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.
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.
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.”
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.
Few American children in the 1940s and ’50s didn’t hear, “Now eat all your vegetables. Remember
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
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?”
My mom always said, “In God we trust. All others pay cash.”
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.