OPINION: THE IDLE AMERICAN – With apologies to mom…

Published 1:49 pm Wednesday, December 29, 2021

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One thing we “geezers and geezerettes” have in common is that the lot of us have said something or done “bone-headed” things that disappointed our mothers. We’ve all participated in pranks that have gone south, causing our mothers to shake their heads in disbelief.

Oh, how we’d like to apologize, but our moms–whose work was all around the house and outside, too–are long since gone.

We with childhood memories dating back to the 1930s and 1940s realize that our mothers did most of the “child-rearing.” Prior to World War II, most wives and mothers were largely at home, dealing with the “ins and outs” of keeping a household going and raising up children in the ways they should go.

Dads generally represented the higher court on matters moms handed off to them. They often became judge and jury, rarely sugar-coating disciplinary decisions.

“Just wait until your dad gets home” was an expression moms used when they felt they weren’t getting anywhere with their “straight and narrow” efforts.

As we reflect on our “gone home” moms at Christmastime, wouldn’t it be great if we could sign a “class action apology,” expressing regret for the growing-up grief we caused? I’d sign one in a New York nanosecond.

Yep, our mothers’ “right and wrong” antennas were almost always pointed accurately, like compasses toward true north.

Rarely, and I mean ever so rarely, did their well-intended instructions failed to work out.

My friend Danny Andrews, longtime editor of the Plainview Daily Herald, is a man with a million stories, some of which are good. One he loves to tell is about the late Dr. Gale Seigler, a longtime Plainview physician, who enjoyed relating an account of his mother’s preparing him for a childhood trip to Washington, DC.

A devoted Boy Scout, Dr. Seigler was among a group of Scouts invited to have lunch with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the White House.

Mrs. Seigler, like Santa on the matter of making a list and checking it twice, so hoped he’d conduct himself well. She bore down on etiquette rules to suggest he was being raised right.

She had several instructions about what not to do. “If they serve crackers at lunch, don’t crumple them up in your soup like you do here at home,” she said.

Young Gale, with the kind of mind that would serve him well during his many decades as a family physician, nodded.

He listened well, determined to follow his mother’s rules if they served soup with crackers.

They did, and he was eager to prove that he knew how to properly handle the crackers.

Before smoke ceased to rise from the hot soup, President Roosevelt extended his White House welcome, urging the Scouts to relax as they would if they were at home.

“We’re starting out with soup,” the President said. “I don’t know how you eat soup, but I like to crumble up crackers in my soup.”

Gale’s mom was more than 1,600 miles away at the time, and President Roosevelt was at the other end of the table. He decided to forego her instructions and follow the president’s lead on how to eat soup.

This reminds me of my first date with Brenda at the Bluebird Café. I was afraid she might embarrass me, and sure enough, she did. Brenda was eating English peas off her knife blade!

I was so embarrassed, I dropped a whole handful of mashed potatoes!

That’s enough for 2021. Hug those you love, and if you “hum or whistle,” maybe “Precious Memories” would be helpful to recall times that used to be. Merry Christmas, and may your new year be one of good health and much happiness.


Dr. Newbury, a longtime university president, continues to write and speak regularly. He begin writing weekly columns in 2003. Contact him at 817-447-3872. Email: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Twitter: @donnewbury. Facebook: Don Newbury