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link to momilies home page this is the intros page link to momilies photo album page link to momilies world page link to favorite momilies page link to momilies press page

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In the early spring of 1985, I found myself doing something rather thrilling that, until then, I'd only seen people do in the movies: boarding a plane with no luggage to speak of, using a plane ticket purchased at the airline counter mere minutes earlier. What's more, my parents, whom I was on my way to see, hadn't the slightest idea I was about to show up.
My destination was Pompano Beach, Florida; my mother and father had retires there a decade earlier from Kentucky, where I'd grown up. I was- and am- an only child, and my arriving unannounced was entirely unusual. Unexpected visits were not part of the Slung family repertoire, and, to rase the excitement stakes, this was a surprise that had another, even more unexpected surprise contained within it.

Nervously, I kept checking to see that the samll paperback book, which was the reason for my impromptu journey, was safely tucked in my bag. In truth, I was probably taking it out over and over for my own pleasure, as much to convince myself that it really existed as for reassurance that my sole copy hadn't suddenly vanished.

Ever since I'd begun working on Momilies® As My Mother Used To Say...®- inspired by my mother and paying amused, affectionate homage to the power of moms everywhere- I'd vowed that the moment I had the first book off the press I'd hop in a cab to the airport. I'd kept the project a secret for the entire year I'd been compiling it, and presenting my mother with her copy as a bolt from the publishing blue, just like this, had always been the plan.

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It was an opportunity I knew would not come again, a chance to hand her something that not only paid public tribute to her enduring influence on me but also featured a gorgeous picture of her- looking just as I remembered her when I was a little girl- for all the world to see.

When I rang the bell to their apartment, my parents were dumbfounded, to say the least. "Michele? Michele Slung?" my mother demanded over the intercom, certain I must be a trickster pretending to be her distant daughter. Yet within a few minutes I was upstairs at her door, thrusting the book into her hands as she stepped back to let me in.

Barely glancing at it, she was intent, as usual, on examining me and trying to figure out whether my appearance gave some clue as to why I was there. "Look at it!" I urged her. She did her best to comply, but my standing in front of her, in the flesh with no warning, continued to be too much for her to take in. No precedents existed.

"Sit down! Come on, sit down! Please!" Still in shock, she remained on her feet, reluctant. At this point, my father, now curious himself, joined in. "Come on, Dorothy, sit down. Michele's not going anywhere."

So my mother nervously perched on the edge of a kitchen chair, opened Momilies and slowly began to read. (She skipped the book's opening pages, thus missing her photo, and I had to point it out later.) We both watched her face, then she started to chuckle. She looked up at me for a second. I grinned.

"What do you think?" She shook her head. "In a minute," she said. "I want to finish it." My father and I watched and waited.

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"So," I said, starting to get impatient. "Have you recognized your own 'Momilies'? It's a test."

I was only half teasing.

"Just a second." She flipped through the pages.

"Okay. Here are some." She paused, then began to list them:

  • "You're not the only pebble on the beach."
  • "Wish on your eyelash and blow it away."
  • "I don't care if you like them or not- you're related."
  • "I'm only doing this for your own good."
  • "The more you scratch it, the more it's going to itch."
  • "Lift up your legs when you go over a railroad track and make a wish."
  • "Wash behind your ears or you'll have a potato field growing back there."
She took a breath and continued:
  • "Always clean up the kitchen as you go along."
  • "Don't raise your eyes to heaven, God won't help you."
  • "How can you tell what it looks like if you don't try it on."
  • "Put some color in your cheeks."
  • "Throw your shoulders back and you won't feel cold."
  • "Always put the zipper on the inside of pillowcase so you won't cut your face at night."
  • "Don't go out of the house with wet hair or you'll get a cold."

I marveled. "That's amazing. I didn't think you would have remembered that you said all those things."

"I didn't," my mother replied. She had a funny expression on her face. "I didn't know I said them all. The ones I just repeated were the ones my mother said to me. I could hear her voice as I went through the book, whenever I saw one of hers I remembered."

And because her mother had died when she was fifteen, I'd never known my maternal grandmother. My mother began to cry. In every way, it was too much for her.

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That was March of 1985. By May and Mother's Day, I was exhilarated by my travels across the country talking about Momilies. It had made all the national bestseller lists, and Ballantine Books, the publisher, was already asking for a sequel for the following year. My mother was a minor local celebrity- at least in her condo complex- and my father was starting to let his jealousy show.

By the time More Momilies was published in 1986, which I cleverly dedicated to my dad ("who, by marrying my mother, made all my 'Momilies' possible"), my mother had taken to carrying a copy in her purse at all times, wrapped snugly in a protective plastic bag. After all, you could never tell when there might be someone new to show it to. Being the "Mom" of Momilies was an exciting, thoroughly ejoyable role for her and not one she took lightly.

Now it's the 20th anniversary of the publication of both books. They have remained in print, have been released as an audio book, and have also been translated into other languages, including German, Italian, French, and Japanese. Over the past two decades, I've had hundreds of letters from people wanting to share their own "Momilies" and family anecdotes with me, and I've talked to probably hundreds and hundreds more on radio phone-in shows, many of whom seemed to think it was their mom and their mom alone who signaled caution when it came to strange toilet seats. In 1996, the two books were combined into a single volume.

It's hard for me to remember a time before Momilies- and I know my mother doesn't

Just as I intended, it has been the best present I ever gave her.

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The idea for the book that became Momilies: As My Mother Used to Say. . . had its origins in my passion for making lists. Thinking one day of that particular phrase which my own mother had produced on so many occasions (when I seemed to be taking an overinflated view of myself) - "You're not the only pebble on the beach" was what she'd say, ominously - led me to wonder how many utterances I could call to mind.

Not so surprisingly, it wasn't difficult to come up with more, once I cast my ear back to childhood: Always clean up the kitchen as you go along.""You can't tell what it looks like until you try it on.""You don't have to like them; they're your relatives.""Put some color in your cheeks.""The more you scratch it, the more it's going to itch."

The list grew longer and longer. And once I started with my own, I began to be curious whether everyone else possessed equally unforgettable maternal maxims. So I started asking friends and the friends of friends. To my delight, practically all of them quickly emerged as zealous "momily" recollectors! Postcards came in the mail; there were "momily" messages on my answering machine. And I became a connoisseur of the especially eccentric or useful ones.

When someone turned out to be a bit uncertain just what a "momily" was; I'd say simply, "It's anything your mother told you that you've never forgotten." No matter what kind of wisdom or wackiness the "momily" contains, my definition of it also holds that if it still zings into your mind on the proper occasion, if you can still hear your mom's tender (or sarcastic, or hectoring) voice, then what you've got is the genuine article.

More Momilies: As My Mother Used To Say, is the result of new friends and readers- people across North America, from Shreveport to Saskatchewan, even across the Pacific, from Hartford to Honolulu- enthusiatically sharing their "momilies" with me. Having put a name to the phenomenom (phe-mom-enom?), I heard from men and women both old and young, from the children of Irish, Italian, Swedish, Dutch, Greek, French, Hungarian- you name the natiionality or religion!- mothers. It didn't take long for me to see just how "momilies" were a sort of universal language.

Naturally, I'd suspected this must be so- after all, how many times was I told "Everyone has a mom?"- but it was truly wonderful, even downright exciting, to have it proved so conclusively, over and over again.

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