What did Mama tell you?

We asked our readers to share words of wisdom passed on from their mothers, and the responses came pouring in.

There was much advice of the heart and on how to live a happy or virtuous life. There were wry reprimands and lots of encouragement. There were some very practical suggestions as well, several having to do with clean underwear.

Many contributors said those little sayings brought back warm memories of their mothers who are no longer living. Many reported using the same words with their own children.

For moving memories and some very sound advice, keep reading.

Flim! Flam! Floo!

“I can pull a twinkling star from a hat,

Then I’ll make it disappear just like that…”

My mother Dee (aka “Twink”) has had a glamorous life.

A pioneer broadcaster in our hometown Miami, she was a DJ working from a glass booth in front of a popular restaurant, then a TV personality, co-hosting a kiddie show.

I remember as a child working with her when she’d sing Kay Starr’s “Flim! Flam! Floo!,” pull a glass star from her hat and magically make it disappear.

Her advice has stayed with me:

“ …Always look for good things, and they will come to you —

Look with your heart and you will find them: Flim! Flam! Floo!”

Sherry Lee

New Orleans


My mother, Rita B. Viator, would regularly tell us, when things weren’t going well, “This, too, shall pass.” But my favorite saying of hers was, “Marry in haste, repent at leisure.” Although she and E.J. were married 65 years, my sister and I didn’t really listen to her ’til we were much older. Mistakes were made!

Annette Viator

Baton Rouge

No wooden nickels

One summery Saturday night, a high school friend came to my house and invited me to a drive-in movie. While I was getting dressed, Momma knocked on the bathroom door and said, “Bobbie, don’t you give that boy no wooden nickels tonight!”

Bobbie Spencer


Cure for choking

Whether you are at home or a restaurant, this may save your life.

Whatever you are eating or drinking, if the food or liquid goes down the wrong way or you start choking or coughing: “Raise your left arm and it will open up the airway. You will be relieved immediately.”

My mother, Clothilde Bordelon Gremillion, was my inspiration.

Janice Bernard


Doing their best

My mother, Estella Stringfield Strickland, taught me to be tolerant of others. When someone did something that was not so nice, she would say, “Oh, well, that’s OK. They are doing the best they can.”

Mom’s wisdom taught me to be understanding and supportive of others, even when they were not doing so well. I am 95 years old now, and she is deceased. But her wisdom has helped me so much in my life to stay positive and get along with others.

Cleo “Doris” Strickland James

Baton Rouge

Holding a candle

When we were repeating a story or talking about someone, our mom, Margaret Dugas Burns, would say, “Did you hold the candle?” meaning, “If you weren’t there to see or hear it, then don’t gossip.” That was a “momism” she heard from my grandma, Marie Dugas.

I know she is smiling down from heaven. It took becoming a mom to truly appreciate her work and dedication to motherhood. Thank you, Momma!

Kay Crochet

Baton Rouge

Sunshine in your pocket

My mother, Beth Hansen, was one of those “can do” women who worked for civil service during World War II, married, had children and became an executive’s wife in the 1950s.

During any difficulties, she always used the phrase: “Sometimes you have to carry the sunshine in your pocket, so that you can put it in the sky when you need it!”

Throughout the later years of her life, in which she had a stroke, broken hip and several surgeries, that attitude never changed. I now find myself using the same phrase with my two grandchildren.

Linda Hansen Manes

Baton Rouge

Can’t fool Mamaw

“There’s nothing heavier than a guilty conscience.” And, “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t ever fool Mamaw, cause she’s been around too long.”

Both sayings attributed to my late mother, Grace Castleberry McDougald, of Baton Rouge.

Hazel M. Hart


Fry it up

My mother, Sylvia Pendarvis White, had a vast array of sayings/platitudes to fit just about any situation. The following has stuck with me the best: “If wishes were fishes, we’d all fry some.”

Marilyn White


Can’t say anything nice?

My dear mother Ida Glazer’s words of wisdom still echo in my mind every time I am speaking to someone. They are: “If you cannot say anything nice to someone, don’t say anything at all.”

