I just read an article in which Admiral William McRaven, a 36 year Navy Seal, addressed the graduating class at UT Austin and shared life lessons he learned while in the Seals. They were all very good, all sound advice. But I couldn’t help but think he missed some vital information. I couldn’t fault him since he didn’t grow up in the same house as I did, but I want to take a moment to correct the mistake. I’d like to round out his lesson plan with those learned at the feet of my mom.
1. Never leave home without clean underwear on–you never know when you’ll be in a car accident. While I never quite understood the basis for this, I suspect it has something to do with the fear of not being at your best when faced with a cute doctor (well, in addition to being bloodied and broken from the accident). Personally, I’d amend this to just “never leave home without underwear”. I think that would cover it.
2. Eating raw cookie dough will give you worms. I’m sure there is a minuscule but real possibility of this
occurring, but I can tell you that I’ve eaten raw dough for over 30 years and I’ve never had that dreaded case of worms. I do think there is validity in this rule, however, because if allowed to eat the dough freely as opposed to just sneaking it when mom’s head was turned, there wouldn’t have been any dough left to actually make cookies with.
3. Dinner must consist of a meat, a starch, and a vegetable. Growing up, there was always a meat (such as chicken, steak, or pork), a side (potatoes, noodles, or rice) and some type of vegetable (corn, green beans, or–barf–broccoli). On occasion mom would shake it up a bit with spaghetti or some type of casserole, but even then I’m sure she had all the food groups covered. While I sometimes let my family have a “Fireman’s Dinner” where dessert is served first, I still feel like dinner is being done wrong if it doesn’t have the essential three. Speaking of…
4. Three is a magical number. In addition to our dinner line up, three is also the number of daughters in my family (no boys)–3 girls with boy trouble, 3 girls with PMS, 3 girls to marry off. If you were in trouble, you had to the count of 3 to comply or your backside would get a little too personal with a wooden spoon. Even if you thought dinner was disgusting, you weren’t allowed to leave the table until you ate 3 bites. The number 3 just seems to have a power all its own.
5. Sometimes you just need to let your body breathe. I always hated this one growing up. This is the one that would come up just after getting out of the bath when mom would tell us we could sleep without underwear because we needed to “breathe”. What that means is, it’s good for your girl bits to get a wayward breeze now and then. To this day I still don’t feel right without underwear on (probably because she also drilled in Lesson #1.) But then one day, after Sassy’s bath, I realized she didn’t have any clean underwear. Before I realized it, mom’s words had come out my mouth and she went to bed commando. That’s when I got it; she didn’t need to breathe so much as I needed an excuse to not rush in and do a load of laundry.
Mom had many lessons over the years that were just as valid, such as always shave your toes (hairy toes on girls are just gross), use meat tenderizer on bee stings, never returned borrowed dishes empty, if you pick at it it’ll only get worse, and eat a banana when you’ve got a cramp. Some of these lessons may not apply to everyone (although men–if your feet resemble a Hobbit’s, feel free to shave), but there is one lesson I learned that should be shared with every student, every graduate–whether from high school or college. She taught me that if I was willing to work hard, there was nothing that I couldn’t be, nothing I couldn’t accomplish, no goal I couldn’t reach. So from my mama’s house to all of you, always remember that the only thing that could every limit your possibilities is you.