My Drift

photo by Matt Cornelius
photo by Matt Cornelius

My Drift

What would Forrest Gump say?

I always think about my mother when I make chocolate chip cookies. It’s not because she especially loved chocolate chip cookies, or because hers were particularly delicious. No, preparing chocolate chip cookies reminds me of my mother because it was the source of one of her “motherisms.”

You know what a motherism is. A motherism is something you accepted as truth early in your life because your mother always said it. Later, when you became an adult, you either adopted it as your own truth or rejected it in favor of a belief that better suited your lifestyle. The quirky thing about motherisms though, is whether you embrace them or cast them aside, they never go away.

I put knives in the dishwasher every single day, but even as I do it, I hear my mother saying I shouldn’t because the heat of the dishwasher will eventually melt the glue and the handles will fall apart. It’s a motherism I’ve chosen to ignore, but nevertheless, it will always be there.

My mother’s axiom about chocolate chip cookies was simply this: You should only put half of a bag of chocolate chips in your cookie dough. A whole bag, she said, resulted in cookies with too many chocolate chips.

Too many chocolate chips? How can there be too many chocolate chips?

I’m not really very good in the kitchen, but there are some who consider my chocolate chip cookies to be pretty fabulous. Once I was out from under my mother’s roof, I took to playing fast and loose with the chocolate chips, recklessly pouring an entire bag into every batch of dough. Sometimes I even add extras. Every time I do it, though, I hear my mother’s voice and remember her many admonitions.

“Electricity costs money,” she would say as she went around the house, turning off lights long before conserving energy was a thing. “Gasoline is expensive,” she preached as she denied permission for a special trip to the grocery store for a forgotten item. “It takes extra electricity to heat the iron,” was the reason we weren’t permitted to press just one piece of clothing. House rules required that we iron a minimum of three items once the iron was turned on. My mother was a very practical woman, and most of her motherisms demonstrate that fact.

When I was nine, I traveled with my mother to Dallas to meet her college roommate at the Adolphus Hotel. The woman had married well, and I was in awe of her exquisite clothes and matched luggage. Her daughters, on the other hand, were mesmerized by my mother’s ability to make lemonade from the lemon wedges and sugar packets that came with the room service iced tea. “If room service gives you lemons…”

My mother is no longer living, but her motherisms will always be with me. She taught me to wear white gloves when putting on stockings in order to avoid snags. She instructed me that a lady always wears a slip. Some of her wisdom is decidedly out of date; I don’t remember the last time I wore stockings or a slip. It sticks with me, nonetheless.

Some things she always said still ring true. Don’t put fabric softener on towels; it inhibits their absorbency. If you put your jeans in the dryer, they’ll come out too short. Don’t wait until the last minute to get a chore finished because something might come up. Don’t leave your shoes all over the house.

From time to time, I hear my son quote one of my own motherisms and it always gives me a kick to know he’s stored away one of my little pearls. When someone damaged his truck at 2:00 a.m. in a convenience store parking lot, he told the police officer that his mother always said nothing good happens after midnight. (Am I right?) Once, on his way to a dinner party, he appropriated a bottle of wine from my wine rack with a wink and the words, “My mom always said not to show up empty-handed.”

What did your mother always say? You probably have a list. Here’s a fun activity: If you’re a mother, give some thought to what your children will say following the words “My mother always said.” Though I’m pretty sure the words “Go watch Sesame Street” came out of my mouth regularly, I’m grateful my son doesn’t seem to remember.

One of the motherisms I’ve passed along to him is one that is undeniably true: Nobody ever loves you like your mother. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there, especially yours.


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