‘Fiddle-dee-dees,” I can hear my mother happily exclaim as I am buying my slice of fiddlehead quiche in honor of her and the season.
I hear my mother’s words often, a sign of her immortality, I think. I hear her unsolicited advice such as “ Don’t let every little thing throw you,” when I’m upset about something or “You’re not going to start that up again, are you?” when a former swain wants to come a calling again.
I laugh, but do I listen?
But it’s her expressions that pop up for almost every possible situation that I hear the most often.
“My kind of weather” was a crisp fall day. Her red raincoat was “cheery” and could be worn in “iffy” weather.
“The Wreck of the Hesperus” was used to describe a bad hair and makeup day when you were spotted out in public. A loosely fit garment covered “a multitude of sins.”
“Ruffles and tuffles” was excessively fancy. Disrobing in the doctor’s office was the “great unveiling.”
As far as eating habits: “grab it and growl” was a meal on the run. One portion of something delicious and it “tasted like more,” and if you were debating having seconds, “let your conscience be your guide.”
A “Healthy-O” had good eating habits.
“A pill” (a pain in the neck), a “son of a seacook” (a polite version of something else), a “haunt” ( a pest), and a “Me Firster” (a member of the Me Generation) were all used to describe people she had no tolerance for. A person who did something “devilish” was deliberately mean. “Flotsam and jetsam” was a crowd made up of varied personalities.
If she was really exasperated by a person or family drama, she would say she felt as if she’d been “dragged through a knothole” or “kicked in the slats.” But if she felt empowered on a day when something unpleasant happened, she’d say, “My shoulders are broad.”
My mother did not admire malingerers as she and her mother before her were believers of toughing it out. She would comment about someone’s “enjoying poor health” and holding on to an ailment as “keeping it as a pet.” She claimed if an elderly person fell and broke a hip, “it was curtains.”
A person that was “kind of funny” could range from quirky to not of sound mind. And if either she or I were at the grocery store and became the “Ancient Mariner” we were telling a tale of woe to friends or acquaintances.
“Did you manage to stay upright?” she’d ask me if I had had a long teaching day but didn’t succumb to a nap when I got home.
When the semester ended and I’d call to say my grades were in, she’d state, “You must be free.” Lately I catch myself saying some of my mother’s expressions to my students, and I wonder “Can this be so?” Then I realize it is so because a mother’s words stay with you forever.
— Special to the Telegram