ON A PERSONAL NOTE/By Maramis
Mothers probably don’t need a special day on which to be remembered since mothers likely occupy a very big part of our memory. Some of those memories might not bring a smile to our faces, but I’ll bet a lot of them will.
As we think back, no doubt the things our mothers said will help us recall something we did, such as the time we were so anxious to get our chores done so we could go out to play with our friends that we were being careless and sloppy, and our mother reminded us: “Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it.” Then she would add, “People forget how fast you did a job, but they remember how well you did it.”
Then we remember all the times our mother did things for us and she was never satisfied until she got it just right, like the time she fixed our torn pants, but had to have just the right color thread, and made sure the stitches showed as little as possible. Or the time she wanted to frame that drawing you made for her and she kept at it until it was perfectly centered beneath the glass; or the way she wrapped all our Christmas presents, cutting the paper to fit, and tying the ribbons into perfect little bows.
Then there was the time you listened to your older brother and thought that playing with that old can of paint in the garage could be a lot of fun. You had envisioned painting a pretty design on the side of the barn (or garage, shed, etc.), and when you looked around, your brother was gone, but since it was half done, you figured you’d finish it. But then your mother came out and instead of screaming at you for making a mess and doing something you probably knew would not be a good idea, she just reminded you of something you knew quite well, but had forgotten in the moment: “The trouble with trouble is that it starts out as fun.” And when you tried to blame your brother for getting you in trouble, letting your mother know that it was his idea, she added, “Always forgive your brother — or your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”
When she said that, you remembered when you played “Let’s pop all those old dusty glass things that nobody is using” because your older brother also suggested that could be fun, and they turned out to be valuable TV tubes that your father had recently bought for his old TV.
But it was your mother who saved both of your hides by suggesting to your father that it must have been those bully neighbor kids who were
at it again, but with no proof, they’ll just have to be more careful what they leave lying around out in the open.
Mothers usually have a good memory, and one day when you wanted to impress your mother, you told her about something you remembered from
years gone by. You said, “I remember the day little Tommy pulled up all those flowers in your garden and you were so furious at him. Do you remember that?”
You told me it was water under the bridge, but when I didn’t get it, you said, “A good memory is fine, but the ability to forgive and forget is the true test of your greatness.” Then she added, “Tommy was only three when that happened, and after the initial shock I had, I totally let it go. You must never bring it up to him. It’s water under the bridge.”
You felt you needed to justify yourself one day when your mother was scolding you for leaving your school things all over the floor, so you told her about how your sister got in trouble with her teacher last week for acting up in class, hoping that would make your careless mess seem small compared to her deliberate acting up. Rather than lecture you, as usual your mother knew just what to say: “To belittle someone is to make yourself be little.” She then added, “Take the blame that is due you and don’t bring up someone else’s faults.” You probably reflected on those words a lot, since you remember that blaming others was something you might have often done.
Then there was that great advice that somebody else’s mother gave you. You were over a friend’s house and had been invited to stay for dinner, so you wanted to help the mother of your friend in the kitchen because that was something your mother taught you to do. She suggested that you could put the vegetables on the stove to start cooking — knowing, as she did, that you sometimes helped your own mother in the kitchen. You wanted to appear smart, so you didn’t ask how much water to put in the pot and just made a guess.
When your friend’s mother smelled something burning, she discovered that there wasn’t enough water in the pot. She had been in the other room checking on her new baby. When you guiltily admitted that you didn’t know how much water to put in the pot, she very kindly said: “Don’t be afraid to ask what you think are dumb questions. They’re easier to handle than dumb mistakes.” And so you learned that asking questions helps you to learn the easier way than making the dumb mistakes, and people see you as all the smarter for having asked.
Then as you grew older and wondered what you would be doing with your life, you decided to ask your mother to help you find what would make you happy in life. You might have expected her to help you draw up a list of ideas for what choice to make when it came to your life’s work. Instead, your mother gave you the one piece of advice that led you to where you are today: “The secret of happy living is not to do what you like but to like what you do. Learn that lesson and you’ll always be happy at your work.”
Thank you to all the mothers who taught the lessons that helped us grow, mature and end up liking what we do!
And whether or not we need a Mothers Day, I’m glad it exists!
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email
her at firstname.lastname@example.org.