I swear I can still hear my mother’s voice telling me to look both ways when I cross the street, to wear clean underwear in case a bus hits me anyway, and especially this one: “Lisa Ann, don’t cover your potatoes completely with water when you boil them.” That last one always stumps me.
A few days ago, after cutting up my russets and dumping them in a pot, I covered their tops. I don’t know why Mom advised against it and why I can’t ever comply, but when I poured in the water, I smiled mischievously as if she was looking down from heaven shaking her head.
With the potatoes gurgling on the stove, my curiosity was stirred. Though I could no longer ask Mom about the things she always told me, I wondered what words of mine might still be taking up space in the brains of my three adult kids.
I decided to seize the day and ask them in a group text message: Give me a line or two off the top of your heads that you remember me saying. I then waited for my motherly words of wisdom to light up the screen.
“Are you ready, Freddy?” the firstborn shot back immediately.
He’d heard that right. This son, who is not named Freddy, was rarely ever ready to walk out the door on time, delayed instead with frantic searches for a missing soccer cleat, lost homework, or an escaped hamster. But I never gave up hope and just look who responded first this time.
The second son buzzed in next: “Put a lid on it.”
I did say that to shut him up for repeatedly questioning my judgment, like why wouldn’t I let him have a pet raccoon in his room, or play Superman on the roof, or jump off a bridge with his friends? Wait. He did that last one, but by the age of 18 and with bungee cords strapped to his feet, it was me who had to put a lid on it as he went head first off a bridge spanning a Costa Rican river. What a day that was.
“What you always said when I left the house: Carpe diem,” my third child chimed in. “I’m surprised you asked since I got that tattooed on me.”
Actually I was the one who was surprised when I first saw that Latin phrase inscribed in big looping letters across her ribs. Though what a relief it was she chose those daily send-off words of mine for a tattoo rather than what she texted me next.
“This is hot. H-O-T.”
Yes, I said that plenty of times a dozen plus years ago while serving her a bowl of Spaghettios straight out of the microwave. I didn’t want her to burn her little tongue so that warning made sense, but inked on a college coed, it does not. N-O-T.
I didn’t bother interviewing child number four who is in junior high and therefore still living at home. She continues to soak up my words like a sponge; what leaks out later is anybody’s guess.
Instead, I simply told her to turn down the heat because the potatoes were boiling over.
I wouldn’t swear to it, but I thought I heard my mother sigh.