional memory of civilization. She might have insisted on clean underwear, but what she was really teaching is that what you do in private is who you really are: “Character is what a man does in the dark.” Or as Forrest Gump’s mother would say, “Pretty is as pretty does.”
Remember, “Clean your plate. Children are starving in this world”? We thought it was to make us eat our peas, but the companion truism, “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” warns us not to take our advantages, whatever they may be, for granted because they could be taken away at any moment.
The glass house thing took me a few years to fully understand that Mom was not telling me to be careful of breaking other people’s windows because mine are also easily broken, but trying to teach me about hypocrisy and karma.
There have been moments, even in my senior years when I’ve clenched my teeth and whispered, “Mom, you never told me…” But then I remember, “Old and smart beats young and fast every time.” Mom knew what she was talking about!!