The Wisdom of Marge

We lost my mother-in-law recently. This Mother’s Day, of course, I am thinking of her and her gentle, yet solid way of living with grace, faith, and empathy. When I came into the family, she was wary of the “mother-in-law” stigma, often saying, “My mama always said, ‘the worst vice is advice.’” My own mother, gone several years now, was quite liberal with advice.  While my siblings and I kept vigil at her bedside as she died, I jotted down all her sayings that I could remember. Some are witty, some are poignant, some are completely Irish, handed down to her by her own mother, an Irish immigrant. But they are all priceless. This year for Mother’s Day, I decided I should share those sayings.

I give you, The Wisdom of Marge:

  • Don’t be a doormat. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel inferior.

  • Take care of yourself first. Don’t wait for someone else to look after you.

  •  Leave well enough alone. Don’t let perfectionism make you crazy. Sometimes good enough is good enough.

  • Let go, let God. Stick to your faith. Worrying does little good.

  • Family dinners are never about the food.

  • Sleep is the great healer. You can handle anything that Life throws at you as long as you have sleep.

  •  Laughter is the best medicine. It releases endorphins! And endorphins lift you up.

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously.

  • Distance yourself from people who make you feel bad about yourself.

  • Take the time, even when you don’t think you have much to spare, to sit quietly, listen and communicate with those you love. Leave a person you love with the feeling that your time is theirs.

  • Don’t ever have regrets. Let mistakes go and move on.

  • Learn to bend a little. Don’t be too rigid in your beliefs.

  • Life isn’t always fair.

  • You shouldn’t be afraid to admit you’re wrong or say you’re sorry. Life is too short.

  • Always look good and put on lipstick if you are going to argue with your husband. He’ll pay closer attention to you and remember why he married you if you look pretty.

  • Pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary every day, and also St. Therese, The Little Flower, for special intentions and St. Anthony when you lose things.  

  • Don’t keep score in a relationship; you’ll be a better person for it. Know that you’ll never be completely even and trying to be so will only harm the relationship.

  • Try to forgive those who’ve hurt you.

  • When serving dinner to picky children eaters, tell them “Eat it, or wear it. That’s what’s for dinner.”

  • Don’t let anyone ever talk down to you.

  • Remove your face makeup with Ponds Cold Cream every night. Never go to bed with a dirty face.

  • Moisturize your face every night and don’t forget your neck.

  • “Serve small, serve all” when feeding a large crowd.

  • “Family hold back” (FHB) when guests are over for dinner; make sure the guests get enough before serving yourself.

  • Never wake a sleeping baby.

  • “Let’er go Lewy” describes just cutting loose. Kind of a jazzier version of “Let go, let God.”

  • When making a toast: “Here’s lookin’ up your address!”

  • A quip to cranky people: “I don’t like your attitude … or your longitude!”

  • When someone burps aloud: “Next time it comes up, we’ll vote on it!” or “Another country heard from!”

  • “Don’t beat yourself up,” in constantly reminding us that no one is perfect.

  • “I hate injustice!” when referring to discrimination or anyone being treated unfairly (kind of a constant theme).

  • Referring to people who try, but are just kind of lame: “She means well, God love her.”

  •  In having an open door to all at our house: “What’s one more at the dinner table?”

  • Meaning it as a comfort if someone couldn’t make a family function: “That’s okay, honey. There’s so many of us … no one will miss you.”

  • In deflecting pleas for a bedtime story: “Story, story, ‘bout a cow. That’s a story for you now.”

  • “Many hands make light work.” Not her own phrase, but said every week while feeding anywhere from 10 to 50 people Sunday evening dinners.

  • On passing gas: “What? Yours smell like roses?!”

  • To sassy teenagers: “Come on over here, you, so I can hit you.”

  • Her mother’s saying when asking how a party went: “Did you see anyone you liked better than yourself?”

  • A saucy response to my father’s complaints about how a meal was prepared … she would fix her hair and say, “Well honey, you can’t be good in every room of the house.”

  • And my particular favorite saying that the mother of 9, grandmother of 30 and great grandmother of many would know so well: A child only really needs a few things to play with:

    • A flashlight: for discovering, pretending, or just chasing the light beam.

    • Scotch tape: for sticking to oneself, others, papers, anything.

    • A key ring with real keys: it makes a great noise, can start pretend cars, and fits in ones mouth or nostril easily. And that’s fun.

    • A yardstick: it can be a sword, a cane, a gun, a Shepard’s hook, and one can measure with it if you’re old enough to know how to do that.

    • A large cardboard box: it can be a car, a spaceship, a hiding place, a container, a drum, a chair, a table, the possibilities are endless.

    • A real but not functioning phone: it’s perfect for playing grownup, playing office, mimicking Mom and Dad, or calling Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, or Prince Charming."

 Happy Mother’s Day to all!

My amazing mother was full of wit and wisdom.

My amazing mother was full of wit and wisdom.