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?