Today is Mum’s Birthday in our homeland, where it is yesterday, while I am already in tomorrow, where it isn’t Mum’s Birthday anymore. [Disclaimer: actually, it isn’t Mom’s birthday anywhere anymore. Thinking up 90 things took longer than I expected.]
As promised (rashly), here are the second 44 things my mother taught me, in more-or-less no particular order:
44: If the Dawgs are behind in a football game, go into the kitchen and they will turn it around. This only worked for Mum, which earned her the nickname “the Kitchen Witch.” During one of her dinner parties the Dawgs were behind in a big game (which the guests were listening to on radio, because . . . well . . . it was them Dawgs!), Former Secretary of State Dean Rusk (who was a Georgia boy and taught at UGA in his later years) politely picked up Mum’s plate, and his, and ate with her at the kitchen table. Georgia, of course, won.
This was the year UGA won the National Championship. Mum spent the entire 1980-81 football season in the kitchen, but never got the recognition she deserved. Hershal Shmershal.
43: It is a bad idea to decorate your white dog with red and blue crepe paper for the 4th of July parade. It will rain and your dog will turn purple tie-dye.
42: If you don’t eat it for supper tonight, you’ll get it for lunch tomorrow.
41: It is important to learn how to type, but only well enough to get a job. Don’t type so well that people might actually want you to do it. This was when they still had typewriters — manual ones.
40: If a peacock falls in love with you, don’t look him in the eye, or he will follow you around all day waggling his tail feathers in your general direction.
39: How to knit “continental style”: I didn’t know it was called continental style, Mum probably didn’t either. I just know she could knit really fast, and I can too. Mind you, I rip out a lot more than she did.
38: Never tell people you love frogs. If you do, you will never, for the rest of your life, receive a gift that doesn’t have frogs on. Also, never tell your Aunt who lives in Milwaukee that you collect beer steins unless you really mean it. If you do, you will reach middle life with enough beer steins to open your own Ratskeller.
37: Flying coach to Los Angeles, then folding yourself into an overloaded, un-airconditioned Datsun 210 to keep your kid company on a three and a half day drive from Los Angeles to Athens is a supreme act of love. Knitting the same kid a gorgeous sweater in the process is even more awesome.
36: The stripes on Raggedy Ann’s legs go round-and-round, not up-and-down.
35: Colored towels don’t work. Actually, this one came from Dad, but it is too good to leave out, as is . . .
34: There are no roads in Canada, and . . .
33: You can drive to Manassas, but you can’t drive back.
32: If you are born on the 4th of July, you will always get American flags on your birthday cakes. And people will ask you if you are a Yankee Doodle Dandy. To get a birthday cakes with no red, white, and blue, you will have to leave the country. But you might still get fireworks.
31: If you see a flash of white fur followed by a barefoot woman shaking a raw piece of bacon shouting about Russian Dumplings, it’s just Mum trying to catch the dog.
30: Don’t leave any complicated cooking until the last minute, because parties always end up with everyone in the kitchen. Besides, the whole point of inviting folks round for dinner is to enjoy their company.
29: Make friends with old people, they have interesting stories to tell you. I’ve had several adopted Grandmas over the years and my life was richer for it. I am now an old person. I am available for adoption.
28: Edna Shakleford will never, ever give you the recipe for her Coconut Cake to die for. Make a pitcher of martinis and get over it.
27: Bake Christmas Stöllen because: 1) it is a family tradition; 2) they are sort of like fruitcake, but people actually like them, and 3) people will be so grateful they will give you Christmas cookies that you can, later, pretend you baked. This saves you the onerous job of baking Christmas cookies.
26: It also helps to have two sisters who bake wonderful Christmas cookies.
25: Janice’s nutmeg logs are the best cookie ever, closely followed by Anita’s cranberry bark, which, technically, isn’t a cookie.
24: When the rabbit starts running around in his hutch, you have about five seconds to get the freezer door open.
23: Your kid will get potty trained eventually. Make a pitcher of martinis and don’t stress out.Then you can smile knowingly when a visiting neighbor’s little boy walks up to you and says, proudly: “Look! I made a poo-poo” and presents his mother with a perfect turd.
22: When your daughter declares she might want to join a convent, make a pitcher of martinis and roll with it. The phase will pass.
21: When your daughter takes an overdose of sleeping pills and lands in a psychiatric hospital on suicide watch, hug her a lot and tell her you love her. The phase will pass.
20: When the troop leader tells your daughter that she has to sell two cases of Girl Scout Cookies, just buy them all and put them in the freezer. Added bonus: you will have something to fall back on if the stöllen-for-Christmas cookie scam doesn’t work.
19: When the Band Director tells your kid that she has to sell four cases of Drix, just buy them all and put them in the freezer.
18: When your kid melts her band hat by using it as a lampshade, don’t make her feel any stupider than she already does. Try to fix it by stuffing it with newspaper, then own up to the Band Director.
17: Don’t use your husband’s royalty check as a bookmark unless you are sure you will remember which book you marked with it.
16: Gathering about 10,000 yards of raspberry pink sating for a bridesmaid’s dress is a way to spend a weekend, but not much of one. But you do these things for your best friends, and your kid’s best friends.
15: When stealing peas from your mother’s garden, if you tell your brother that the shells are the best part, then you get to eat all the peas.
14: When your husband convinces his star graduate student to partake of a martini and radish and onion sandwich binge, legendary hangovers will ensue. Be on standby with Alka-Seltzer.
13: Major Professors can convince their students to do just about any damn stupid thing.
12: During USMC Japanese Language School reunions, legendary hangovers will ensue. You will see a side of your husband/Dad that you never even suspected. And you will have a great deal of fun.
11: Bunion surgery really sucks. Wear sensible shoes.
10: If God intended for you to walk with bunions, he wouldn’t have made teenage daughters with driver’s licenses.
9: You can wear white shoes any damn time you want to. Particularly if they are sneakers. Especially Chucks, which are even cool in Venice.
8: Homemade gifts are the best. No one will remember that Pet Rock they got for Christmas in 1972, but they will still have, and love, the Raggedy Ann you made them with the stripes going the wrong way, the Amish dolls you made one year, the Mother Geese (Gooses?) you made another year. You daughter will keep, and cherish the Pooh, Tigger, and Paddington Bear you made her. When she lives in New Zealand, she will think of you, and miss you, every time she sees them – worn and well loved as they are.
7: Kneading bread dough is better than therapy, and cheaper.
6: Always write Thank You notes. Right through the 1980s and 1990s, everyone who donated money to the Athens Area Emergency Food Bank got a handwritten Thank You note written by Mum. And most of them donated more money, and received more Thank You notes. Mum was gracious and generous.
5: Good people fall on hard times. No one should go hungry because they can’t afford to buy groceries. And no one should judge. It could be you next time.
4: You can change the world with a telephone, index cards, and a roll of stamps. I’ve seen it happen. Mum did it, right from this chair:
3: Mom to Simon: “Are you sure you want to marry her? She’s trouble with a big T!”
2: Crossword puzzles are good for your brain.
1: You were a beautiful soul, loved by many, and you are deeply missed. Happy Birthday, Mum!