“But mothers lie. It’s in the job description.”

The snow started last night and left about an inch before it stopped. The rain started early, before I woke up, so now we are a slushy place. I left watery footprints from the house to the driveway and back again when I went to get the newspapers. The birds aren’t even around. They don’t like this weather any more than I do and the filled feeders aren’t at all tempting. I have three quick errands today and have mapped out the shortest route so I can hurry home to warmth and coziness.

My sister got around 10″ of snow, and she is welcome to her winter wonderland. My father would call my snow poor man’s fertilizer. I never knew what he meant then I found out it is a spring snow when the ground is soft. It is good for crops and helps everything turn green. The nutrients and moisture in the snow penetrate into the soil and benefit the plants that will grow later on in the year.

Poor man’s fertilizer got me thinking about sayings and pearls of wisdom I don’t hear any more. I think they’re generational, and many disappear when each generation is replaced by the next. My mother had a whole arsenal of things she’d say to us. We were all pretty much subjected to the underwear accident warning, but there was also the peril of going outside with a wet head because we were bound to catch a cold. A little “birdy” told me drove me crazy. I wanted the source, and I knew it wasn’t any bird. A few times she was talking to brick walls, and she found that annoying. Her next question was,”What are you, deaf?” One of my favorite warnings was,”Don’t touch that. You don’t know where it’s been.” I was a kid. Where it had been was of little consequence. Because she was squeamish we were denied the pleasure of some wonderful find. If I told a lie, my tongue would turn black. I dare not make a face as it might just stay that way, and I was afraid I’d have to wear a hat with a veil the whole of my life. I would never join my friends in jumping off a bridge. I’d have to find one first. My town had no bridges. My favorite, though, was always the,”It’s not what you say. It’s how you say it.” My mother could pick up even the tiniest hint of sarcasm. Though I was too young to know the word sarcasm I knew the tone she meant. I said it on purpose.

I still turn out the lights when I leave a room, and I keep the outside door shut. My mother always reminded us in that voice none of us wanted to hear that we didn’t own the electric company and we didn’t live in a barn.

Explore posts in the same categories: Musings

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Both comments and pings are currently closed.

46 Comments on ““But mothers lie. It’s in the job description.””

  1. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    My mother was good for some of those sayings though I never heard the one about my tongue turning black. If we lied, our noses would grow. She never used the “are you deaf” one.
    The one about tone of voice is true, though. It isn’t what you say. It is how you say it. Tone of voice is everything. I’m surprised at the number of people who just don’t get that idea. I suspect they know it, do it on purpose and, when called on it, bat their eyes all innocently and disclaim any such intent. Bull puckies, I say. 🙂
    My dad was the one for shutting off the lights and asking if we lived in a barn. I thought living in a barn would be cool. The doors would always be closed because I wouldn’t want the animals getting out. 🙂
    I’m very bad with lights. I wake up in the morning, turn all the downstairs lights on and leave them on all day. It’s too dark in here for daytime. After sundown, I shut off all but the one over my knitting spot because then it’s too bright for nighttime.

    We have 10 inches of snow up here. Now I think it has changed over to rain. I am not shoveled out yet so I’m not going anywhere
    Stay warm and enjoy the day.

    • Hi Caryn,
      The tongue would turn black was especially effective. She ask us, and we’d hide our mouths with our hands so she couldn’t see our tongues: dead giveaways!

      My mother knew what we didn’t really want to do what she wanted but would figuring the alternative was worse.

      I am the opposite with lights. I live in the den as that’s where my computer and TV are. In the kitchen I keep an electric candle on in the window but there are no other lights on in the house. I don’t figure I need any if I’m not there. I do turn one on inhere to read the papers if the morning is dark.

      I just got back from my errands. I got soaked running from the car to the store.

      You stay warm and keep out of all that snow!

      • Caryn Says:

        Too late. I went out to shovel. It is raining but I didn’t get very wet. Rocky got damp on the surface and muddy on the feet.

      • Caryn,
        I got soaked on my errands. Even Gracie didn’t even want to walk to the car-she was slunked right down.

  2. Vintage Spins Says:


    If I sulked around the house when my mother refused permission for me to participate in some fun activity with my friends, I’d always hear:

    “You’ve got a face like a can of dew worms.”

    That really added insult to injury, as far as I was concerned. (Talk about “the pot calling the kettle black.”


