THE BLOG

Like My Mother Always Said...

05/02/2014 04:32 pm ET | Updated Jul 02, 2014
  • Erin McHugh Author, "One Good Deed" and "Like My Mother Always Said"
Uwe Krejci via Getty Images

Everyone has a mother. Everyone! And people tend to quote their moms, rely on their advice and refer back to something she said probably more than they ever realize. How do I know? Because that's exactly how my book came to be.

I was staying overnight with a friend, and during my visit she said to me, "I know what book you should work on next. Three times since you've been here you've said, 'Like my mother always said...'"

I really didn't believe her. I asked what I had said, because I never would have thought of myself as someone who quotes her mother. My mom has been gone for over 20 years now, so it's not like I would be repeating an incident from yesterday. But she ticked off what I'd said, and I thought, Wow, I do do that. Without even realizing it, every day I'm leaning on, laughing at and listening to my mom. And then I thought: What fun it would be to hear what everybody else's mother always said?

So, I started asking my friends. And they asked their friends. Suddenly, I was getting quotes and stories from men and women I'd never met. I heard from people on Twitter, Facebook, people emailing their friends... soon, I was hearing from folks all over who I'd never met. Funny stuff, sad stories, touching, loving anecdotes.... and lots of nutty ones. Because, how can mothers get through it all without the nutty? It became a very long parlor game of "Top this!" -- and everybody wanted to play.

You might want to know what I heard. Well, it was all over the map, really. I'd post a remembrance of my own or someone else's on Facebook, and Bam! we were off, starting a thread of memories that would often take me on an e-ride of an hour or more. Lots of things were universal. Men and women alike told me time and again about being warned not to go out with torn underpants. But many were... unexpected. Here's a taste of what your fellow man -- and woman -- is saying about their moms.

  • "When poverty comes in the window, love goes out the door."
  • "There are thousands of opportunities to keep your mouth shut. Use them."
  • Or the mother named Lee who said both, "It's good to get your first marriage over with," and "May is a good month for a facelift." (My first thought was, "Who gives this kind of advice to their kids?" And my second thought was, "I wonder if she's right?")
  • And the unconditional love moms have for us, like:
  • "There's a whole lotta love in a bowl of pasta."

Or what author Brad Meltzer's mom said...

When I think of my mom -- more than anything else... more than anything -- I think of the pure, immeasurable, almost crazy love she had for me. I remember the first time I gave her The Tenth Justice. It's my first published book. My first time ever putting real work out for anyone to see. I was terrified when she said she'd finished it. And then she looked right at me and said, "Bradley, I know I'm your mother, but I have to be honest with you. This book... is the greatest book of all time!"

And how about the girl "gone wrong"...

My mom told me that if I didn't behave I would have to be sent to Miss Porter's School, which I thought must be a place for juvenile detention. I was confused to then hear that Jackie Kennedy had gone there and thought she must have really cleaned up her act since her childhood.

Plus, there were sweet, sweet reminisces:

It wasn't as much what my mom said as what she did. Mom had supreme faith in her husband, her children, her home and her God. She wasn't a "writer," but she wrote every day, keeping a journal that chronicled what happened to her and her family in life and at home. Mom believed in the benefit of the doubt and giving everyone a chance -- or at least a chance to explain. And she was forgiving enough to allow the comfort for you to return. There was always a place at her table to have something to eat and a chance to talk.

Well, you get the picture. I can almost guarantee you that if are lucky enough to still have a mom, and you sat down right now and came up with ten things she said when you were growing up and put them on a piece of paper, it would be her favorite gift. Failing that, I'd suggest you get yourself a copy of LIKE MY MOTHER ALWAYS SAID: Wise Words, Witty Warnings, and Odd Advice We Never Forget and sit down with the woman who brought you into this world and have a few laughs. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and then you'll laugh some more. So Happy Mother's Day to everyone who has one -- or is one! You deserve to look back and be proud.