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Let’s hear it for my mother-in-law!

Why? No particular reason. I just realized on a Tuesday afternoon in February, nearly twenty years after I first met my mother-in-law, that she’s one of my favorite people. Let me introduce you to Nana, with a few of her choice Nana sayings:

1. “You don’t have to step in it to know what it is.”

Pretty self-explanatory, immensely useful. Sometimes it’s the right time to formulate a precise, well-researched argument about how you’ve formed your opinions; but sometimes, life is just too short. Sometimes you can trust yourself to identify a steaming heap of no-thank-you-please without having to put yourself right in the middle of it.

-But have you read Donald Trump’s book? How do you know it’s so bad if you haven’t even read it?
-Hey, I don’t have to step in it to know what it is.

2.”Where’s your facade??”

This is for when you’ve just come away from dealing with a bunch of people who are miserable, grasping, venal, self-serving, petty tyrants, and that’s fine, that’s fine . . . but they don’t even bother to hide it. Don’t they realize that a false verneer is what makes society operate smoothly? In the name of all that’s decent, my fellow crapweasels, strap on that mask so we can get something done here!

3.All girls are “toots”; all boys are “kiddo.” If you’re too distracted to know if it’s a girl or a boy frantically tugging at your pant leg, “sugar booger” will do. I know who you are! I just don’t happen to know what your name is. Handy for people who love their children very much, but haven’t slept in four decades.

4. There is no such thing as too many chocolate chip cookies. Not a direct quote, just an unstated truth. And no, it’s no use getting her recipe and trying to make them yourself. It won’t be the same.

5. “What is this, a cruise ship for kids?” This is the standard comment when you’ve trained your children to enjoy the finer things in life, like lying around on their ears watching Road to Rio and eating raw ramen out of the package. You suddenly notice that it’s almost dinner time and civilization is crumbling around your ears. What is this, a cruise ship for kids? For crying out loud, at least put pants on.

6. “There’s no such thing as a coincidence.” Uttered with a quiet menace that will make your blood run cold, especially if you’re a kid who just happens to be standing around holding a golf club which is completely unrelated to the enormous, angry welt forming on your brother’s forehead.

7. “That’s how the man from New York lost an arm.” Mysterious in origins, surprisingly effective. One time, we were sitting at a baseball game and there was rowdy bunch of obnoxious little boys behind us, no parent in sight. They were throwing stuff and punching and kicking us in the back and about two inches away from making something awful happen. My husband turned around and informed them quietly about the man from New York. For whatever reason, that did the trick. Model citizens until the seventh inning at least.

8. “They spell ‘culture’ with a K, know what I mean?” Actually, I have no idea what this means. I think I’ll go to my grave not knowing what it means.

9. Drink whole milk, not skim milk. Don’t you want to be big and strong?

10. Come stay with us; there’s plenty of room. Remember that scene in Lewis’ The Great Divorce where he sees a gracious, glorious women coming toward him, surrounded by hosts of frolicking spirits and devoted children singing, scattering flowers, and doing her honor?

“Is it? … is it?” I whispered to my guide.

“Not at all,” said he. “It’s someone ye’ll never have heard of. Her name on earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green.”

“She seems to be … well, a person of particular importance?”

“Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things.”

[…]”And who are all these young men and women on each side?”

“They are her sons and daughters.” “She must have had a very large family, Sir.” “Every young man or boy that met her became her son-even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter.”

“Isn’t that a bit hard on their own parents?” “No. There are those that steal other people’s children. But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more. Few men looked on her without becoming, in a certain fashion, her lovers. But it was the kind of love that made them not less true, but truer, to their own wives.”

“And how … but hullo! What are all these animals?

A cat-two cats-dozens of cats. And all those dogs . . . why, I can’t count them. And the birds. And the horses.” “They are her beasts.” “Did she keep a sort of zoo? I mean, this is a bit too much.”

“Every beast and bird that came near her had its place in her love….

Yup. That’s Nana.

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