Friday, May 16, 2008

Smart Is As Smart Does

[This post was written for the 48th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy hosted by Jasia at Creative Gene]

My mother, Jacqueline Austin MacEntee, was always smart in my eyes. And as I grew older, she became even smarter in those baby blues.

Most of you know that my parents were divorced when I was around nine years old and for the most part she raised me and my brother as a single parent. But even before then, I knew Mom was smart and as her son I tried to reflect those smarts as well.

Mom read to me at an early age and I can't stress to today's parents how important this is. I was able to recite the alphabet around age two and started reading at age three. I started kindergarten at age 4 only after taking a "verbal test" in front of the principal, Mr. Neff. I remember that incident very well:

Mr. Neff: Now Thomas, I want you to complete this phrase: "A lemon is sour and sugar is . . ."

Thomas: ". . . bad for your teeth."

Needless to say there were laughs all around.

Besides sparking an interest in reading and learning, Mom's actions as much as her words showed me her intelligence:

- Mom knew how to stretch a dollar into a dollar and a quarter. Coupons, sales, a large chest freezer, etc. And if we couldn't afford something, then we just didn't get it.

- Mom also knew that a bargain wasn't always a bargain. She often said "You buy cheap, you pay twice."

- Mom knew how to stand up for herself and others especially in the work environment. During her employment at the telephone company, she became the union representative and was involved in negotiating contracts and managing at least one labor strike.

- Mom knew right from wrong and made darn sure her boys did. Every day was ripe for a lesson on what not to do as much as what to do. And I'm sure this came from her grandmother, Therese McGinnis Austin. We were taught not to litter, not to interrupt, to ask permission, to ask to be excused, how to sit at a dinner table, etc.

- Mom also knew what was funny. She enjoyed a good joke even if it was a bit risque. Mom laughed quite a bit and loved even more.

After so many years under her wing, and just as many, if not more, away from home, I've come to see that not everything can be learned from a book or while in class. Many things are learned by example.

Photo: Jacqueline Austin, about age 10, in front of her grandparents' home in Grahamsville, New York.


Janice said...


The love you have for your mom shone right through in this lovely article. You obviously inherited her humor gene :)


Lidian said...

What a lovely post - I really njoyed this.

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

Your Mom was smart and strong. Being a divorcee in the 70's was tough.

LindaM said...

Your mother sounds like an incredible woman. I can the results of her hard work in your writing about her and in her writing in general.