"Don't kiss boys or you'll get pregnant."
Mary Nissen of Oregon is 68, but she still remembers her dad's warning, as well as her grandmother's advice to eat her bread crusts so her hair would be curly.
We forget a lot as we grow up, but some of our elders' words of wisdom and quirky expressions stick with us forever — and get passed along to the next generation. Many of them are so commonplace that one suspects they're part of our DNA, slumbering until we become parents ourselves and then spring to our lips.
Were you born in a barn? I'm not made of money. If I have to stop this car...
Dozens of readers recently shared their childhood favorites.
Sue Frankforther of Maumee says when she'd be looking for something and it was right in front of her, her father would observe that "If it was a snake, it would have bitten you." Other times it was "You must be blind in one eye and can't see out of the other."
Most kids probably could write a book about their parents' favorite sayings. That's what Jan Seymour of Whitehouse and her four siblings did in 2001 when their dad, Tom Hilkens, turned 70. They came up with more than 400 of his sayings and put them in a booklet they titled "Growing Up Hilkens."
Among their Top 10: "Go ask your mother."
Beth Beach of Holland says her mother's answer to life's trials was "This too shall pass." Her dad warned "Waste not, want not."
Barb Love of West Unity reports that her mom often put things in perspective by asking, "What will it matter in 100 years?"
Children who didn't close the door promptly on a cold day were often informed that "I don't pay good money to heat the outdoors." Jackie Sautter of Grelton, Ohio; Marjorie Koch of South Toledo, and others say they heard versions of that sentiment.
South Toledoan Paula Ashton's grandmother put it this way: "Turn off the lights. I'd rather buy a blouse."
After all, "money doesn't grow on trees." That's what Gordon Nunamaker of Curtice remembers being told by his parents when he was growing up in the '40s.
The tips that were passed to Jack Schatzley of Sylvania Township as a boy included this: "Take care of your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves."
And when Diane Watterson of Lima or one of her 10 siblings asked their dad for money, he say, "If I had a nickel, I'd be rich."
Science might not support this pearl of wisdom, but according to some parents, if you cross your eyes they'll stay that way.
Likewise, Janis Weaver of Sylvania Township says when her mother would catch her making a face, she'd say if she kept it up, "your face will freeze like that."
Alice Wisniewski of West Toledo and Barb Padgett of South Toledo were advised always to wear clean underwear in case they got hurt and had to go to the hospital.
Many kids were told to "be home before the street lights come on," among them Myrna Bosch of South Toledo and David Klostermeyer of Sylvania. Margaret King-Gartee of Oregon had a little longer to play: her curfew was "when," not "before" the lights came on.
Karol Spencer of Portage, Ohio, says if her mother thought any of her children were fibbing, she'd ask "Do I need to rub your nose?"
Another of her mom's favorites was "When your mouth goes open, your ears go shut."
Holland resident Paul Palmisano says he frequently uses two of his mom's favorite sayings: "If it isn't one thing, it's two things," and "It's a great life if you don't weaken."
Jeff Hohl of South Toledo admits that "I am haunted, haunted by this one from my dear departed mother every day: "If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well."
"Whenever I am doing something tedious or boring and can cave in to speed, I don't because of what Mom drilled into [the eight of] us," he adds.
Mr. Hohl and Jeffrey Clark of Grand Rapids, Ohio, — and, no doubt, many others — were told if they couldn't say something nice, don't say anything at all.
But Mr. Clark says his favorite is "If horses had wishes there would be no carts."
In the days before parents were cautioned about damaging their little ones' self-esteem with negative remarks, kids heard comments like "You're a knucklehead!" That's from Deb Lester of Holland, who says other standouts from her family and in-laws' repertoire include: "Smooth move, ex-lax;" "If the shoe fits, wear it," and "You made your bed, now lie in it."
But beware that "If you lie down with dogs, you'll get up with fleas." Deborah Hershey of Findlay says that was her grandmother's way of telling her to choose friends wisely.
Joan Laidlaw of Wauseon admits she was always losing things as a child. Her mother told her, "You would lose your head if it wasn't attached."
When Becky McOmber or her sisters would ask their mother, Arlene Kirian, where something was, she'd tell them to "open your eyes instead of your mouth."
Some sayings are head-scratchers. For example:
"You girls make me so nervous I could fly!" That's from Joan Bauer of Bryan, Ohio, who was one of six girls in the family.
"No shenanigan, Flannigan!" Carol Molnar of West Toledo says her dad used to say that when somebody was up to no good.
Other expressions are clearly parental bids for sympathy:
"We do and do for you kids and this is the thanks we get," is one that Mark Fruchey of Walbridge remembers. And when something was broken by kids playing in the house, his mother would cry in despair, "I can't have anything nice!"
Terry Smothers of East Toledo says his dad used to tell them he had to walk three miles through knee-deep snow to get to school. Later they realized dad's childhood home was less than a block from his school.
"My dad used to tell us he had to walk to school, uphill both ways," recalls Chris Holland of Point Place. "It was usually when we were complaining about something."
Harold Olsen, Sr., liked to tell his kids that "When I was your age I walked miles carrying water to the workers building the High Level Bridge."
"This was said when we asked him to take us somewhere and he thought we should walk," explains Sue Davis of Delta.
Carol Martin of Oak Harbor says that complaints to her dad often prompted this observation: "You'd complain if you were hung with a new rope."
When anyone would complain about the weather, says Frank Gluth of Oak Harbor, his mother would reply, "We will do like they do in Germany. We will take it."
Beverly Ryan of East Toledo says when her father's patience wore thin, he'd say "You quit that or I'm going to fly into you!"
South Toledoan Mark Schaub says his dad used to tell him and his brothers to go easy on the furniture. "I can't wait 'til you get your own place and I can plop my butt into your furniture," he'd add.
Finally, here's sound advice that Terry Snyder of Sylvania says was passed down from her grandmother: "Always buy good towels."
"Because I said so, that's why. And don't you forget it."
At least that's what Dale Holland of East Toledo used to hear all the time.
Contact Ann Weber at: firstname.lastname@example.org