Your Mother Should Know


Mothers are powerful creatures. That includes “we” who are mothers (or in these times, the dad, or any major care taker). Perhaps the rules of our mothers still rear their wise heads to us.


It is not Mothers’ Day, but I hear my mother’s advice and admonitions even more right now, in the middle of my adulthood. Some seem simple and others profound. Here they are:


Dress in Layers, Hoods and Big Pockets


Dressing in layers makes more sense than ever given erratic temperatures and weather that can happen in one day. So, layer up and peel down as the weather gets hotter and colder. Most coats should have hoods and deep pockets. These days rain and wind can come out of nowhere. Also, coats need deep pockets, for your keys and cell phone. My mother maintained one can never lose keys this way.


Keep Left-overs


I would visit my mother her at her house and entitle myself to open her refrigerator. I’d see left-over oatmeal. Left over rice or pasta. Then, I thought leftovers were weird. Now, as queen of my kitchen, how could I throw out food? My mother missed out on the show “Chopped,” where you have to make something out of uniquely odd ingredients. But I will rarely toss left-overs. They are good for snacking and recycling. To my chagrin, if my husband sees it, he will dump it no matter how many times I say, “Leave my leftovers alone!” I have to hide them better.


Practice is Key  


My mother would always say, “Practice comes with any task that requires accuracy.” 


She would intermittently take secretarial, bookkeeping jobs and would get out the old-style typewriter and practice typing until she made no mistakes. This was pre-computer. She would sit at the table and do drills. Her posture was perfect. We could hear the sound of typing for hours.


An interesting story is when my mother had a bookkeeping job at the Sheraton Hotel in South Jersey. She could uncannily detect who owed the hotel money. Sometimes they were famous people doing gigs in Philadelphia. This was in the 70s. When we visited her one day, she heard my husband say something about a famous rock group. She exclaimed, “That shabby looking band did not pay their bill!”


She also worked at an insurance company who owned part of the Philadelphia Flyers. Some of the players would come in, as she reported, without their teeth.


Bottom line here, she was fastidious in her work. Her numbers were perfect. She says it comes down to practice and paying attention, and it pays off throughout life.


Pay Attention, Good Posture


Speaking of paying attention, Mom would until the day she died say to me, “Look where you are going.” I didn’t really know what she meant—as I was scattered and klutzy. Now I am mindful of this rule and will straighten up if I’m hunched over. I can not afford to fall and have no time to recover from my own negligence. Till this day, parents throughout the world are yelling at their teens to stand up stand up straight and not walk while using cellphones.


Books are the Best


My mother and father would read in bed and fall asleep with books on their chests. Both were avid readers. Mom was the one who would say, “Read, Read, Read.” She claimed that books are better than any movie or TV. Books have the luxury with words to take you to the past, the future and all over the world. She also advised, “Re-Read!” There’s no way to remember everything and going back (even if years later), is the best way to experience the book.


I agree with my mother. There really is nothing like a good book.


Toward the end of her life, I gave her a book which was the biography of Kathern Graham, publisher of Washington Post. Graham grew up in New York City during the same time as my mother. Though quite different economically, the events were the same. She adored this book. She said it was retrospective of her life.


Beware Red Herrings


My mother would watch the news and exclaim, “Red Herring.” This means that much of what we hear is meant to alarm us and steal attention from real issues. She said the Vietnam War was a Red Herring. She was skeptical any time our country went to war after Vietnam. She would say she didn’t want her grandsons (no women yet) to be subjected to war. She died in 1999 and thankfully missed the tragedy of 9/11. She would have also objected to war in Iraq, and call that a red herring.


Her message was to not confuse nationalism with going to war. 


Some of my friends’ mothers taught them house-keeping tips which they have shared with me. This was not my mother’s strength. What kind of rules did your mother impart to you? I leave you with a picture of the typewriter we used up until word processors. These are now antiques!




Beth grew up in Camden, New Jersey and majored in Education and History at Rutgers University and later obtained a Masters in Family Therapy at Drexel University. She’s married to her husband of 41 years with two young adult children—a daughter and son—who both work in NYC. She loves movies, Netflix, books, history, linguistics and exploring the human condition. From her extensive background, she’s accumulated many stories and lessons and looks forward to shaping the conversation.