Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan), and other topics in genealogy and family history.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Memory of My Mom

At the dollar store the other day, there was a display of overstocked hard-cover books. I was compelled to part company with a buck for one by British author Lynne Truss. It's called Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door. I'd guess most readers of this blog are old enough to imagine the content and align with the sentiment of this little volume.

As for me, it made me think of my upbringing. My parents were all about courtesy and the maintaining of good relations with others through politeness and respect. I recall one particular occasion on which I got to see how my mother practiced what she preached. Let me tell you about it.

My mother was a working woman throughout her life. All of her jobs--whether in sales, personnel, or secretarial capacity--required courtesy, grace under fire, tactfulness, diplomacy and self-control. People skills! And she had them. To her dying day, her public knew her as a gracious, tactful, thoughtful, kind person.

"Honey draws more flies than vinegar" was her philosophy, and "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" was her mantra. I heard these phrases over and over, throughout my childhood and beyond.

In the heat of daily life, sometimes it's hard to apply the Golden Rule, but I remember the day that I found out how to do it. We were sitting at the kitchen table when the phone, which hung on the wall in this central location of our home, rang. My mother answered it.

On the other end of the line was an angry neighbor, a man obsessed with his shrubbery, apparently. His issue was with our dog, my beloved Speedy, who habitually climbed the chainlink fence to freedom despite the trip-wire my dad had affixed at the top in an effort to contain him. It seems that, whilst on the loose in the neighborhood, Speedy had peed on this man's bush.

My mother, ever the diplomat, remained calm and courteous with the neighbor as he let his temper flare. I really had no idea how she was feeling until the call ended. At that point her public face and pleasant demeanor vanished, and she exclaimed at the hung-up phone, "Oh, pee on your old bald head!"

Although this incident took place almost half a century ago, it remains a crystal-clear moment in my memory, and it still makes me laugh out loud. Moreover, I learned a lot from the incident:
  • You can 'do unto others' and say what you really think, but not necessarily at the same time or in the same place.
  • Sarcasm is more appropriate among your intimates than with the general public. You don't have to say everything you think to everyone you know.
  • You can use humor to defuse your own anger.
  • You maintain good relationships with people by considering how they will feel about how you behave, not how you feel about how they behave.
The "old bald head" was a member of our community, which consisted of the ten families on our block. When we moved there, it was a brand new development, and these ten families were the first occupants of their respective homes and our new neighborhood. The community they formed was a strong and active one. In the winters, the adults had a Sunday night bowling league. During the summers, neighbors gathered almost every evening for a swim in one family's in-ground swimming pool. Being the oldest children, my best friend and I made a good bit of pocket money by babysitting the other kids on the block when the adults had their costume parties, New Year's Eve parties, and bowling nights.

Mom was a wise woman. She understood how important it was to keep peace within the community. Bad blood between her and the old bald head, or between any two members of the community for that matter, would have made social occasions uncomfortable, not only for the two but for everyone. Opinions would have been formed, sides taken, the fabric of community torn to some degree, and in the end everyone would have lost a little something--comfort, trust, goodwill, friendships, or maybe just some fun.

I'm sure I didn't understand all that at the time, but I get it now. And if you're among my intimates, it's possible you've heard me mumble on occasion, "Oh, pee on your old bald head!"... and then laugh out loud.


GrannyPam said...

How fortunate you are, this post describes a wonderful inheritance.

T.K. said...

Thanks, Pam, I think so too!

Cheryl said...

TK, Welcome back to blogging! You and your wonderful posts have been missed. And what a great way to re-enter blogging with this great story about your Mom!

T.K. said...

Aw, thanks, Cheryl!

Greta Koehl said...

I love this story - it reminds me of my very proper aunts.

T.K. said...

Those were the good ol' days... the social graces sure have taken a turn for the worse since then!

Judith Richards Shubert said...

They sure have, T.K.! But your story is so indicative of our time back then, when we were children. I love the story about your mom. I can just see her now ~ especially with that beautiful picture of her that you posted.

T.K. said...

Thanks, Judy. I think she's the epitome of calm grace in that picture. I have absolutely no memory of what she was wearing though, probably because by 1971 I was out of the house and busy with two kids of my own, so I no longer saw her going out dressed for work every day.

Blog Archive


Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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