Things my mother taught me that still ring true
Mum once told me that a person should never cut their nails at night.
Although she never gave a specific reason, I still perform all nail-clipping activities before sunset.
Presumably, something terrifying happens, like an earthquake or the opening of a portal to the set of Two and a Half Men.
Earlier this week, a UK survey found that the average mother will pass on a whopping 41 “pearls of wisdom” to their ungrateful spawn, including: “Always try your best”, “eat with your mouth closed” and “Wait, who’s this guy? I thought Brad Pitt was the good guy… So then why is he fighting Eric Bana? So they’re both Greek? I told your father to rent out that Sandra Bullock movie instead.”
Further down the list, at number 36, is “manners maketh the man”.
While I don’t specifically remember my dear ol’ mum uttering those specific, simple words, I do recall her sending the same message by way of an elaborate, Rambo-esque trap.
As children, my brother and I would receive a drop of Tabasco sauce for swearing or claiming that “Charlton Heston is a terrible actor”. Strangely, I never actually remember anyone in our family actually using Tabasco sauce on food.
On one particular occasion, following a nasty bout of name-calling, we decided we’d get tough and refuse to allow the Devil’s Condiment to touch our tongues.
After a vicious back-and-forth, Mum gave in and sent us to our room.
An hour or so later (or 35.7 days in child time), my brother and I were happily playing with Lego, building cars and helicopters and trashy, early 80s-style Italian restaurants with palm trees (our Lego was second-hand).
Mum, sensing a lull in the chaos, cheerily called us to the kitchen, where she had sliced up some juicy, delicious pears.
After a couple of bites, we realised the awful, awful truth – a mother always wins. She had laced the pears with Tabasco sauce. Only a mother’s love could produce such deviousness and therapy-inducing villainy.
And while “never offer lifts to strangers” claimed the 39th spot on the researcher’s lists of wise words, my Mum constantly bragged about the time her father squeezed 14 drunken strangers into a Volkswagen in Nairobi.
Number 8, meanwhile, says simply “smile”.
Mum taught us that no photo should ever take less than 15 minutes, and you should always spend the entire time aggressively mouthing “smile” from behind the camera like one of those plaster-caked lunatics from Toddlers and Tiaras.
And the closest she’s ever come to saying “watching too much TV will make your eyes go square” is: “Make sure you tape Grey’s Anatomy for me – and cut out all the commercials.”
But these are the things we remember. Those Hallmark one-liners often drift from our memories, because every mother says them. It’s the crazy we remember. Every mother is an eccentric, driven mad by love. It’s the strange that sticks with us – the oddities and quirks that imprint themselves as deeply as the smells of home-cooked meals and too much hairspray.
In the end, however, there’s one pearl of wisdom that stands above all others. And that is to never cut your nails at night.
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