I cannot quite remember how old I was the first time I realized my mother’s words were coming out of my mouth, but it was quite a shock. It was even more shocking when I heard myself telling the Precious Jewels the same advice my mother gave me.
For example, good manners will take you places money cannot go. Education is a gift no one can take away from you. Pretty is as pretty does. And, this gem attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Nor can I remember not knowing about the importance of thank-you notes, timely RSVPs, please and thank you. Today’s parents have different ideas on this, but my mother was a stickler for “yes, ma’am” and “no, sir.” Apparently, her generation had no angst about class or age distinctions or subservience, although today’s parents of young children may not be as keen on “ma’am” and “sir,” even in the South.
I can still hear my mother’s admonishment as well to always look an adult in the eye, something I still do — even though I have clearly been one myself for decades.
Food means love to most everyone, and mothers offer both several times a day. My mother worked in our family business, so gourmet cooking was not really her thing. But she had dinner on the table every night, and some of it was memorable. Red snapper baked with tomatoes, onions and peppers. Tunnel of fudge cake and Japanese fruit pie. She even introduced us to English kippers for breakfast.
I think my Precious Jewels see my cooking much the way I saw my mother’s — sustenance but generally nothing to write home about. I am gratified, though, that they still want my carrot cake for their birthdays and occasionally request some dish from the past. Their baby sitter definitely won the fried chicken contest, though.
Few people in life have more influence over us than our mothers, even when we do not know it. The Precious Jewels have no idea that some of the words out of their mouths are actually mine, and very likely my mother’s. Our mothers kept us warm, safe and full, from our first breaths. They were our security blankets from our childhood troubles at school, and they gently let us know when we were in the wrong. Our mothers know us better than almost anyone else. They know our strengths and weaknesses, what we enjoy and what we don’t, how we are likely to react to whatever life throws at us.
And, if we are lucky, our mothers instilled in us the essence of good manners, not just the outward signs of manners like “ma’am” and “sir” in the South. Good manners mean always treating others with respect and kindness, whether they are princes or paupers, the president or a garbage collector. It means not embarrassing or running down others. Good manners are the epitome of the Golden Rule — do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
If your mother is around, do something special for her on Mother’s Day. Flowers are always nice as is a meal out, but most precious of all is your time and attention. Nothing means more to a mother than feeling like she is a meaningful part of her children’s lives, no matter how old they are. And, if you really want to hit a home run, make sure to say something that came from her lips and pretend you thought of it yourself