Yesterday would have been my mother's 77th birthday. It was yet another achingly painful link in the chain of firsts we've endured since Mama passed March 12, 2011. I'm trained as a clinical social worker and can tell you all about stages of grief and the developmental tasks of "later adulthood" which include developing a perspective on death (I would say it is inevitable). Everyone knows that the first year of birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries after the death of someone you care about is going to be "difficult." So I was prepared to be tearful all day as I remembered my mother's life and the life lessons she taught me. You can imagine how surprising it was when the first thing that entered my mind when I awoke yesterday morning was one of Mama's aphorisms. Another one popped up while I was putting on the coffee pot. And the warm steam in my shower seemed to loosen up an avalanche of memories of Mama's nuggets of insight.
As a tribute to Mama, I would like to share some of her words of wisdom. You need to know that Mama was raised in Appalachia--Southwestern Virginia and her mother was from Nova Scotia. I'll be glad to explain certain phrases if they make no sense to you.
"Be your own sweet self." Always offered when I was worried about fitting in with my peer group of the moment. Works well in any life situation.
"He/she wouldn't give you air in a jug." Describing a selfish person.
"God gave you a backbone; now use it!" Said to anyone who was leaning on a counter or woodwork. I have discovered that standing up straight really does help one's back!
"He/she/they don't have a pot to pee in." This term can be used to describe people who are having hard times and need help from others.
"I wish I could buy him/her/them for what they're worth and sell them for what they think they're worth." Used when someone thinks they're smarter than most other people and makes sure all know it.
"Home again, home again, jiggety-jog!" Said as you pull in the driveway or garage after a tiring day of shopping or traveling. This phrase has the power to make you feel safe and blessed to have a home.
"Hells Bells!!!" Only acceptable form of profanity allowed in our home. Use very infrequently so that it does not lose its power and it must be followed by, "excuse my French."
"You better change your attitude." My parents' minimalist approach to cognitive behavioral therapy. Most useful when said to disrespectful or complaining children as parting words when they are being dropped off at school or after-school activities. I must say that I've known many work colleagues whose parents apparently did not know this useful phrase.
"Act like you've got some couth!" Use your manners and good sense.
"Tootles!" An endearing way to end phone calls and voice mails. I still have the last voice mail Mama left me. It was the last time she told me "tootles!"
If you still have your Mama, tell her you love her. If you are a Mama, make some happy memories with your children.