Sunday, October 17, 2010

Baker's Dozen: 13 Lessons My Mother Taught Me

I was advised by a friend in Houston who sings in a church choir that the best remarks at memorial services are delivered with brevity, composure and SOME humor. So, on that note...

I am going to share a dozen things my mother taught me. It’ll be a’ baker’s dozen’ so that means thirteen lessons I hold dear to this day.

1. When we were growing up, Mom used to quote the parable of the talents, OFTEN. I am sure everyone here is familiar with this parable that describes how best to please God by making use of talents or money given to us for safekeeping.

As a child, this parable meant several things to me: Mom and Dad’s kids were expected to be good, smart and capable. I assumed Mom recited this parable because we had the talents of which she spoke and that we were charged with using our skills and these ‘talents’ to the utmost. That meant that we could achieve anything we set our minds too.

Actually, good advice from a parent.

2. Mom was a teacher and she knew what worked with kids. She always said, “You must follow through when you give an ultimatum. Even when it’s a bigger ‘pain in the neck’ for you than for the student. They’ve got to know you mean it.”

3. She also gave me another life lesson when she said of her students, “Never back a kid into a corner where he/she can’t get out without losing face. Always give someone a way out.”

4. Mom told us, “Do not tease cats. Or any other animal.” None of us tease cats. Maybe, John does, a little bit.

5. Growing up in Aruba, we traveled back and forth to the States many times. Mom always said, “Count your things. Passport, ticket, wallet? How many pieces of luggage are you carrying?” For sixty years, I’ve counted and recounted these items when I board a plane.

6. “Never sweep spilled sugar out the back door. Ever, again.” This was something I did one day, hoping it would NEVER be noticed. It was noticed immediately. “There are ants and roaches and vermin out there,” Mom said as she washed down the patio. I did not assist because she was certain she’d be better at it than I. “Don’t do that ever again.”

7. “It’s OK to quit Girl Scouts, Mary Margaret.” I was so relieved and I believe she was relieved too because she never had to be a den mother.

8. “Why would you want to go out for sports?” That was good news because I agreed with her. Why would I want to sweat and be the only one who was never able to catch a ball? Instead, I wrote for the school newspaper and yearbook.

9. “Always beat homemade fudge until its has a dull sheen. Then it won’t have a grainy texture when you pour it out on a plate.”

10.“You are a late bloomer, Mary Margaret,” Mom told me when I was fourteen and skinny, wore thick glasses and had no breasts to speak of. I took her at her word. Believed her absolutely. There was hope for the future. And, speaking as a late bloomer, it’s worked out pretty well.

11.“Always reach DOWN for a high note,” she told her choirs. Don’t search for it “up here”. Get on top of it and then sing.

What a good life lesson that’s been when things get tough or are really hard to do. You can bet I am reaching DOWN right now for each word I speak.

12. When I was 22 and called Mom to tell her I was in love and wanted to get married, I know that she felt I had my ‘whole life ahead of me’ as she called it and so she said to me – 1964, mind you, “Couldn’t you just live with him?” This was a woman ahead of her time – and very wise.

So, here we are at the 13th of Mom’s “Baker’s Dozen”. The lagniappe

13. Every time we left Mom and Dad for school, a new job, for a vacation or most recently, a trip back to Houston, she’d say, “ I’ll be praying for your safety.” She feared airplanes. She’d say, “Call me when you get there.”

And when we did call, she cared not a whit about anything we done or seen on our trip. NO. This is what Mom always said, “THANK GOD you’re home safe, dear.”

So to Mom, “Thank God, YOU are truly home safe NOW.”


Sharon said...

I can't imagine there was a dry eye when you finished speaking these words of love and life.

steve63aruba said...

Very well done. I wish my mom had taken life lessons from yours.
Doris was just a special lady. Thanks for sharing her life.. and yours, with the rest of us.

Brenda P said...

I love the Baker's Dozen, Mary Margaret! You, your sister and brother, and Dad have been on my mind so many times the past 10 days. The pictures, the words from both you and Kate have touched me. I know all the words you've received from friends and your parents' former students must make you so proud. Thank you for sharing it with us.