Did you cotton to the advice of Ma and Pa in your youth?
Or did you roll your eyes?
One source of memoir in almost every life consists of the aphorisms — the boiled down wisdom or witticism — passed on by previous generations.
The pattern of youth is to disdain these. The pattern of age is to remember.
Often the sayings are appreciated in a new way in older age, but sometimes they are spoken sadly, either out of regret for the smallness of the vision or for the loss of the wise one whose words remain.
I was a young mother in my thirties when my husband and I bought a copy of the Rhodes family cookbook pictured here. That’s a little beyond the eye-rolling stage but before real appreciation for the buried treasure in the legacy of wise or funny words passed down.
One of the features my husband and I enjoyed most about the cookbook, however, were the sayings and poems listed in the front. “Grandpap” Rhodes, the patriarch of a huge clan of Rhodeses, was still living when we got married in 1969 but died a few years later in 1972. I enjoyed visiting with him and recognized the twinkle in his eye. My Grandpa Hess had a twinkle like that.
So we laughed when we read Grandpap Rhodes’ sayings recorded in the cookbook: “Babies are a sure crop — regardless of the weather.”
Sometimes Grandpap talked to himself. When asked why, he said, “I like to talk to a smart man now and then.”
Most of the other sayings in the Rhodes book are about kindness. For example:
“Do all the good you can,
In all the ways you can,
To all the people you can,
Just as long as you can.”
As I make final revisions on my memoir, I am asking the question of how my family, church, and community shaped me. I am remembering aphorisms.
Recently I asked my Facebook friends what they remembered and I got fifty-seven responses. I’ve assembled these in a Word Document, which I will share in a few days, but first I thought I would ask you to reflect on the aphorisms of your life.
What sayings did you hear that have stuck with you? And have you passed these on to your children, if you have them? I believe I might have valued individuality too much and tried to avoid teaching cliches. I think I’ll have to ask my children what if any sayings they remember from home. How about you?