    • Marie,
      That’s a new one on me. I never heard of a dew worm so I went looking: an earthworm found on or near the surface of the ground and used as fishing bait.

      Mothers did that-insult to injury!

  3. Birgit Says:

    That’s funny, I’ve heard the same sayings, parental wisdom must be universal. A little bit different is the tongue that decays when lying. Do you also get worms if you eat dough, bad weather if you don’t eat all the food on your plate, trees are growing in your stomach if you eat the stone of a fruit, you get square-shaped eyes if you watch too much TV and tomatoes grow in the ears if you don’t wash them? Kids are terrible, they can “ask holes in someone’s belly” if they ask too much 😉

    • Birgit,
      I think every mother gets a handbook with a variety of sayings they all then use.

      I got balls in my stomach if i swallowed any chewing gum and they took years to disappear. We’d go blind if we sat too close to the TV. That one we tested all the time.

      • Caryn Says:

        Don’t forget all the watermelons that grew in our stomachs because we swallowed the seeds. 🙂
        I forgot the best one ever: “you can talk a hungry dog off a meat wagon.”

      • Caryn
        I totally forgot about all those watermelon gardens!

        I never heard the dog one before.

      • Hedley Says:

        I had forgotten TV blindness, excellent Birgit.

      • My Dear Hedley,
        Birgit gets squared eyed. I go blind.

      • Hedley Says:

        Katmah, you are correct and credit where credit is due. I didnt get where I am today without giving credit where credit is due

        The reality was that we could not sit close enough to the TV. Unless, of course it involved, say , Daleks and then I was behind the sofa in the two cushion position.

      • MDH,
        We sat so close to the TV I am surprised I can still see.

        Daleks didn’t find this side of the world until much later. They found PBS first, and I watched the good Doctor on WGBH out of Boston

      • Birgit Says:

        Wasn’t blindness caused by another pleasure? The kind of pleasure that good catholic boys shouldn’t even think about?

      • Birgit,
        You are correct!

      • Hedley Says:

        Birgit, lucky I was born in to the Church of England. I think that what you are referencing also grew hair on the palms of your hands.

  4. Hedley Says:

    “Everywhere I go I see the number 42”. My Mum did and we still do .

  5. olof1 Says:

    Funny how sayings can be just the same on this side of the ocean too 🙂 But the tongue could become brown too, depended on where in the country it was said I guess. I really wanted that bird dead many times 🙂

    No use in bragging about something because Empty barrels sound the most 🙂 and no use complaining about others because one should nevet´r throw a glass in a stone house. Inonce asked why one should throw a glass at all and I had to pay for it 🙂 🙂 🙂

    I only have the lights on in the room I am so my cottage always look very dark in the evenings 🙂 Because I’ve never owned the electric company either 🙂

    Windy and snowy here today but it is that kind of snow that never seems to fall on the ground. I’ve always wondered where it goes, does it just continue to fly around in cold places all over the world 🙂

    Have a great day!

    • Christer,
      I know the empty barrel makes the most noise and about glass houses, but they weren’t any of my mother’s sayings.

      My house always looks dark, but I don’t care. I can see what I need to see just fine.

      I loved the question: Where does the white go when the snow melts?

  6. Bill S. Says:

    “They say….”: who is “They”?

    Actually, the white goes back into the sky to make more snow.

    I just cleared the driveway of 14″. The side bankings are now too high for the snow blower to get the snow over them. It just falls back into the driveway. Sometimes there are mini-avalanches, when the sides can’t take the weight and the snow falls back like and avalanche.

    Isn’t tomorrow the first day of spring????

    • Bill,
      I’ve lost track of which they you mean or which they I mean!

      Does the white float up to the sky?

      I’m sorry about you and all that snow. I am amazed at how many inches you got. Is yours turning to rain later? I know it is in Stoneham where my sister lives. She got 10″

      We got rain: dismal, cold rain all day long.

      Tomorrow at 7:02 the world will look like a Disney movie with beautiful colors, singing birds and singing daisies with their heads moving in time and squirrels in a conga line. It is then that spring begins and all your snow will magically disappear!

  7. Lori Kossowsky Says:

    I’ll try to recall what I was told as a child– but it was my dad who said most of these things.
    You can’t have your cake and eat it too– which always perplexed me.
    If I was tasting the biscuit dough, I was told I would die.
    YOU should have it so hard… said with a Yiddish intonation.
    I wasn’t threatened with worms if I ate dough, I was told I would die ( I tried it anyway).

