Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mothers and the Narrative of Our Lives

It's time to get up
It's time to get up
It's time to get up
In the morning!
       (to the tune of Reveille, in a trumpet-like voice)

Up Up Up and At 'em!

When a job you've once begun
Never leave it 'til it's done
Be the labor great or small
Do it well or not at all.

Always put your clothes on with the tag in the back.

Be sure your sin will find you out.

Eat your vegetables.  At least five bites.

When you get married, you should choose someone who is your best friend.  And you shouldn't fight about stupid things like how to squeeze the toothpaste tube.

You should write thank-you notes for the people who gave you presents.

When Duty whispers low, "Thou must!"
The youth replies "I can!"

Did you practice your piano today?

It's very sad that Grandpa died, but we know we will see him again in heaven someday.  It will be like the greatest party in the world, but even better.

It's very sad that Mr. E. died, especially since we don't know if he ever trusted in Jesus to forgive his sins.  Some people put off thinking about it, but you shouldn't.  It's the most important decision in your life.

Early to bed, early to rise
Makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

Are you ready to recite your memory verse? 

Never take candy from strangers.  Sometimes bad people put poison or razor blades in it.

Get your chores done early and then you'll have the rest of the day to do the things you like.

Learn to like your chores.

Learn to like broccoli.

You'll have another chance tomorrow.  Go to bed now.

The above are all quotes from my mother, who was herself quoting earlier speakers in some instances.

All of us have an internal narrative -- the inner voice of the mind -- that tells us what to do next, how to do it, and whether we did the last thing wrong.  We all talk to ourselves, constantly.  Those of us who are considered more or less "high-functioning" have learned not to talk aloud most of the time.  But the narration of our lives is shaped in earliest childhood by our mothers.  They do it without them or us being aware of it, with constant repetition, and with varying degrees of patience and success.  I don't know how you could measure this, but I suspect that the Really Important Things that mothers convey to their children are also the Really Simple Things that they say over and over again.  Somewhere along the line, those Really Important Things begin to be said with our own voices.  We may add to them over a lifetime, but at the heart of our inner voice is our mother's voice.

The gap between civilization and barbarism, between piety and paganism, between order and chaos, is just one generation wide, and getting smaller along with our attention spans.  Mothers stand in that gap.  They tell us how things are and how things ought to be.  It's the hardest work in the world, and the most important.

For those of us who are trying to raise the next generation but who have lost our own mothers, it's a comfort to know that we keep their voices always in our minds.

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