Mom's teachings last a lifetime
June 25, 2008 · Updated 11:52 AM
"On the dresser in my bedroom, I keep a picture of my mom as a young woman, in her early 20's. It's a formal portrait and she is very beautiful. Her hair, shiny, obviously long, in the style of the early 1900s, has been piled on her head with the sides puffed out around her face. She is wearing a dress with a high tight neck--higher and tighter than any modern turtleneck. It reaches to just under the chin with a lace color below. I wish the picture were colored, but I do know her eyes were blue and her hair a light brown, and she had lovely skin. In her whole life, she never wore makeup, not even a bit of powder. I often look at the picture and wonder what she was like at that age. As with so many moms, life before momhood frequently disappears. Children know their mother only as mom and not as how she was as a child, teenager or young woman. I know only facts. My mom attended the Boston Latin School, was the oldest of four children, and played a big part in raising her younger sister. The two remained close throughout their lives. She had a strict religious upbringing and carried into her adult life a number of superstitions. At a women's college near Boston , she studied to be a teacher, and after graduation was offered a position at an exclusive private school in Chicago. I am curious if she was frightened, or only excited, at leaving home to travel to a strange faraway city. I'm sure she was a good teacher. Hardly a day goes by that I don't think of some of her teachings. She didn't approve of gambling, and when my father occasionally brought home some winnings, which he'd proudly drop into her lap, she would scornfully say it was bad money that should only be used for charity. Though I desperately wanted to wear my grandmother's beautiful opal ring, she refused to let me have it insisting it would be bad luck to wear opal when it wasn't my birthstone.Times and rules have changed, yet I'm bothered when I see a male, even a teenager, wearing a hat or cap in a restaurant, on an elevator, or when talking to women. I was an innocent bystander, but heard the lessons, as mom schooled my brothers on the importance of removing their hats when inside and in the presence of ladies and, of course, of always putting down the seat.I learned from my mother not to let my children get their fingers close to the washing machine wringer. I learned it was bad luck to hold a baby up to a mirror, although I didn't really believe it. Out of habit, I still never slam a door--there might be a cake or custard in the oven. No matter how tired, I wash the ring out of the tub and hang up my clothes.I learned from my mother that ladybugs are good luck -- never shoo one away. Crickets in the house mean good luck. A bowl of vinegar water left out clears the air of cigar smoke. Eggshells crumbled into the bottom of the back-of-the-stove coffee pot keeps grounds settled. Coffee grounds dumped under the apple trees bring night crawlers for fishing bait. Hands were to be washed after everything and clean underwear worn because...we all know why. Dropped silverware meant company was coming. I learned from watching my father that cigar ashes sprinkled onto my mother's African violets, geraniums and other house plants made them grow and bloom like crazy. Mom taught me that thank you notes must be written promptly and that gloves and a hat worn to church. Mom taught me to share with others, particularly extra food, not to be greedy and, for years, sternly and consistently reminded me not to complain, to cross my ankles when sitting, and never, ever to swear. ***NOTE: From the A.A.R.P. Quarterly Newsletter - Washington State has more cars than any other state in the union. We have .83 cars per capita in the Sound area (for every man, woman and child), which leaves about a million more cars than driver's licenses. Vote YES on Tuesday, May 16, and support Island Transit"