by Mary L. Hamilton
A year ago this past weekend, my mom entered fully into eternal life. Most of the last 30+ years, I’ve lived a thousand miles away from her. That didn’t allow for nearly enough contact, especially in the last year or two when even talking on the phone was no longer an option. My once-a-year visit was never enough. Looking back, I think I grieved over losing her well before she was physically gone.
Grief is a strange thing. It can hide for a while, then suddenly reappear when you least expect it. A good three years or more have passed since I had a phone conversation with her. Yet several times in the last few months, I’ve caught myself thinking, “I need to call Mom and tell her…”
It’s gotten me thinking of the things Mom used to say that have stuck with me. You know, those phrases and sayings you swear you’ll never say to your kids, until one day you’re stunned to hear the very same words coming out of your mouth. Those phrases you never want to hear again…until it’s too late.
For me, being an extremely picky eater as a child, the “Mom phrase” that most often comes back to me is the one I’d hear whenever I said I didn’t like a particular food. Mom’s response: “Well, you can learn to like it.” At the time, I didn’t believe her, but she was right. I’ve learned to like a lot of foods.
I asked a couple of my siblings what phrases they remembered. As mom’s closest caretaker in her last years, my sister would often try to jog Mom’s memory by talking about people and events from the past. She said whenever Mom couldn’t remember something, rather than admit the fact, Mom would simply say, “I’ll have to think about that.”
In our childhood, my younger brothers were often at odds with each other. One of them remembered Mom phrase: “I am going to tie your tails together and throw you over the clothesline and you can fight it out like two cats.”
Another of Mom’s threats included, “Do I have to get The Stick?” She was referring, of course, to the 3/8” thick yardstick that was applied to the seat of the pants as a last resort.
Of course, there were the usual sayings that reminded us to eat our food because there were starving children in Africa, or the one that questioned our birthplace because we didn’t close the door. And I still worry about catching a cold if I go out with wet hair. But my sister-in-law remembers complaining about the discomfort when her mother brushed the tangles out of her long thick hair. Her Mom phrase is, “It’s painful to be pretty.”
Then there were the times we had to be dragged out of bed. Mom had a decent voice, but this little ditty didn’t make the early hour any more pleasant–“The sun is rising to wake up the day, so it’s Hi Ho, Come to the fair.”
But of course, the best Mom phrase of all was the one I heard most often, especially at the end of a visit: “I love you.” A mother’s words have long-lasting impact.
What “Mom phrases” run through your head?