Real Mistakes, Real Laughs:

Air bases were built on captured islands of Tinian, Saipan, and Guam but they were barley within the range of the long-range bombers.

(hope the bombadiers weren't on gluten-free diets)

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Monday, May 3, 2010

Things My Mother Taught Me

Mother's Day is fast approaching and it's going to be a tough one.  In this year of firsts, this will be the first Mother's Day without my mother to honor.  Then I remembered that I honor her every day. Not in the trite  traditions of saying please and thank you, or eating what's on your plate even if you don't like it;  I'm talking about the million little rules to live by that she thought so important and consequently imbued me with that same sense of imminent disaster if any of these rules were broken.  While some lessons I still practice, some I came to learn were not so earth-shattering.  Nevertheless, all were indelibly planted in my brain to guide me through the gauntlet of life, and for that I owe Mom unswerving gratitude...even if I dared cheat death by willfully disregarding a few.  

Some of her teachings were common-sense and/or commonplace:
  • never sit in the car with the motor running in a closed garage.  She may have overestimated the time it takes to die of carbon monoxide poisoning...
  • never try on bathing suits without your underwear.  Even when those protective "strips" appeared in bathing suit crotches, I'd be tempting fate if I took off my underwear.  Likewise, washing a new bathing suit before wearing it for the first time was a must.  
  • never go swimming right after eating.  Probably the most ubiquitous old wives' tale of the twentieth century.
  • never shave any part of your body but your legs -- the hair will grow back thicker.  Shoot, if that were true I'd shave my head!
Many of Mom's hard and fast rules were health related.   She made it clear that, unless I wanted to risk life and limb, I should never:
  • go outside in winter with wet hair.  "You'll catch your death of cold."  In Massachusetts winters, that wasn't too far fetched.
  • exercise too soon after recovery from illness.  "You may overheat and, in your weakened state, catch your death of cold."  I never really understood this one, but it got me out of gym class so I didn't question it.
  • wash my hair too soon after recovery from illness.  "You may get chilled and relapse."  Which meant that if I was recovering from illness in winter, I refused to go to school until I could finally wash my hair, sometime in mid-April.
  • use anyone else's hairbrush, toothbrush, towel, razor, cosmetics, or eating utensils.  "You could catch (lice, psoriasis, thrushmouth, strep throat, impetigo, acne, or any manner of germs that will make me catch my death of cold...or worse)." 
  • never eat or drink from anyone else's utensils or cup, and never bite into anyone else's sandwich or lick someone's ice cream cone.  Nor vice versa.  See above.
  • never touch your mouth to the spigot when drinking from a public water fountain.  "You don't know who's used it before.  You could catch herpes." 
A few crucial rules pertained to bathrooms, especially public ones:
  • never touch a public toilet seat with your bare hands.  "You'll catch terrible germs."  If the toilet seat was in the upright position, I was to use tissue to put it down so I could not sit on it (see next item).
  • never sit on a public restroom toilet seat without covering it with toilet paper or paper seat cover.  "You don't know who sat there before you...you could catch some loathsome disease."  We all know what she meant. 
  • never use your hands to flush a public toilet; use your foot.  "You don't know who's touched it before you...you could catch some loathsome disease."  I think she was thinking along the lines of  E. coli with this one.
  • never go barefoot in a public rest room or shower.  "You'll get athlete's foot."  I admit that this one still echoes in my brain.
  • never -- ever -- forget to wash your hands after using the bathroom.  Preferably to surgical standards.  But I go her one further:  I never -- hardly ever -- touch the public restroom door handle without my sleeve or a paper towel over my hand. 
The following applied to all hotel rooms, whether in the Ritz-Carlton or the Come Inn:
  • never sit on the bedspread without your underwear.  "You don't know who's used it before.  You could catch a disease."  We never knew what she meant.
  • never walk on a hotel room carpet in bare feet.  "You don't know how clean it is.  You could catch something."  She never really knew what she meant.
  • never take a bath in your hotel room bathtub without sitting on a washcloth.  "You don't know if it's been cleaned properly."  ????
A couple were so completely baffling that I can only smile now at the extent of her -- dare I say neurotic? -- worries:
  • never wear red or black underpants.  "The dye will leach into your hoo-ha and cause a terrible infection."  This was especially true if they were polyester.
  • never drink out of a vending machine soda can without a straw.  "The top of the can is dirty, and you want to put your lips to it? 
  • never buy food in cans that are dented.  "The food inside is spoiled and you'll get ptomain poisoning."  I think she confused dented cans with distended cans. 
How can I fault such unfailing, all-encompassing love as this?  I'm fortunate to have the love of many people, but no one loves you like your mother does.  I have a feeling that next Sunday -- Mother's Day -- I'll be wishing she had called me this week to say, "There was a bomb scare on Broadway in New York City -- is it safe for you and Kevin to go there for your anniversary?"

Mom, it'll be okay.  But I can't promise I won't wear any black underwear . . .

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