My daddy taught us a lot by using euphemisms in everyday conversation, and one of his favorites was, “Don’t worry about the mule going blind, just load the wagon.” This was his nice way of saying, “Quit your dawdling and get your butt back to work. I’ll worry about the details.”
Mama was, however, way ahead on the total amount of advice given over the course of a lifetime and she had he own way of steering me and my brothers in the proper direction.
Mama was not a big fan of euphemisms, rather depending on the direct approach. On the other hand Noah (of biblical fame) was more of a guy who taught by example. Both techniques were effective in their own unique way and I learned many lessons of life on various subjects from these two sources.
For example, Mama taught us some important matters about religion. She would often say following an incident involving food spillage or muddy boots, “You better pray that will come out of the carpet.”
We knew immediately from the words and tone of voice that it was time to get down on our knees and offer up an earnest entreaty to the Good Lord for forgiveness and more importantly that the stain could be removed.
Noah, meanwhile, was offering up a nice lesson of his own. One of the basic tenets he helped us with concerned the magnitude of keeping scheduled appointments. In his own way, he pointedly made this plain. In a nutshell, he taught us that we should never, under any circumstances, miss the boat.
You see where I’m going here.
Mama’s stern advice was not limited to household matters. She often taught us about scientific topics. For example, she had some ideas on time travel. If one or all of her boys were involved in aggravating behavior, she was often heard to say, “If you don’t straighten up, I’m going to knock you into the middle of next week.”
It was an impressive display of knowledge and we were pretty certain she could do exactly what she was threatening. We had no desire to test out her time-travel theorem.
We learned other lessons from Noah.
He helped us realize that is always a good idea to plan ahead. No matter when a job is due to be finished, it is advisable to have it done several days beforehand. We are reminded of that fact by recalling one of his smartest moves. He began building the ark before it started raining.
Noah provided other gems as well.
— Get along with others: Remember we are all in the same boat.
— Stay fit: You never know when you will be asked to do something really important at an advanced age.
— On dealing with critics: Don’t listen to them; just get on with the job that has to be done.
— His ideas on safety: Always travel in pairs.
— How to deal with those who think they know everything: Remember the ark was built by amateurs, and the Titanic was built by professionals.
Noah provided some sterling seminars on life, but Mama was still the queen of helping us to understand things in an unmistakable way.
Oftentimes children want to know why they are asked to do certain tasks, so Mama taught us about logic in a succinct manner.
“Because I said so, that’s why.”
She also gave us lessons in irony.
If we were upset about something that had gone wrong she would speak thusly: “Keep crying and I’ll really give you something to cry about.”
Like I said, she much preferred the direct method.
As mentioned before, imparting scientific knowledge was one of Mama’s strong suits, so when we were complaining about having to eat carrots and beans for supper she would teach us about osmosis.
“Shut your mouth and eat your supper.”
Even though I knew it was always best to follow her instructions to the letter, I never did figure out how to do the osmosis thing.
Mama was well versed in many fields of upper level thinking. Her insight about psychology and particularly about behavior modification was extraordinary. If we were, in her opinion, acting stupidly or irrationally, she would pointedly advise us to, “Stop acting like your father.”
It helped us out, but for some reason she and daddy would always have an argument after that lesson.
Mama also was blessed with extra-sensory perception, commonly known today as ESP. We knew this to be true because on winter days when we weren’t wearing enough clothes to suit her she would tell us, “Put your sweater on, don’t you think I know when you are cold.”
We also were given vocabulary instruction to better understand what was meant by certain words. Take the word “anticipation” for example. Mama taught us the meaning of this word one day while we were riding in the car and not living up to her standards of behavior.
“Just wait until we get home,” and she was right as usual. Our “anticipation” of that coming moment was something we looked forward to not at all, but it did give us a firm grasp of its meaning.
Between the two of them, Mama and Noah helped us maneuver our way through childhood without stepping on any major land mines.
After studying the platitudes of other noted advisors such as Aristotle, Plato, Socrates and Oprah, I have concluded that Mama and Noah were far superior on the quality of advice as well as their method of delivery.
We reaped the benefits of their wisdom and those teachings are ingrained in us to this day.
Alvin Richardson is a contributing writer, retired educator, and public speaker. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.