Wednesday, May 8, 2013
My mother had a saying.
Well, she had many sayings: “pick up your feet” when someone was trying to brown-nose her; “break every bone in your body”, usually directed at my brother or the dog when they were acting up (ironically she never laid a hand on any of us but that threat was good enough to stop any goings on), and “this room is a pigsty” – self-explanatory and usually directed at the bedroom of my sisters and I. But one of her favorite sayings (and I’m sure the one she would most like to be remembered by) was “Kindness is your name.”
Sometimes, she even sang it- “Kindness is your name.”
This was always said when one of us (she had six children – not including the dog or my Dad) was gossiping about someone. Of course, at the time, we never appreciated hearing that little ditty. We would be ranting about a teacher who did us wrong, or a friend who mistreated us, and my mother would listen patiently and usually end our tirade with those four little words, “Kindness is your name.”
Sometimes, she wouldn’t even be involved in the conversation. I would be deep in a discussion with a friend about a girl in school who had the nerve to commit some atrocity against me, and she would float by, carrying a load of laundry, and simply sing her little admonishment, “Kindness is you name, Kathleen.”
It got to the point, since I was the youngest, that she didn’t even have to say – or sing- the words, she simply hummed the tune, and I would know what she was saying.
I could never understand why she couldn’t see my point. Why couldn’t Mom agree how awful this person was to me? (Keep in mind that, at 13, “awful” is a relative term. Grievances could range from looking at me wrong, to buying the same shirt as I had on, to not calling me when they said they would. You know – terrible, earth-shattering crimes in the teenage world.)
My mother rarely talked negatively about anyone, and certainly not in front of her children. In fact, the big joke in our family, to this day, is to shush anyone who is speaking poorly about someone else because “they could be listening in the windows.” (Never mind that the person may not even live in the same state. According to my mother, you never know! Wise words!)
Sadly, my mom passed away much too young and too soon for us. And, while we miss her every day, her spirit lives on. When I wrote to my family and asked them about their favorite “Mom sayings” I opened a floodgate of memories.
We remembered the good (“Things always look worse at night” – a saying I tell my children, and remind myself of often); the bad (“I could wring your neck)” and the funny ("Are you smoking Dutch cleanser?" – which I still don’t understand but was used when we asked to do something that was totally unreasonable.)
My son was just a toddler when my mother died, and my girls never met their grandmother, and yet, in many ways, they do know her. They know she loved her family (Her last words to us, “Stick together and take care of your father”), she loved the beach (“Salt air cures everything”) and she believed in, and expected, goodness from her family. (“Kindness is your name.”)
My mom’s words continue to resonate with me, conjuring up memories and life-lessons that she taught me through my early years. And while she is no longer with us, her words will be passed on and will continue to teach her grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, for years to come.
And that is a pretty good legacy for anyone to leave!
Happy Mother's Day Mom! We miss you always!