    It’s cloudy and it looks like it might rain. I miss her so much.

    Still Waving,
    Lori and her angel

    • Lori,
      I always believed my mother that all of those warnings would come true. I bet, though, she also believed her mother.

      It’s still true you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

      Waving high and low-earth to heaven

  8. Beto Says:

    An argument over religion by a group of five to seven year olds produced the following exchange with my Mom.
    Oldest kid: “Look, there’s catlicks and baptits and mefidits but we’re all human beans.”
    pitter patter pitter patter pitter patter….
    Me: “Mom, am I a human bean?”
    Mom: “Yes, we’re all human beans.”
    I thought about that for a long, long time.

  9. Bob Says:

    These are universal mother warnings which immediately enter a woman’s head as soon as the baby is born. My mother told me that if I told a lie my nose would grow just like Pinocchio. Unfortunately, my uncle Hymie had a huge nose so I was not too threatened since he went through life just fine enjoying his greater share of free air. Some of my mother’s more interesting ones included, go bang your head against a wall, when we told her we were bored. Or, a yiddish expression when translated was don’t hit my tea kettle, when we were making too much noise. We didn’t go blind by sitting too close to the television screen, we didn’t get cramps and drown if we went into the pool or ocean too soon after eating. Bad luck never happened as a result of opening an umbrella in the house and an itchy palm never brought us riches. She never had our neighbors kids jumping off a bridge but jumping off the roof. The black tongue was a new one I had never heard until today. A wet head has never caused a cold but why take a chance.

    Another day that is dry and partly cloudy in North Texas with a high temperature in the 70s. I was glad to depart Toronto since the pilot had to have the airplane deiced before takeoff as a result of the snow flurries. The only place I like ice in an airplane is in my glass with a Diet Coke.

    • Bob,
      You rattled off so many mother truism. I know most of then but hadn’t heard don’t hit my tea kettle before, and I’m still not sure how that relates to noise. It’s true that seldom did anything happened even though my mother threatened. but then until we were older, we didn’t dare risk anything.

      Wet and foggy describes tonight. I went to a friend’s house and the road was difficult to see. Driving home was a bit better.

      • Bob Says:

        The English transliteration is, “Hock mir nisht kin chinick”. A “chinick” is the Russian word for tea kettle. It means don’t make noise and bother me. Another was that whistling in the house would bring bad luck.

      • Bob,
        Thanks for the origin of that phrase, but i still don’t get the sense of it.

        I heard whistling also calls up ghosts.

  10. Cuidado Says:

    My favorite was when we would see our mother getting ready to go somewhere. “Where ya goin’, Mom?” “Crazy, wanna come?”

    I always wanted to be with the adults, not the kids, when I was growing up. I didn’t have the sense or personality to sit quietly, unheard. When my mother tired of me she would say, “Go outside with the other kids. I’ll write it all down and you can read it when you come back.”

    This made me miss my mom.

    • Cuidado,
      My mother was driven crazy by us asking where she was going. When she put on her lipstick, we knew she was going out and wanted to know where. She never had the stock answer your mother did, but I do recognize hers!

      I like her line to you!!

      I miss my mom too.

  11. Hedley Says:

    Your browser does not support iframes.

  12. Hedley Says:

    • Hedley Says:

      I was making my way down Telegraph this morning, in the dark and through the snow flurries listening to the BBC World Service. Being the day, the discussion had turned to the debut in Paris one hundred years ago of Stravinsky’s The Rites of Spring. A ballet so unconventional that a riot actually took place in the audience. (wait for some idiot to comment that all ballets involve riots). 1913 Paris was rocking.

      With the passage of time, our Rites of Spring have become, perhaps, Spring Training and that means only one thing…..Hooters Girls.

      Stavinsky’s work included unconventional music and unnatural choreography, dances with bent arms and limbs. Maybe it wasnt so very different to The Hooters Girls Rites of Spring

      • MDH,

        She certainly has a few God-given talents!

        We had our rites of spring. We watched the sunrise at the beach then went out to breakfast. It was so cold we did not linger.

    • MDH,
      She was hired for attributes other than handling a simple baseball.

    • MDH,
      I know exactly what distracted you!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: