Sometimes I forget the richness my mother added to my life through her creative use of words. She used the most interesting sayings to make a point. I wonder if she was trying to be a sneaky teacher, a teacher who teaches without the student knowing. My most treasured examples are.
When I was grating on her nerves…
“Girl, you would worry the horns off of a billy goat.”
At the time, I didn’t appreciate the extreme nature of what she was saying. Given the integrity of the construction of a billy goats horns, I can’t imagine anything that would cause them to fall off. I guess I was extremely annoying with whatever I was doing at the time.
When I neglected to use lotion…
“Your legs (for that matter elbows, heels, face) are as dry as a powder horn.”
It wasn’t until recently that I learned the identity of a powder horn: a tool used to carry gunpowder, usually made from the horns of a cow or buffalo used mostly in eighteenth century muskets. Now that I teach fourth grade where the Revolutionary War is our focus, I came into the knowledge of this tool. My skin of my appendages…pretty dry I guess.
When I had a stray booger hanging from my nose…(as children are wont to have)
“You have a hostage in your nose.”
My husband has said this a time or two without even realizing he picked it up from me.
These images served to paint a real picture of her words. I hope I have passed on this rich way of using language to my daughter and students.
Her influence extended to math too. From as far as I can remember, she always asked me math questions at the most random times. She would always say, ” I can figure out any math problem if you give me a pencil and paper,” or “I can add or subtract, now.” This latter statement would be in response to someone or some situation in which her “figuring skills were called into question.” She would assert her authority around the fact that she could add and subtract.
As we perused the grocery story aisles, she would ask me to give her the unit price of those two for $ 1 deals or 3 for $5 deals. I used to wonder, why she was asking me. I would figure it out and she’d move on. On the paper goods aisle, she would ask me which deal was the best. As she had taught me, I would look at the square footage of the toilet tissue or paper towels and compare the price based on the amount per square footage. I am thankful for this seemingly incidental learning. It gave me the ability to think on my feet mathematically.
To this day, my mom still asks me these questions. I guess she’ll forever be the sneaky teacher and I, the willing pupil.