• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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If Words Could Make Wishes Come True

My mother used to say I don’t have a magic wand. She said I don’t have a crystal ball. She said it is what it is. Who said life was fair? She said short girls should marry short boys. The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.  Out of the frying pan into the fire. She also taught me what a simile is, what a metaphor is, insisted we look up every word we didn’t know, a battered dictionary always open on the kitchen counter.

What did your mom teach you?

14 Responses

  1. Lie vs lay. When to use I as a subject and when to use me as an object. That something’s either unique/original or it’s not, no qualifiers allowed. Lots of grammar, basically. Also, that peanut butter and chocolate are the best combination. And how not to take oneself too seriously— except when one is being touched against one’s will; then one must take oneself very seriously. How to love animals. How to dress for Halloween. That it’s never too late in life to become a drummer. That some things are just too hard and that’s okay. And that no matter what anyone says, there’s definitely no such thing as free lunch.

  2. My mother read to me. My mother read to me. My mother read to me. (She was on the Newbery Awards Committee the year they chose SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL.) She was a children’s librarian, and she was brilliant in all ways. She read to me, she read to me, she read to me.

  3. Kindness, patience, forgiveness, curiosity, to laugh at myself. She’s been gone many years, but is never far away. She corrected my grammar, too- “Don’t say ain’t, ain’t ain’t right”.

    She was from a time and place of common racism and bigotry, and taught me how wrong those things are, that there are things to be ashamed of.

    Thank you for the question, Betsy.

  4. “What did your mom teach you?”

    The good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ll leave the bad and the ugly out.

    To clean my plate.
    To always put things back where I found them.
    To always put things where they belonged.
    To sit up straight.
    To always care a kleenex and change for the phone.
    To be on time.

  5. Patience and perseverance. As a single mom in the late 1950’s she had a lot going against her, but she responded with an attitude of, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
    Possibly unintentionally, she also taught me the hypocrisy of the Catholic church.

  6. The truth isn’t safe.

  7. My mother brought a whole suitcase of personal problems as part of her maternal equipment. A compulsive liar, prone to bouts of deep depression and well-timed,soul-sucking comments to her children, I’ve needed many years of adulthood to sift through this chaff. I recognize, now, that she DID try: she – remarkably- never used a “swear word” in our presence, she remained faithful and supportive to our father, despite all his bad behaviors and was (fairly) consistent in not favoring one child before another. Now, in her twilight years, she reminisces that ours was an ideal, suburban life. If this is my most lasting gift to her, I’ll nod and agree.

  8. my mother taught me
    appearances matter more than truth
    what other people think is king
    boys are more important than girls

    she showed me the city of martyrdom
    and taught me how to live in it
    she taught me not to know what I know
    and taught me how to push it all down

    she taught me how to clean
    she complimented my efforts

    she showed me how to be resourceful
    she showed me grit
    she showed me how to make a space attractive–
    how to make a hovel into a home
    (three different times)

    she taught me the names of birds and flowers
    how to deadhead geraniums
    how to build a fire
    how to keep a man happy–
    never argue, ask for nothing, expect less

    she showed me how to live in this world
    then showed me how to survive it

  9. My mother taught me how to set a table and keep secrets.

  10. My mother taught me enough about books that I became a bookseller and enough about grammar that I became a copyeditor. She taught me how to listen to music and how to bake bread. She taught me about history and about place. She taught me so much that I blame myself for everything I don’t know.

  11. My mother taught me that is was okay to cry when listening to beautiful music.
    To always put gravy boats. butter dishes and salt and pepper shakers at both ends of the big table.
    That if you act tough no one will know how vulnerable you really are.
    At age 80, to screams of laughter, she explained to my teenage daughters during dinner, “It’s not what you know, or who you know, it’s who you blow.”

  12. She said, “Use your head for something besides a hat rack.” “Do it right or do it over.” “Free advice is worth what you paid for it.” “If you can read the directions, you can do anything.”

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