Mother's wisdom, mother's love

Posted - May 11, 2006

Sweet or strict, witty or serious, philosophical or poetic, a mother's advice is given in love and the hope that it will guide her children to a good and happy life. That advice sticks with us, echoing in our hearts years later. Here, readers and staff members remember their mom's words of wisdom.

Butterflies for remembrance

I have always remembered three specific things that my mother said to me although one was repeated often and the other two she only said to me once. The first one was when my two sisters and I would misbehave she would look at us rather sternly but with a distant twinkle in her eye and say "chickens come home to roost." I never could quite get the meaning behind that phrase until I had children of my own and when I would be lamenting about their behavior, she, with great glee would say triumphantly "chickens come home to roost." I must admit I get a sense of joy repeating that same phrase to my children when their children, my grandchildren, are giving them problems.

The second words of wisdom she spoke to me, came a few weeks before she died. She had been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) less than a year before, and I still remember her sitting in the chair by the wood stove in my house. She seemed to gather some inner strength and at this point she was still able to use her voice. I was struggling to speak about how sad I was that her life had come to this when she said to me quite emphatically," the only things I regret about my life are the things I didn't do." She was only 72 and a few nights later, she entered the hospital. The next morning she had lost her voice but had a communicator that she could type on with the one finger that still could function. It was a cold, typical rainy April day on the Island, but she pointed out the window and typed, "butterflies." Within two hours she had died.

With those words she left me with these three gifts: to be able to look at the humorous side of things, and enjoy the moment; to take that risk and go ahead and follow my dreams; and finally, although she didn't speak the word "butterflies," she left me with the gift of remembering her every time that I have seen a butterfly in the 22 years since she died.

Megan Alley, Oak Bluffs

"Love must find us"

This is a little tribute to my maternal grandmother, Marcia Camp - a writer, poet, and woman of many talents. She is a person who never lets "the grass grow under her feet." My grandmother is full of great advice, wise perspective, and wonderful sayings. In a recent letter, she sent me some words of wisdom: "It has been my experience that love must find us, not the other way around. We just have to be open and ready and able to recognize that right one, no matter how 'unusual' they may seem to others (and would to us too if we failed to recognize them). This translates to 'finding love when you're not looking for it'."

Alexis Major, West Tisbury

"The art of craftsmanship"

"Rip it out," said my mother, referring to the seam I had just sewed.

"Why," I whined, making the word stretch on and on as only a teenager can. "No one will see it," I added, hoping to convince her that ripping out the seam would be a complete waste of my time.

"I'll know," she said.

So I ripped. Seam after seam in project after project. Along with teaching me how to sew, my mother was teaching me the art of craftsmanship. When I'm creating something now and temped to just make do, I can hear my mother saying, "Rip it out" and I do.

Anna Marie D'Addarie, Vineyard Haven

"Let God do the rest"

Things my mom taught us:

To always have love in your heart, and a good sense of humor, and let God do the rest.

My mom left us in October 2005. She had four daughters, 10 grandchildern, and 18 great-grandchildren. Her name was Elizabeth Ann Marshall. She was a native-born Islander, and her maiden name was Elizabeth Ann DeMello. She was a retired health-care worker.

Clara A. Marshall, Edgartown

"Things work out for the best"

My mother is 105. In my memory, her advice has never changed. Her precept is not a course to be followed or a step to be taken. It is rather a statement of her positive view of the world. It is simply and foolishly, "Everything works out for the best."

Whenever, as a child and particularly as an adult, I would complain about a disappointment, a girlfriend whose affections had gone elsewhere, a job I didn't get, a prize I didn't win, she would listen sympathetically, offer condolences, and show that she understood how bad things were for me at that moment. But in the end, when the sympathizing had been done, she would smile and say, "Well, you know everything works out for the best."

Early in my life, I didn't often believe it. But I've come to believe now that she was right all along.

In times of triumph, for example when the woman I married turned out to be 10 times more wonderful than any of those earlier girlfriends, or when I got a job even better than the one that got away, or when prizes did come my way, she would laugh and say with conviction, "See, I told you things work out for the best."

Hers is not the philosophical optimism of Baron Leibniz ("This is the best of all possible worlds") or Alexander Pope ("Whatever is, is right'). Like all families, her family has faced tragedy and loss and received blows she would never describe as "for the best." But she has always given us the shining optimism that somehow we would make the best of what life had handed us and things would work out.

Dan Cabot, West Tisbury

"Stay to the right"

My mother is Florence S. Bruder. She now lives at Woodside Village.

Best advice she gave me (so far): When I was 17 about a day, we lived in New Jersey, and I begged to use my mother's car to go to the movies. She said sure, as long as I gave her a ride to her meeting that night.

It was raining very hard. We got about half way there and were heading into a busy part of town. "I can't see the yellow line!" I told her, panic rising. "I can't even see the road!"

She said "Let me tell you what my father told me about driving in bad weather, especially at night. See the headlights coming at you?"

"Yes," I practically screamed.

"Stay to the right," she said.

It's still good advice, and still makes me smile.

Isabelle Bruder Smith, Colchester, Conn.

"This, too, shall pass"

My younger brother Richard and I grew up listening to Mom's "old sayings," as we called them. Two of her favorites were, "What can't be cured, must be endured," and, "This, too, shall pass." We would groan and roll our eyes. However, as I go through life, I realize that those two simple sayings in particular seem to cover most of life's situations. Oftentimes you just have to buck up and deal with what life hands you and there is no use complaining about it. And, no matter how impossible or hopeless a situation seems, it won't last forever and somehow always gets resolved. Mom would have been proud to hear me passing along her pearls of wisdom, and if told I sounded like her, she would have said, "Well, she didn't lick it off the grass!"

Janet Hefler, Vineyard Haven

A good education

My mother, Florine Miller Jaynes, always told us that a good education was really important even though she quit high school to marry my father after being orphaned at age 16. When she was 68, after 52 years of marriage and several decades of employment at a department store, mother earned her high school diploma. All three of her children earned college degrees, and two of us have graduate degrees.

Sheryl Jaynes-Andrews, Edgartown

"Waste not, want not"

My Mom, Anna Hoglund, who now, at the age of 95 years, resides at Windemere, could always make something from nothing and has always been a great problem solver. She is still pretty sharp in this area although her memory is not that good.

Some of her best pearls of wisdom are as follows:

"Necessity is the Mother of Invention."

"There is more than one way to skin a cat". (I do not know if that would be socially acceptable today but she is a great cat lover so it was not meant in a literal way.)

"Waste not, want not."

"Eat it up, wear it out, make do or go without."

I do believe she had words of wisdom for almost every situation plus a fine sense of humor as she could find humor in some of the most difficult situations. I could go on and on....

Judy Bruguiere,
Edgartown