• Mo MacPhail

What My Mother Used to Say...

I was struggling to remember all the little wisdoms my mother would say when sharing moments together. Mom was a big picture kinda person who never got lost in the details, although she would play in them, like Orcas circling prey. Her instincts were killer.

I remember a traumatic story she once shared about her childhood that if had happened to me, would have cut me to the quick where I just may have remained - broken, angry, distrusting, and in blame mode.

I asked her, “How did you end up being you, Mom? How did you end up being nice, and happy, and ‘normal’? How did you not get stuck in the trauma of your story?

She looked at me and smiled her smile.

She said she couldn’t explain it, but she always had a sense of herself. She always knew who she was. She said we are never the sum of things that happen to us. But we are what we do with all those things. That’s where the miracles are, that’s where God lives. She also said she had lots of family around to go to. Her village was strong on Highland Ave in Jersey City, NJ.

My mom went to a Catholic School there. I can’t remember the name of the school, but she always spoke highly of the Dominican nuns who taught her. Whenever people disparage the Catholic Church and don’t get me wrong, there are lots of reasons to be pissed off in this arena, I think of my mom’s stories while growing up and the Dominican nuns she loved so well. Her faith was formed by believers who were able to plow through our human condition and stay connected to what matters.

For my mom, all her actions were filtered through her love for God, and her devotion to Mary and Mary’s son Jesus.

Sometimes when my mother wasn’t home, I would go upstairs and sneak into her room. I’d open the top drawer of her dresser and try on her costume jewelry. There, among the rhinestones, bracelets, and necklaces were colorful glass rosary beads and worn clear plastic covered Scapulars. I would put them over my head like a necklace. I’d stare at the pictures inside the scapulas that held Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Simon Stock. My mom would tell stories of Mary being the spiritual Mother of us all and a channel by which all grace comes. I loved her Mary stories. I loved that my mom shared her blessed name. And I love that my name, Maureen, means ‘Little Mary’. It makes me feel connected.

Anyway, in my strive to not forget all the things my mom would say, I texted my siblings and asked if they could help. And so the sum of my mother’s parts in all of us texted back these remembered sayings.

1. “Shut.Up.You!”- She said this in jest and to lighten moods. Its origins come from, All In The Family. Archie Bunker would say this often and always got a laugh. So did my mom.

2. “You know I love you more than my luggage.”- I will take credit for this one. Mom loved a good joke and/or comedian. I shared it with her one day and it stuck.

3. “Say your prayers” - When signing off in her letters and cards or on the phone, this was one of her closures. I loved reading these words in her writing. My mom had the most beautiful handwriting. I used to sit for hours trying to perfect my handwriting to look just like hers. We don’t write enough cards and letters anymore.

4. “Give it to God.” - This one speaks for itself. Like the Nike commercial, just do it. Whatever it is. Let go of it. Pray. Forgive. Rinse. Repeat.

5. “Eyes have not seen.” - This was short for “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, The things which God has planned for those who love Him.” Corinthians 2:9 This one would come up while contemplating the mystery of it all and when we would realize we have no idea. “Our cup runneth over.” might follow too.

6. “Tell me your joys, I know your sorrows.” A reminder for when we would complain, or to help give cheer. A more modern version might be, “Have an attitude of gratitude.”

Seriously, Gratitude is the salve for what ales you.

7. “Glad you were born!” On your birthday you’d always get one of these. And, even when it wasn’t your birthday :)

8. “Keep Smiling”- I miss my mom’s smile.

9. “Live for today, tomorrow may never come.” But she would also sing the song from Annie, “The sun will come out tomorrow.” :) So, place it in the context of your choosing.

10. “Don’t give me any of your 14-year-old attitude.”- I still venture here from time to time. It makes me feel young but bratty. So I’ll tell you my joys instead. :)

I’m glad you were born mom.

Happy Birthday and Mother’s day.

I love you like my luggage.

Photo credit

*One of Mom's favorites...

Lovely Lady Dressed In Blue

Prayer Poem By Mary Dixon Thayer

Lovely Lady dressed in blue ——- Teach me how to pray! God was just your little boy, Tell me what to say!

Did you lift Him up, sometimes, Gently on your knee? Did you sing to Him the way Mother does to me?

Did you hold His hand at night? Did you ever try Telling stories of the world? O! And did He cry?

Do you really think He cares If I tell Him things ——- Little things that happen? And Do the Angels’ wings

Make a noise? And can He hear Me if I speak low? Does He understand me now? Tell me ——-for you know.

Lovely Lady dressed in blue ——- Teach me how to pray! God was just your little boy, And you know the way.

Image from

#lovelyladydressedinblue #teachmehowtopray #momsayings #giveittogod #tellmeyourjoys #family #sayings

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