I wanted to share some pearls of wisdom that have been passed along to me from my mom. Growing up in South Louisiana and with Cajun grandparents, my siblings and I heard quite a few treasures, many of them in French (if I knew how to spell half of them I'd share those too). I’m not so far from home here in SE Texas, but I know if I uttered some of those things around here I’d surely get some strange looks.
First, you should know that my mom is really, really a clean freak. She is a homemaker extraordinaire and she’s full of practical advice about keeping a home clean (advice that mostly involves elbow grease). When my sister and I lived at home, Mom wasn’t one of those strict parents who had to have everything just so, where it felt like you couldn’t "live in" your house. It wasn’t unusual, however, to walk into a room and find mom down on all-fours cleaning some spot (unseen to most by the naked eye) off of the floor. Mom has never owned a dishwasher. SHE is the dishwasher. It’s the kind of situation where you’d better be done with your food and drink if you’re thinking about leaving the table. If not, you may come back to find your plate picked up, washed, rinsed, and in the drying rack. If there are no dishes to wash, Mom will find something in the kitchen to work on until someone drops off a plate. After all, you never know when the cabinets might need a good wipe-down.
I owe a lot to these superior cleaning skills. When we moved into our house six years ago, it looked like the toilet in the master bathroom had never been cleaned. I mean never. The entire bowl was black with stains. Mom went in there with a washrag and various cleaners, and for the next couple of hours we stood back while lots of sounds and smells came from that room. Mom finally emerged, sweaty and exhausted, and the toilet to this day looks brand new. I still don’t know exactly how she did that. Just last week when we were getting ready to evacuate for Hurricane Ike, Mom called to be sure I was going to clean out my refrigerator. I can’t tell you how happy I am that we did that before we left! Coming home to that would have been a nightmare. Thanks for the heads-up, Mom.
Mom is also pretty darn tough. She has been through a lot in her life and she is afraid of very little. She loves romance movies, but she also loves horror movies – the scarier the better. I’ve seen her kill a snake with a shovel, yet she is terrified of lizards. She’s not all business, though. My mom loves to laugh and she has a great sense of humor. If I had to pick a few very favorite (or most humorous) expressions I’ve learned from Mom, I’d go with these:
1. Evil communications corrupt good manners.
I wish I could remember the exact moment my mom found this verse in 1 Corinthians in the King James Version. I wonder if you could literally see a light bulb appear above her head, or if she jotted it down to remember to make it her new mantra. Either way, it's what she always said to my sister and me as we left the house. We never had a strict curfew; Mom trusted us not to stay out too late or get into any trouble. I don't know how she did it exactly, but the last thing we wanted to do was disappoint her so we were pretty good kids. Mom used this verse as a reminder for us to be careful not let bad company influence the good manners she'd taught us.
2. Don't make the corners come to you.
Mom picked up this piece of wisdom from her grandmother. My Granny was a hard worker too, the old-school kind who could wring a chicken's neck with one snap and have it on the table for dinner. None of this boneless, skinless, grocery-store chicken I'm serving up. Granny sounds rough, but actually she was the sweetest, gentlest old lady you could've ever met. Anyway, this bit of advice means you have to work hard. If you're sweeping the floor, go all the way to the corners. They won't come to you. If you see something that needs to be done, do it, and do it well. It's wisdom like this that helps keep me on top of my housework. I don't think I'll ever be as efficient as Granny was and there's no way I'm ever touching a live chicken, but hey, a girl can try.
Finally, my favorite:
3. You have your butt in your face.
That's right. Your butt. In your face. I've taught this gem to a few of my local friends and it catches on like wildfire. I would love to hear your examples of trying to use it this week. Basically, it means you're in a bad mood. You're a grump. Your butt is in your face. Doesn't that somehow perfectly explain a really bad mood sometimes? Try it out. Your husband comes home from work and he's all bent out of shape because someone cut him off in traffic. You just say, "Honey, I'm sorry you have your butt in your face today." Who knows, it might just lighten the mood. A word to the wise: it works for minor inconveniences, but don't try to use it for problems that are too serious!
So thanks, Mom for teaching me how to keep a house clean, how to have good manners, how to be a strong woman of faith, and how to laugh. I hope I can do all of them half as well as you have.
Here's a photo of my mom with three of her siblings and two of her cousins in 1956. I love this pic. It's a serious occasion: her oldest sister's First Communion (Mom was raised Catholic but we are now Protestant). That's my mom in the red dress, with her tongue sticking out. She was always the black sheep, and I love her for it!