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Andrea Langworthy's column: Words to live by

My mom had an axiom for every situation. When she was behind the wheel and another driver honked the horn to indicate Mom was lolly-gagging after a traffic light turned green, Mom would shout, “Yeah, yeah, we hear you. What else did you get for Christmas?”

If Mom thought someone acted cocky, full of himself, she would say the person was “too big for his britches.”

My mother was always good for a funny comeback, too. I remember a phone call I made to her in 1997. I was 50 years old at the time and had been taking classes at Normandale College. I had just received my grades and wanted to share them with the woman who surely cringed when I brought home my high school report cards.

“Mom,” I said, “are you sitting down? She assured me she was. I told her I had gotten all As. “I even made the dean’s list,” I shouted. Mom didn’t miss a beat. “You always did,” she said. “It was just a different list.”

So many times lately, I wonder what my mother would have to say about something that is happening in the world. Would she be “at the end of my rope” as she often was with me and my four siblings?

I thought of all this the other day after a conversation with my year-younger sister. We talked about Mom. That she passed away 15-and-a-half years ago at the age of 77. “Much too young,” we agreed. Especially now, as we are in our 60s and creeping up on 70.

My friend called as I was writing this column. Her mother passed away last year at 101. “Did your mom have a favorite saying?” I asked.

“A moment on the lips, forever on the hips,” she replied. “That was her philosophy, how she kept herself thin. She was never overweight, never indulged”

My dad’s sister, Aunt Kaye, is remembered fondly for her favorite expression, “Oh, Kid.” (Everyone was a kid in her eyes.) Those two words were Kaye’s reaction to most situations and were accompanied, as I recall, by a downward flourish of her hand, a gesture of disbelief that anything so wonderful or terrible or crazy had happened.

I don’t use adages like my mother did. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone “a watched pot never boils” or “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” (Two more favorites of my mother that go well with “cleanliness is next to Godliness,” don’t you think?)

That’s not to say I haven’t quoted Mom on occasion to make a point, though. Whenever my husband is routing around for the mate to a sock, I tell him my mother would look at his disorganized drawer and say, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

Another saying my husband is sick of hearing, I’m sure, has escaped my lips quite often during his recovery from a recent surgery.

“Have you iced your leg?” I might ask him. Or, “Did you take the Aleve this morning?” If his answer is no, I ask him what my mother would say about that. “God helps those who help themselves,” he answers with a groan as he totters off to retrieve the ice or medication. Where is Mom when I really need her? That long, drawn-out groan of his deserves a quick comeback but leaves me speechless.