Marlene Glazer Friedman

New Orleans

Home cookin’

My mother was Audrey McIntyre Honeycutt, and she was a first-grade teacher. My mom, who was slim and fixed healthful meals for our family, always said, “You are what you eat.” Decades later, she has been proven right.

Jane Honeycutt

Baton Rouge

Don’t forget …

The most important “mom-ism” from my mother, Gail Covington Sibley, was “Remember who you are,” which she said to me, my two brothers and two sisters as we left for a date or social gathering. We were brought up to be Christian, morally responsible, polite young adults.

My children are now grown and have children of their own, but I still remind them to “Remember who you are.” Perhaps the world would be a much kinder place if we all “remember who we are.”

Cynthia Sibley Carpenter


No regrets

My mother’s name was Beatrice Daigle Williams. Her best gift was her philosophy of “no regrets.” When I was a young girl disappointed about something, she would say, “Tomorrow is another day.” She empowered me to leave the past behind, to not get hung up on the “what ifs” and “if onlys” of life.

Because of her positive words, I can live with the mistakes I’ve made, knowing full well I will get another chance tomorrow.

Foy Matthews Crary

Baton Rouge

No free lunch?

The best advice my mom gave me: “When you marry for money, you earn it!”

Julie Cotton-Viator

Baton Rouge

Best child-rearing tip

One of my favorite things my mother, Rose Roberts Nolan, imparted when I was at my wit’s end with my 2-year-old toddler, was “Give her a way out with dignity, and she’ll take it every time.” It works for children … and it works for old people.

Mary Nolan Looney

New Orleans

Get a Band-Aid

My mother, Louise Markham Giamalva, was a full-time physician and the mother of six children, five of them boys. She was very busy and learned quickly not to sweat the small stuff.

Many of our after-school calls to her at work resulted in her saying, “Well, don’t bleed on the carpet.”

Amy Giamalva Drago

Baton Rouge


My mother Dee Trahan always has a memorable saying to help you get through the day. Growing up whenever we misbehaved, we would hear the famous “Who do you think you are, the Queen of Sheba?” But my very favorite saying, and one I’ve come to learn works with my children as well, is “Nobody loves you like your mother.”

Karen Trahan Marsh


Top drawers

Mom always told us to “wear good underwear.” Why? “Because you never know when you’ll end up in the hospital.”

Pam Hall


Bear necessities

My favorite expression is to hear my mother, Ms. W.A. Hutchinson Jarreau, say, “The best way to keep a bear out of your house is to never let him in!” Meaning if you do not put yourself in certain situations, you will not have to figure out how to get out of them.

Lisa Jarreau


House always wins

My mom’s favorite saying was, “As sure as you bet, you lose your money.” I took her seriously and I am sure that it saved me much grief. I wish that everyone could be blessed with a mom as fun and loving as my mom, Maudie Reeves.

Sulynn Ganey

Denham Springs

Quick thinking

Momma would always say, “Glenda, you must try to be a very good girl. Little Jesus loves you and is always watching over you.”

One day Momma caught me red-handed digging in her purse for gum. In her sharp, scolding voice I heard, “Glenda Jean! Don’t you know that Little Jesus sees everything you do?”

“Yes, Momma,” I replied. “That’s why I took two slices of gum. One for me and one for Little Jesus.”

Quick thinking, Glenda! At 76 years old I still get in trouble, and I’m still quite the quick thinker. Ha!

Glenda Barras

Baton Rouge

Earn it

To 14 children, my mother, Lilly Stewart, use to say: “Don’t stand begging for that which you have the power to earn!”

Of the 14 children, half of us graduated from college, and we were all productive members of society.

Donna Stewart


Love you best

My mother’s name was Tina Claire.

After she died, I smelled her in my dreams, an essence of warmth and a little perfume and soap and cooking. She used to hold us next to her ample bosom and she would whisper, “I love you most of all. You are my favorite.” Later, we found out she whispered the same thing to each of us.

Jane Walls