Friday, May 6, 2011

Pass It Along

by Robert Jevne

   Let me start by apologizing for the way this essay ends and then by saying I love my mother very much but in the somewhat strict delineation of duties in our household when I was growing up, advice either wasn’t under her purview or her interest. With five children, she most likely was too busy keeping up with basic chores to dispense indispensable wisdom as well. If she had anything to say about our activities it most likely was “Oh… that’s nice,” and I could never figure out whether she meant it or whether she was being ironic. In fact, neither one of my parents was big on doling out advice. We were left, for better or worse, to our own devices. Being unschooled in the methodology of worldly wisdom is why, when I became a parent, I came up with mostly off the cuff advice for my own children such as “Don’t go shooting pigeons in the barn” because I knew a kid who died doing just that, or advice on doing chores like “Lift with your heart, not your back,” All short lived and with limited effect. Which is why, like my mother, I’ve forsaken trying to come up with anything more meaningful and begun to practice her style of informed detachment as my kids begin to make their way in the world. My mother, like mothers everywhere, made breakfast, lunch and dinner, cleaned the house, washed my dirty clothes and for a short number years, even washed me. The love was all in the doing, did I really need to extract advice as well?

   My mother’s parents, who were European immigrants, ran a laundry out of their basement apartment in Chicago during the depression; a situation which seems, from my distant vantage, full of the complexities of class and ethnic entanglement. Now, my mother is at the age where the complexities of life are explained to her in black and white by the pundits of television. Now she is full of advice. All of it reserved for politicians. Television, for her, is a solace, and I struggle to understand, but I still find it a frustrating impediment and I can’t help but resent the reductive process that modern life affords us at the end of our days and the type of media that takes advantage of it. I would like to think there’s a way to fight this; after all I’m the one who walks around saying, “You’ve got to lift with your heart, not your back.” To which my mother might respond with an “Oh…that’s nice”
   But there is one important thing my mother gave me in lieu of direct advice, which I keep with me at all times, and that was this (SING YOUR SONG HERE ) In other words, keep a song in your heart and pass it along if you can. And that’s not something I could have made up on my own.

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