Things I Learned From My Mother

May 8, 2011 § 2 Comments

Do not be alarmed.  The Prude Papers has not been on vacation.  Instead, we like most of you have been preparing for Mother’s Day, and what a special day it is.  To help commemorate this day, I have solicited two very fine writers to pen a post that builds upon the phrase, “Things I learned from my Mother.”   It is likely that all of us have at one time or another learned something from the mothers in our lives.  Perhaps that knowledge was passed on knowingly or unknowingly, at our bequest or by happenstance.  In some cases these tidbits, sayings, credence, and even mistakes have become some of the greatest lessons of our lives.  It is my hope that you will join me in celebrating the Mothers featured in this post, as they like so many mothers may never get written in history, nor paraded across the T.V., but they have been given one of the most important tasks in life, raising you and I.  One thing I learned from my mother is how to celebrate other mothers.  I am glad to pass it on here.


Charles R. Merab – Age 35

I learned all the important things about life from my mother. Below is a list of a few things I learned from her over the years. If you are reading this mom, I just want to say thank you for making me the man I am today and I love you from the bottom of my heart.

Trust In God For Everything

Through the hardships of the war in Liberia, my mother clung to God and her faith. She was strong and full of hope in those difficult times. My mom taught and still reminds me to put God first at all times.


Mom constantly reminded me to have pride in myself, my family, and heritage. Never be ashamed of where I’m from no matter the situation.

Man Of My Word

I can still hear her now, “If you say something, do it.”  She taught me to always try to keep my promises because a man is only as good as his word. If I can’t do something, then say so.


Mom taught me to be patient and, in her words, “wait for my time in life.”  Live within my means and don’t try to keep up with the others. Don’t rush life.

Care For Others

Mom taught me to go out of my way to make others feel comfortable and special.  To be kind and gracious and help others as often as possible.


 JMakandale, 29                 

My grandmother is not someone you would pass by on the street and, overcome by the trailing scent of baked cookies and homespun comforts, turn to for solace.  My grandmother grew up hard, tasted a small measure of working-class comfort when my grandfather’s post-war factory wages allowed her to raise four children to adulthood, and suffered the archetypical fate of Great Migrant immigrants in the post-industrial decline.  True to story, she also carried the weight of raising her addict-eldest’s children with her, long past the age where her fingers could move from arthritic claw to hold me or my brother’s small hand with any ease.

In a world where sharing is caring and the private is headline news, my grandmother believed that you should never tell anyone more than half of what you know.  She kept roots and leaves hung around the house and only told me within the last couple of years, now that I am nearly thirty, that our last name is likely nothing more than an army transcriber’s mistaken read of my illiterate grandfather’s halting self-identification.  As my grandfather lay dying, she tap danced for him – and neither me, my cousins, my aunts nor uncles have any clue where she learned to tap dance.

My grandmother did not teach me to expect ease, comfort, or compassion.  The most abiding lesson I learned from my grandmother is the transcendent power of something larger than yourself, your family, the institutions and people who give shape and definition to life.  My grandmother, naturally blessed with perfect pitch, was an extraordinary musician.  She could sing, play piano, beat out a percussion section with any kind of kitchen implement, and make you understand the unfathomable nature of an omnipresent god as she roamed the grimy streets of our ‘hood,’ overpriced and under fresh produce in hand, singing “By the Rivers of Babylon.”  In a different time, a different place, in a different body or race, my grandmother would have been destined for sell-out crowds and klieg lights.

Neither quiet-natured nor church-bound, she filled the house with ragtime, blues, funk, and her insistence that all of her offspring learn to play at least one instrument and to sing – as much as to embody her orchestral imaginings as for any sense that it might enrich our lives.  Whether by accident or design, however, it did, and the few of us who have made a life for ourselves outside of the ghetto are those who have been most shaped by my grandmother’s passion for music.  My aunt makes her living as a musician, my uncle fills the long hours of his bus-driving job with remembered horn riffs, and I, as I criss-cross the world, still sing “By the Rivers of Babylon.”  My grandmother did not teach me to worry much for Zion, but I did learn from my grandmother to find the road to Zion, marked by poly rhythms and a careful balance between vocal and instrumental harmony and melody.


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§ 2 Responses to Things I Learned From My Mother

  • Teresa says:

    The tribute to Mom’s and the stories from “real” average people was so uplifting and refreshing. Thanks for sharing and giving this tribute on this 2011 Mother’s Day.

  • […] with very few options left, and some fantastic guest posts from Mother’s Day still waiting to be read by millions I resort to the only other weapon I have…Incentives. […]

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