September 2009 Everything’s Relative

September 2009 Everything’s Relative

All in the Family: May Winners   ‘Momilies’ Where would we be without Mom’s sensible, tender guidance? No doubt many of us would’ve jumped off cliffs just because our friends did. We’d be combing forests in search of money growing on trees. We’d all be named Mud. It wasn’t easy...

All in the Family: May Winners

Where would we be without Mom’s sensible, tender guidance? No doubt many of us would’ve jumped off cliffs just because our friends did. We’d be combing forests in search of money growing on trees. We’d all be named Mud.

It wasn’t easy to choose a few pearls of wisdom out of all those that poured in from children and grandchildren of mothers across North America. But we persevered, and each of these readers will get to toast Dear Mom with a Family Tree Magazine coffee mug. Now, sit up straight and eat your vegetables.
Tough Love
My grandmother Selvia Mae had a number of memorable sayings. My favorite was when we grandchildren got too rambunctious in the house. She’d tell us, “Straighten up, or I’ll jerk a knot in yer tail!” If we complained we were hungry, she’d say, “Is your backbone scratching your belly button?” If not, we weren’t really hungry.
Lisa Cameron Babiarz, Santee, Calif.

Senior Moments
My mother-in-law, who apparently never expected to get to age 96, would say she “wouldn’t even buy green bananas” because she didn’t know how long she’d live. She also had a saying for anyone who was having trouble fixing something by hand: “He looks like a guy varnishing a doughnut.”

Kathleen Andres, Nassau, NY

Proverb Pro
My mom came up with so many sayings that my sisters and I started a journal to record them for posterity. She died seven years ago, but we still use her sayings because it makes us smile and remember her. It’s our way of honoring her. Here’s a sample of what regularly came out of her mouth:

  • I had to spit on my eyelids to stay awake.
  • He was heaving Jonah. (Translation: He was throwing up.)
  • And then reality hit him right between the teeth.
  • I look like the wreck of the Hesperia.
  • He had a fit and fell in it.
  • She had not sense enough to pound sand in a rat hole.
  • She’s lost her spizzerinctum. (She’s not feeling well.)
  • Are you going to fold up your tent flaps? (Are you going to bed?)
  • He really got his props knocked out from him. (He was disappointed.)
  • I’m not too old to put a new shoe on my foot.

There’s more where those came from. We call the list our “momilies” or Francene’s Frutonisms, because she always called a futon a “fruton.” We didn’t correct her because it was so endearing. She was one gal with a lot of spizzerinctum.

Dayna Jacobs, King City, Calif.

Bean Scene
Few American children in the 1940s and ’50s didn’t hear, “Now eat all your vegetables. Remember

the starving children in Europe.”

How it would help them if I ate my vegetables, I never figured out. My sister Pat, who was a bigger con artist than I, took care of the problem for us. One evening at dinner, she refused to eat her lima beans. My mother reiterated

her mantra, but Pat shocked her into silence when she pulled out an envelope, scooped the lima beans into it and said, “Here, send these to the children in Europe.”

That stopped Mom’s advice for all of three hours, until bedtime. Then we heard, “You can’t sleep in your underwear. Put on your pajamas. What if the house caught fire?”

Marcia Rankin, Dexter, Mich.

Credit Crunch
My mom always said, “In God we trust. All others pay cash.”

Diane Ferdie, Tucson, Ariz.
Postcard Messengers

In Amsterdam we had no telephone, but we could count on our grandmother to arrive, like clockwork, each Friday afternoon. Oma would bicycle to our apartment from the other side of town bearing fish, biscuits, or—gasp!—eel (which in my innocent youth I found quite delicious).
Other days, she would send postcards, often depicting images from our own city. Or we received cards from Zandvoort, the coastal resort an hour outside town. Oma would go there by bus or tram. Sitting in an umbrella chair, she’d gaze at the dunes and the choppy North Sea, savoring lemonade or an ice cream sundae daintily adorned with a wafer. Holland is small, and Oma never ventured far.
Our odyssey, minus Oma, would be longer. Our family immigrated to America when I was 8 years old. Brother Frank, an industrious lad at 10, had his first chance to work “full-time” aboard The Great Bear. While we siblings were on deck getting seasick, playing shuffleboard and heading for the cookie tray, Frank was hard at work in the gift shop for the grand payment of two postcards per day. Little did we know that decades later, he would become our postcard messenger.
Oma was determined to remind us of our roots. Postcards from Holland arrived frequently, ensuring we didn’t forget the historic country and loving Oma we’d left behind. The postcards depicted ladies in lace hats, starched aprons and wooden shoes; country castles; and the waterways traversing our abandoned birthplace.
The years went by and her hand grew shaky, but the postcards kept coming, addressed to various family members (who now numbered eight). I kept mine in a special memory box.
Oma is no longer with us, but postcards haven’t disappeared from my life. Nowadays they arrive from Frank, often blank, inside enveloped greeting cards. Usually there are two—a day of wages aboard The Great Bear.

As Oma remained in Amsterdam, Frank remains in the Los Angeles area. His postcard surprises show vistas he’s grown to love: Malibu Beach, Olvera Street, Griffith Observatory and Eaton Canyon, where we used to hike before we dispersed to pursue our educations and careers. Like Oma’s cards, they are reminders of the scenery of my life, the places and people that beckon rediscovery.
Dorothea Barth, Vallejo, Calif.

From the September 2009 Family Tree Magazine

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