Mother’s Day prompts vivid memories of my mother. She was a force. She could enter a room quietly, start talking here and there, and soon have the entire room under her control. One of my friends calls her a “tough old bird.” Others called her the “best friend I ever had.” People would say to us, “Your mother is amazing! I just love her.” My brothers and I called her “Mother,” and no other name was acceptable to her.
- Use cloth napkins (to save the environment–and for elegance.)
- Fold a napkin so the corners are toward the plate (so it can easily be picked up to unfold onto your lap.)
- To the children and then the grandchildren: “Put your napkin in your lapkin!”
- Never put a fork on a napkin when setting the table (because you must put your napkin in your lap and you don’t pick up your fork until after you are served.)
- Turn the cutting edge of the knife toward the plate (so no one will accidentally get cut picking up the spoon.)
- Never begin eating until everyone has been served.
- Pass the food to the right.
- The guest of honor should sit on the host’s right; the second most important guest on the hostess’s right.
- Don’t put any food on your plate until the blessing has been said.
- Don’t take a bite of dessert until the hostess takes her first bite.
- Unless everyone is leaving, ask to be excused from the table.
Other of her habits that I still follow:
- Cater to old people. I’m glad about that one, since I’ll soon be one. (She especially flirted with old men. But when she was in her seventies and eighties they took it seriously and she was appalled when they started asking her out–or even worse, coming on to her when they had a wife!)
- Use a Kleenex more than once. (Unfortunately. Though I’ve tried to wean myself from saving a tissue to use later, I have not succeeded, as my family will woefully attest.)
- A carefully worded, heartfelt, handwritten note is better than an expensive card, especially to express sympathy.
- Don’t dry your hands on a dish towel. Keep it for the clean dishes and use a hand towel.
- Don’t tell about a pregnancy until after the first trimester.
And some things she held dear I’ve managed to give up:
- A handwritten return address is superior to an address label.
- Peel tomatoes.
- Break lettuce instead of cutting it.
- Break nuts instead of cutting them.
- Break fresh green beans instead of cutting them.
- Put away the leftovers before starting to wash dishes.
- Tell what a bargain you got/how much you paid so people will know you weren’t extravagant.
As we were growing up, these picky things seemed to us to matter immensely to her. But in looking back, I see that she taught us other principles that were much more important. I’m proud I still follow her example in believing:
- Value people over things.
- People don’t care what your house is like as long as you make them feel welcome (and having delicious food doesn’t hurt!)
- Humble yourself to dress more like people who have less money than you. (She initiated no hats in their church to convince a neighbor that she could come to church without a hat. I wonder if that principle now would extend to wearing jeans to church. I doubt it, but it’s hard to say. She always had some rebel in her.)
- Don’t say anything about someone that you wouldn’t tell if he or she were there.
- Don’t tell everything you know.
I thank God for a mother who above all followed Christ and influenced her children and grandchildren to do the same. What do you do because your mother did?
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