My Mama Told Me … by
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You Better Shop Around and Ten Other Useful Bits of Advice

  1. Make your bed the minute you rise in the morning (perhaps I was allowed to use the bathroom first – I don’t remember).
  2. For the kitchen: When cooking or baking, clean up as you go. When you are finished, there should be no dirty bowls or measuring spoons or spatulas to clean. Never leave dishes in the sink. Wash and dry them right after use, and put them away where they belong.
  3. Always sew up holes in clothing – “a stitch in time saves nine.”
  4. There is no such thing as a stain that cannot be removed.
  5. Keep up with fashion trends, especially regarding hemlines. Discard items that are out of style, never wear white after Labor Day, and switch your closet seasonally.
  6. Never throw things away. Foist them on your children or grandchildren. If you can’t guilt them into taking these things, then it’s permissible to donate them to charity.
  7. Don’t stop dating a desirable boy you don’t like — he will grow on you. Throughout high school, my mother rated my dates by religion, appearance, and manners. It didn’t matter if I found them unattractive or dull. My exasperated reply, “Then you date him.”
  8. Facts of life: When she finally got around to explaining how babies were made, I reacted with shock and horror, to which she replied, “It’s not gross if you are married.”
  9. Write a book. Once I retired and started writing and blogging, my mother shared my writing with everyone she could corral in her senior living building. What she really wanted from me was a book she could inflict on her friends. I did it, mom, but it came out too late for you to see.
  10. In the tradition of the 1961 Motown song by The Miracles,
You Better Shop Around and Ten Other Useful Bits of Advice

                  My mama told me, you better shop around, (shop, shop)
                 Oh yeah, you better shop around (shop, shop around)
                 A-try to get yourself a bargain son
                 Don’t be sold on the very first one

              Of course, she didn’t mean shopping for a partner. My mother loved to shop for almost anything. Her rule was never to pay retail if you can get a bargain. Search for items on sale.

My mother’s last hug with her great granddaughter

All kidding aside, the most important thing my mother taught me was to love unconditionally. From the time I was small until the day she died on April 19, 2015, I never doubted she loved me no matter what I did. That was her legacy for her grandchildren and the great-grandchildren she was blessed to know. So, in honor of Mother’s Day, hats off to a great woman. I miss you, Mom.


Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: been there, funny, moving, right on!, well written


  1. Khati Hendry says:

    Beautiful tribute to a beautiful lady. Great pictures. Had to laugh at some of the advice—and be glad you finally took her up on writing the book. Love is everything indeed.

  2. Wonderful advice!
    # 4 made me laugh – my mother would apply a soapy wet rag and rub like crazy before sending anything to the cleaners and of course she usually got stain out!

    Of course your story isn’t about those kernels of advice you got from your mom, it’s about the love!

  3. John Shutkin says:

    Well, some of your mother’s advice is a bit problematic, to put it mildly. (No; not the part about how babies are made.) But she sure got it right about the unconditional love part. As Khati said, what a beautiful tribute you’ve written to her, Laurie!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Thanks,John. She was definitely a woman of her time and circumstances, but she did evolve. When her grandkids moved in with people (no marriage or even a ring), she celebrated. Where was this woman when I was growing up?

  4. Suzy says:

    You and I both thought of the song You Better Shop Around, but you cracked me up saying that it was your mother’s advice about (literally) going shopping. My mother also had that rule about not paying retail – her favorite store was Loehmann’s, where all the designer labels are cut out of the clothes so they can sell them at a deep discount. You’re lucky she told you about the “facts of life,” my mother never did; I learned about them at summer camp!

  5. Marian says:

    What a lovely ending, and how true. I am glad your mom got to be a great grandmother, Laurie. And the advice made me smile. Your numbers 5 and 7 were major advice points from my mom. Luckily in California the seasonal thing doesn’t have as much meaning, and I finally ignored number 7.

  6. Lovely, Laurie. Thank you.

  7. Dave Ventre says:

    Those are indeed great pix, Laurie! Your Mom was as the kids say totes adorbs. She actually resembles my wife’s Mom as a young woman.

    One of the saddest things I ever hears was when my first wife and her sister were discussing going to visit their parents (a fairly long drive). One said to the other “do you think they’ll even notice we are there?” That immediately struck me an incredibly sad. My parents were pretty textbook on how to do parenting wrong, but their love and support were never for an instant in doubt. It is probably no coincidence that the sisters both shared HUGE inferiority complexes and intimacy issues.

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