gary whitford

You heard your mother’s voice for the first time while you were still in the womb. Before you were born, you learned the rudiment phonics of her language, you began to understand tone of voice. You likely heard your father as well, and those closest to your mother – her best friends, perhaps her mother or siblings. A 2009 study of newborns’ cries gave researchers interesting insights into the acquisition of language in the womb.

Some of the words that mother gives you stick. My conflicted relationship with “Mom” continues many years after she passed on. I tell people that she assumed a position on my internal board of directors. I owe a great deal to her: Many nights of Scrabble, encouragement for music. However, she also gets a lot of discredit for my insecurities. The resistance my mom’s disapproval has taken a lifetime to process, but it taught me that: “You can’t sing and doubt at the same time.”

But those are my words, not hers, forged in fires of anxiety. Mother’s words are very effective, indeed.

I posted on Facebook this week and sent a broad email to a variety of contacts inviting everyone to remember their mothers’ words. Here’s what our readers and friends said:

Jamie Allen of Texas Creative posted: “My mother used to sing words to me. ‘You are my sunshine,’ ‘Rise and Shine’ – words I have passed on to my children. Singing words heals, boosts and celebrates. They can never be forgotten.”

Katherine Garland Baker remembers several pieces of wisdom from her mom: “Respect for your mother or the women in your life regardless if you like her /them or not. Everything has a place or it doesn’t belong. Momma loves you.” Katherine says she also received an appreciation for classical (Mozart, Beethoven) and jazz music as well as wind chimes, and that she learned the importance of “loving your self” from her mother.

Laura Carter, on staff at Providence High School and a fellow San Antonio blogger, said, “There are many things my mother used to say to me, some not so nice. (‘You’re crucifying me!’) But here are some I used on my kids and grandkids: ‘Only boring people get bored. You can’t catch flies with vinegar. Pretty is as pretty does. There you have it!’ ”

My mom writes down lines from novels and cuts out interesting quotes from magazines to tape to her bathroom mirror. .... (Stand by for details)
“My mom has a habit of leaving notes around the house to remind herself of things. Sometimes they’re accidental poetry. She printed one such note out for me when I left for college: ‘Show up. Tell the truth. Pay attention. Do your best.’ I still have it.” — Managing Editor Iris Dimmick. Photo: My mother, Jude, and nephew, Kenny.

Stephan R. Lewis posted: “Mom sez ‘if someone wants to leave, help them buy the ticket.’ and ‘If you hook up with someone with more problems than you have, their problems will become yours too!’ ”

Trombonist and bassist Dave Deering: “Mom said, ‘Don’t trouble trouble, ’til trouble troubles you.’ ”

News editor/producer Sue Calberg‘s mother consistently reasserted her authority with: “I know everything.”

Kim Blackson of Physicians for Quality remembers her mom instructing her to “put your mind on something.”

Pam Bryant said her mother told her, “It doesn’t matter who you love, it only matters that you love.”

Donna Smith Grindlay lives in the Midwest, and she remembers a homespun exclamation, “Oh, for heaven’s sake.” This phrase is “also used extensively by my grandmother, my aunt, and myself. My mother was a substitute teacher, and while I was secretly very proud of her, I also dreaded the days when she showed up in my classroom. I knew I’d better have all the right answers, fast, and her presence really put a dent in my incessant talking. I didn’t dare even rustle a paper for fear of drawing attention to myself. If I could have just one of those days back now, I’d take it in a heartbeat.”

Carolyn Southard is my aunt, so she is quoting my maternal grandmother when she channels the advice, “If you don’t use it you will lose it!” She said grandmother meant that phrase in a broad context, “referring to possessions, toys, your mind, etc…” Grandma raised six children through the Great Depression and Aunt Carolyn remembers her willingness to share with people in need, “I don’t think any one of us became ‘hoarders,’” Grandma said, “true poverty is when you have nothing to give.”

Musician, songwriter and teacher Melissa Javors said that when her siblings would bring a dispute to their mother, she would say, “It takes two to Tango” as her way to handle tattling.

Artist Norman “NoRmAn Rene” Avila wrote, “Mothers are in a class all their own. My mother passed 2 1/2 years ago. Many years ago, Joanne, my ex-wife, confided in me what my mother had privately told her and that was, ‘The reason I was so mean to Norman was because I didn’t want him to be a Momma’s boy and be dependent on her.’ In retrospect it worked. I appreciated the honesty. That explained a lot.  Mother also once warned me that, ‘Your friends may be your friends now, but your family will always be your family.’ She was the glue that kept the family together. Also I remember and kept the birthday card she wrote that said, ‘You are a terrific son.’ That meant the world to me because she never would have told me that in person and I had no idea.”

Jazz musician Dorrie Woodson, who is receiving the Mary Parchman Award for Jazz Excellence on Mother’s Day, remembers her mom saying,  “If it’d been a snake it woulda bit you!” Dorrie says, “It was never very helpful, alas! I still sometimes can’t see what’s right in front of me.”

Linda Carriker Solis commented on The Rivard Report’s invitation, “My mom always asked, ‘Who ever told you life was going to be fair?’ That may sound harsh, but I assure you, it gave me the grounding every kid needs. As an adult, I never play the ‘unfair’ card; rather, I count my blessings (which is another piece of advice from my wonderful mom).”

Dee Lusk, also a musician and teacher, remembers his mother’s treatment of a school dispute.” In 4th grade, when I was falsely accused on the playground of ‘throwing rocks’ at some girls, the safety patrol hauled me in to see the Coach, who served as the school disciplinarian. He informed me that three girls said I had been throwing rocks at them. I denied any knowledge of this and told the Coach that it was surely a mistake on their part. He believed them and not me. I immediately, right there on the spot (for that was how it was done in those days) received three ‘licks’ with Coach’s paddle board! Ouch. When I later dutifully reported this event to my Mom, she believed me, then replied, ‘Well, you just remember all the things you’ve done that you got away with. This is just life’s way of balancing things out.’
Lesson learned.”

If you were busy this week and didn’t get a chance to share your mother’s words, it’s still Sunday, and you can tell us your story in the comments below. We can never get enough Mother wisdom. Call your mother. She loves you.

San Antonio copywriter gary s. whitford writes Every Word Counts in The Rivard Report every Sunday. He is half of Extraordinary Words, providing clever, compelling copy and editorial services for advertising and marketing communications.

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gary s. whitford

San Antonio copywriter gary s. whitford is a partner in Extraordinary Words, providing clear, compelling content for business and non-profit communications. gary has lived in San Antonio for 2/3 of his...