Commonplace Thoughts of a Residual Welshman: Stuff You Don’t Want to Do …


Last Sunday was Mother’s Day, and while it might have been fitting to have this blog appear before Mother’s Day, I am writing it a few days after that special event because, of course, I was thinking of my mother, Elaine Jakes, on Mother’s Day quite a bit and I thought about the many wacky and wonderful times we had together, events and situations that could never have come to pass without her personality, her numerous eccentricities converging to produce various situations frankly unbelievable, but events that indeed did happen. Many of these are presented in some detail in the Curious Autobiography of Elaine Jakes, available on Amazon with the click of a button Θ. book buy iconThe book has enjoyed some excellent reviews, such as that of the Midwest Book Review which calls it “a riveting and entertaining read from beginning to end.”  I thus recommend it to you, especially around this time of year when we find ourselves thinking of our mothers, whether they are alive or not. Elaine passed away on May 23, 2011, nearly five years ago now.

And thus I have entitled this blog “Stuff You Don’t Want to Do …,” and I don’t add the rest of the title because, if you had a good mother, you likely know the rest, “… But You Do Anyway.” You do it because your mother told you to. Now she may have insisted; or she may have cajoled; or she may have used a healthy dose of guilt. She may have used a combination of any two or all three of these. But you wound up doing it, even though you flat out did not want to. And later, as she so confidently predicted at the time she was doling out her instructions, you were glad you did.

I offer two brief personal examples. First, Elaine taught me not to quit. I had a job I did not particularly like; I was working for Gerenser’s Exotic Ice Cream Shop, and though I liked some aspects of the job—I could dip with the best of them, and dip away I did—there was one overseer (whose name escapes me) who particularly irritated me. He seemed not to care about the customers, and in any case he was smug. Even when I was a child, smugness never worked well with me. I did not like other children who were smug; I did not like teachers or coaches who were smug—though I am fortunate to say that I had very few of these—and I particularly did not like supervisors in the workplace who were smug. And I still don’t. That aside, this particular person’s snobbery and conceit rubbed me so much the wrong way that I wanted to quit. But Elaine talked me out of it; she told me that these things, too, will pass, and that I should by this job learn patience that I might store up for future use when I have bigger problems someday. And she added, of course, that someday I would know that she was right. And, naturally enough, I do.

That someday has come many times over the course of my life. One particular time came some years later in graduate school when I was thinking about walking away from a fellowship and tuition remission package merely because I felt that I had been incorrectly marked on one of my qualifying exams. But there was my mother, again, saying, “Don’t be an IDIOT!” idiot posterI knew she would say as much before I told her, so I was not surprised to hear the actual words when I heard her actual voice. And I did, an earful, and I took it to heart. She was, after all, my mother. I had to listen to her. And, she would be proved, after all, to be right, time and time again.

I don’t want to belabor this point. Rather, I just want to give mothers their due, even if it comes the week after Mother’s Day. I hope any of you mothers who read this did indeed had a Happy Mother’s Day. More importantly, I hope you know that you are always right and feel validated, to some small degree by this blog, which attests as much. Yet I know that, if you are anything like Elaine Jakes, you did not need to read this to know it, for you knew it already. For the rest of us, let this blog serve as a small reminder that our mothers are usually entirely right; that we should listen to them; and that we should not quit doing so, nor, barring unusual circumstances, should we likely ever quit at all. Yes, we should very often do what we don’t want to do; and we should know before we talk to her what she will say. Thanks, Mom, for that lesson and so much more.

Mothers sign
“The Guilt.” Photo taken by Alex Stewart
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