I watched Big Fish a few weeks ago and it made me think of my mother. Not that she told tall tales like in the movie, but that her words will live on.

In the movie, the dad told BIG stories about his son’s birth, his time in the war, working for a circus, and how he saved a town. People were entranced by the stories, but the son just saw his father as a liar. At his father’s funeral, the son met all the whimsical characters his dad referenced, and learned of the town he truly saved. The stories were exaggerated, but that’s just good storytelling! The movie ends with the son saying that stories are told so many times that you become the story. They live on after you so you almost become immortal.mom_mother_day

That is what made me think of my mother – the immortal part. She was such a character, but in a quiet way. She loved listening to all the commotion of life in a large family and did not enjoy the empty nest when we all moved on. However, she was the glue that pulled us all back for visits, she was the one who kept us grounded, and she was the one we loved talking with for hours.

Mom had a way of talking that sometimes required translation. For example, when she said, “You just sit there and look pretty,” meant you were being lazy and you had better get busy before she threw a shoe at you. “Don’t worry your pretty little head over that,” meant that she wanted you to mind your own business. “Mind your Ps and Qs” meant that you were asking “personal questions” and that was not a sign of good breeding. I discovered years later the real meaning of Ps and Qs – my mother would have been mortified that it referred to drinking too many pints and quarts which loosened your tongue. Ha!

It’s easy to recall the religious side of my mother. We would come home countless times to see mom on her knees praying a novena. If you have really big cares, pray to the Infant of Prague. Need a sunny backyard for a wedding reception? Put out the statue of the Blessed Virgin (God never rained on her!). Lost something? Pray to St. Anthony. And if you need a wish granted, make a novena to St. Terese and you’ll receive unexpected roses when your prayers have been answered. Mom got a lot of unexpected roses.

She played the organ at church until “that woman who could not keep time” took her place. At home, mom played the piano for our sing-alongs, and I loved dancing to the Elephant Walk, just like a baby elephant! I often imagined that I would hit that one note on the piano that would make the song even more beautiful. However, I was not in line when they passed out musical talent so that never happened!

Mom was not known for her cooking. Okay, she was a terrible cook, but she made fudge like nobody’s business. She also made bread, Italian cookies for Dad (although she was Irish), and pickle roll-ups for holidays. What mom was good at was delegating. We all took turns making dinner so we all know how to cook.

I could go on about my mother, but she would really hate knowing that I wrote about her. She was a gentle woman who did not like the limelight. But one thing my entire family can recite is her parting words every time we left the house.

“Goodbye, be good, be the best one there, learn everything you can that’s good, and say your prayers.”

Immortal words to live by.

  • Laurie Galeski

    Jeannine, love your blog about your mom. She sounds like she was salt of the earth. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jeannine Phelan

      Thank you! She was quite a woman!

  • Mary Beth Helgens

    LOVE the beautiful tribute to your momma…feel like I know her a little better! What a character! 🙂 Love you soul sister, MB