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What Our Mamas Taught Us

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In honor of Mother’s Day, a few of us at the Alaska Commons would like to honor our maternal figures with a list of some of the best advice they gave us (whether we listened or not).
Natalie Snyder
My grandmother was one of those who believed you could never have enough underwear. We got underwear for any occasion. In Easter baskets, under the Christmas tree, even once for New Years Eve the giant silky grandma-panties were a special surprise. So on my 13th birthday, when I was given a little package and told “Now, open this in private” I was grateful to be spared this embarrassment in front of my friends. But this package was a bit different, it was squishy, like the usual underpants, but I felt something solid in there too. I was excited to think maybe I got some jewelry and rushed to the bathroom to open the present.
Unwrapping the package I grinned to see the familiar peach color sateen, and when I carefully unfolded them, out tumbled a little blue box, and a small card. The box was a three-pack of Trojan condoms. The card simply read “If you can’t keep these on, put one of these on. Love Grandma & Bill”
I love and dearly miss my open-minded and forward thinking Grandma Bea, now more than 12 years gone. My mother raised me and taught me the value of hard work and a sense of humor. But my grandmother taught me by example tolerance, honesty and feminism.
Rachael Carlson
My mom always encouraged me to learn to stand on my own two feet. She always wanted my sisters and I to be independent and capable women. However, my Grandmother always advised “Shit fire and save matches.”
Rebecca Barker (from her mother)

  • If he’s got a pair of Carhartt’s, he’s probably employable.
  • People don’t change. If they were a jerk when they were a kid, they’re probably still a jerk at heart.
  • In choosing friends, kindness is the most important thing.
  • If you can’t sleep, try to count the number of people who love you.
  • The flavor’s in the fat, don’t skimp it.

John Aronno
My mom embarrassed me like none other. She felt like she could walk into a room and start talking to anyone, at any time, about anything. She still does. I wasn’t very sociable when I was an early teen. I kept to myself. It was infuriating knowing that wherever I went, if mom was around, soon there would be a conversation going on with strangers. And that was the best case scenario. Some of my earliest memories of wanting to crawl into a ball and disappear involved times when my mom was stuck in a room with friends. Especially when it involved girls. I’d be writing love poems in my head, carefully crafting my plan of attack to woo them when I’d turn around to discover they were giggling uncontrollably, firmly in the tractor beam of my mother’s conversational skills.
I hated my mother’s conversational prowess. Seriously – who needed that skill set? I had important prose to write and then shy away from actually communicating!
Chalk it up to the endless list of things I wish I had bothered to notice – those nuggets of wisdom parents desperately try to impart on their kids, who want nothing more than to judge that wisdom as icky parent-stuff.
My mom can talk to anyone, with absolute effortlessness and unrivaled success rates. I should have been taking notes during all those years I, instead, took umbrage. That whole “talking to people” thing would have been a good practice to pick up naturally in my early teen years, rather than the hard learned lesson I stumbled over repeatedly throughout my late teens and early twenties.
Mom surely knew this. I’ve never talked to her about it, but I imagine she’d chuckle knowingly if I admitted that my regrettable hatred and intentional disregard for her talent was a missed opportunity to avoid years of awkwardness. But she never forced the lesson on me. I’m sure she figured I’d get there eventually. Hell, maybe one day I will.
Happy Mother’s Day, mom. Sorry for being so predictably me and ignoring you when you were being so helpfully you.
Heather Aronno
One of the hardest lessons to learn in my childhood (and adulthood) was something my mother tried to teach me from an early age: you can’t be friends with everyone. She explained that sometimes people just didn’t get along, or friendships faded, and it wasn’t necessarily anyone’s fault. It was just the way it was, and I didn’t need to blame myself or the other person for it. I just needed to move on and make other friends. Some of that stuck.
My mother also instilled in me a deep sense of right and wrong, especially about treating others as I wanted to be treated. While she may shake her head at some of my more vocal exploits in the community, I’ve reminded her that she only has herself to blame for teaching me the golden rule.
And my gramma told me not to sell my textbooks, “because you never know when they might come in handy.” Wise words that I’ve mostly listened to. (Except for History of Theater.) Thank you, Mom and Gramma, for your patience.
 
What was the best advice your mom (or grandma, aunt, godmother, etc.) gave you?