The lines we leave behind

When my children were younger, whenever I dropped them off somewhere, I would always say three things: “Make good choices.” (This line is stolen from the marvelous mom played by Jamie Lee Curtis in Freaky Friday.) “Don’t take any wooden nickels.” (The reasons behind this obscure saying may be found here.)  And “Always respect your body.” I have said these lines so often to my four children the words have become part of our relationship and now imply my love, my loopy sense of humor, and my hope they might actually temper their behavior when away from me. I don’t say them all the time anymore but those lines are woven into the fabric of my relationship with my family.

As I dropped my younger two children (age 15) today at the camp at which they are working and duly recited these lines, I began to think about the adages adults told me when I was growing up. I realized that I have very strong associations with certain people and certain phrases they imparted to me in my youth.

My maternal grandfather always said, “To whom much is given, much is required.” (I often think I’d like to have that engraved on my tombstone; it’s such a great mandate for one’s life.) My mother would tell me two contradictory things. She’d say “Don’t hide your light under a bushel.” and “Don’t go fishing for compliments.” (I’m still not clear how one can best combine those two bon mots.) My father still says, usually about the women in his family, “Pa didn’t have no last words; Ma was with him to the end.” (He thinks it’s funny; I’m not so sure.) Every time I visited her, my 4’11” paternal grandmother said, “I’m going to put a brick on your head.” (I often wonder what she would have said to my daughter who is 5’11″!)

How about you? Do you have any phrases you’re known for? Or ones you remember being told over and over again in your youth?

5 thoughts on “The lines we leave behind

  1. LeeB.

    I’ve always liked “do unto others as they would do unto you.” Even if you’re having a crappy day and someone does something idiotic that affects you (driving like a maniac, being obnoxious at work), it always pays to try to be as nice as possible to everyone around you because YOU will feel good inside. I know that sounds so do-goodish, but oh well. ;)

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  2. Tee

    When we were teenagers going out for the evening, my Dad would always ask my girlfriends and me if we had a dime. The dime, of course, was for a phone call in case we needed to make one in an emergency (yes, calls were that cheap to make). We laugh about that sometimes now. When my Dad died some years ago, my friend put a dime in the casket, saying “Here’s your dime, Dad.”

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  3. Jane AAR

    My friend always gave the same advice, whether it was debating going out vs. studying, or a much more serious quandary: “Do what you think is right.”

    She’s in a cloistered convent now, in the process of becoming a nun.

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