Words: Past, Present and Future

Being a hoarder has its moments and this morning brought one of those.

I unearthed pages of a quote-a-day calendar that my  mother had kept from 1983. There are just thirteen of them so she was pretty selective about what she kept.

Reading through them is like hearing Mother speak to me and I’ve picked out the ones that spell her to me:

A wise old owl sat in an oak,

The more he saw the less he spoke,

The less he spoke the more he heard,

Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird.

Anonymous: Punch, 1895

Owls were among Mother’s passions and I still cringe when I think of how I broke her precious owl vase while practicing my tennis indoors one wet day.

Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is by far the best ending for one.

(Oscar Wilde 1854-1900)

This makes me think of her absolute insistence that all rows in the house be made up before sleep. “Never let the sun go down upon your anger.”

People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading

Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946)

It would be impossible to overstate the importance of reading in Mother’s life. She was an avid reader from a very early age and books like Pride and Prejudice were on her agenda when she was eight or nine years of age. Mercifully, she passed on her love of reading to all of us kids.

And how often did I hear her quote these lines when I was asking her for advice about ‘big’ decisions:

This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

And, it’s always good to find jottings on things. (That handwriting of hers is so, so familiar). Here’s another of her choices but with her note-to-self (and now to me) added on to it:


And I simply have to add in this one as it maybe solves the mystery of why she and Dad had such differing views about dandelions on the lawn. He saw them as a scourge and she loved them:

You fight dandelions all weekend, and late Monday afternoon there they are, pert as all get out, in full and gorgeous bloom, pretty as can be, thriving as only dandelions can in the face of adversity. 

Hal Borland (1900-1978)

I think I’ll get myself a quote-a-day calendar for this year and stash away my favourites for posterity. It could be a lovely gift for Harry one January day when he would like to re-connect. Oh, and I’ll be sure to make a few jottings as I go along.

Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and sense of place.

24 thoughts on “Words: Past, Present and Future”

  1. Great concept, Jean! Also great quotes. You have just brought some memories with my parents reading… ( especially in the communism age where there was nothing else to get entertain than books) now all is past, poor sight and crazy TV influence. Believe me, sometimes i do miss few things from that grey past, real interaction and bunch of spare time … Mandrie si prejudecata – Pride and prejudice was very polular here, i don’t know if it stays like that today.

  2. Beautiful post! The older we get, the more we think of the influence our parents have on us. I love the Owl quote. Didn’t know that quote-a-day calendars still existed these days. I would love to have one 🙂

  3. Jean the first quote about the wise old owl..brought back memories of my Dad as this was one he use to repeat quite often to me so I know it by heart. I too keep favorite sayings that mean something to me also. One of my favorites is “Just becasue the past didn’t turn out like you wanted it to …Doesn’t mean your future can’t be better than you imagined…

  4. I wish some people in this house would would agree never to go to sleep on an argument! Ho Hum can’t have everything. One of my favourites is You can pick your friends but not your family!

  5. Hello Jean…wonderful post…you would, I think, really appreciate something I saw this morning. A tweet showing a link to a rare recording of Virginia Woolfe speaking about writing and words. She said that words don’t Live in dictionaries they Live in the mind…the link is here: http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-28231055
    I love the quote a day calendars too but I haven’t seen them around for ahile…must make more of a concerted effort now to have a look…isn’t it wonderful how old photos and treasures can really bring those we have lost back to us…even if only…momentarily:)

  6. This post made me tear up, in part for your mother (and you) and in part because the other day I suddenly noticed how much my mother’s handwriting is part of who she is and that I will miss it when there is no more new handwriting from her.

    1. Oh Luanne, I’m sorry about the tearing up.
      I was and am fine about the handwriting now but I know I wouldn’t have been reading a post like this when Mother was getting any bit frail.
      I suppose a lot is about no regrets and knowing we made the most of the time we had.

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