29: My Mother Warned Me

29: My Mother Warned Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

My Mother Warned Me

Most mothers are instinctive philosophers.

~Harriet Beecher Stowe

Several months ago, I fell while walking my dogs down a country road. A passerby called 911, and three fire department vehicles responded. One of the paramedics peeled me off the asphalt and rushed me to the emergency room. My right eye was swollen shut; the left was masked by hair stuck to the grime on my face. Blood covered my T-shirt, and several gauze bandages did little to stop the flow. There was a steady pounding in my ears as I strained to answer the paramedic’s questions. I lay there, trying to focus on a happy thought, concentrating on my Lamaze breathing, feeling almost tranquil, when a sudden fear shocked me.

I was wearing ratty underwear.

Throughout my childhood and teens, my mother told me to wear clean underwear, warning me, “If you ever have an accident…” The idea that emergency personnel would be more concerned about the condition of a patient’s undergarments than injuries never occurred to me until I was an adult. Nevertheless, those and other words of wisdom stayed with me.

Over the years, my mother cautioned me against other dangers lurking in otherwise harmless situations.

Any trip to the beach or a swimming pool included a stern reminder not to enter the water right after eating food. As a child, I was too excited to bodysurf the waves to eat anything, but a mere glance at food was enough for her to make me sit on a blanket for a full twenty minutes. It didn’t matter that I rarely ventured more than a foot into the water. If I’d had so much as a piece of chewing gum, I risked doubling over with stomach cramps that would render me helpless as the waves pulled me out to sea. Although experts no longer support that theory, I’m not ready to discount my mother’s expertise.

When I was a teenager, “big hair” was in style. My mother made a few unflattering comments about my hairdo, none of which affected me. However, her tale of the girl whose hair was so teased that a spider nested in it and gave birth to baby spiders, which then bit her all over the head, had its effect. I didn’t give up the look, but I was careful to do a daily spider check.

There were other cautions, most of which have been disproved; nevertheless there’s something about a mother’s admonitions that carries more weight than a hundred scientific surveys. I still don’t read without full light for fear of going blind. I chew my nails and risk a build-up of clippings in my stomach. I know if I swallow watermelon seeds, a vine might grow inside me. And I know that if I crack my knuckles I might wind up with joints the size of golf balls.

I know that chicken noodle soup cures almost anything, leaving a scrap of food on a plate is wrong (because of the starving children in China), blasting music leads to deafness, too much television dulls the brain, and going outside in the cold with wet hair invites a virus.

Over the years, I must confess, there have been a few times I tossed caution to the wind and challenged my mother’s advice. Although expert studies, common sense, and Dr. Phil have disputed much of my mother’s reasoning, each time I ignore her logic, a slight sense of danger nips at me. No matter what the experts say, I know that somehow my mother is still right.

~Alison Shelton

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