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Three Magic Words: Things my Mother Taught me

Updated on June 29, 2014
Mother and Child
Mother and Child | Source

Three Magic Words

Please, thank you, and excuse me,

Three Magical words,

The politeness 'open sesame'

Fly round like sociable birds.

Three Magic Words

Now, in my old age, I often think of some of the things that my Mother taught me. Some were wise, some useful, and some now just make me smile.

When we were children, there always seemed to be so much to learn about etiquette, things such as:

  • to remember our manners,
  • to wait until spoken to,
  • to be polite,
  • to wear the right clothes for the occasion.

When I was a teenager, one of my teachers even wrote in my Autograph Book the quotation: 'Her voice was ever soft, gentle and low, an excellent thing in woman.'

I could never decide if it was a hint or approbation!

Some of her ideas were fanciful or now outdated, but some were very good and I've tried to pass them on to my own children.


Mother read this somewhere and was keen that we took note:

  • The Scottish woman puts her gloves on in the bedroom.
  • The English woman just before she goes out the door.
  • The Australian woman as she goes down the street.


When visiting, wear clothes that are suitable for your hosts and the occasion, but never dress down too much. People appreciate it that you have made an effort to look nice for them.

Never dress better than your guests.

Brush your clothes and remove lint and tiflings. Good grooming is important.

Wear jackets and overcoats buttoned up when you are walking in the street (my Grandmother).

Make sure the seams on the back of your stockings are straight.

If carrying gloves, rather than wearing them, have the gauntlet pointing away from you.

Always wear your best clothes when going to Church, you are visiting God's House.

Serve to the left, except for drinks
Serve to the left, except for drinks | Source

Grape Seed Story

The vine in the back yard had done well and for dessert we were having grapes. My sister and I hated the seeds, but Mother insisted we eat them:

"They have lots of oil and other things that are good for you."

I was busily trying to dispose of mine by surreptitiously dropping them onto the dining-room carpet and hoping they would be camouflaged by the pattern.

Suddenly my Grandmother said, "Oh, bother! These grape seeds get stuck under my plate" (meaning her false teeth)!

My four year old sister lifted her plate and said, "That's funny. I have grape seeds under my plate, too!"


At Table

There were so many rules to remember about how to behave at the table, but if we were hungry it was best to comply or we might be asked to leave before we had eaten.

  • Use the cutlery on the outside first.
  • If you are serving at table, give plates to the person's left, drinks to the right. If taking plates away, take from the right.
  • If still eating, leave the knife and fork a little apart with the prongs of the fork pointing downwards.
  • If you have finished, put the knife and fork together, with the prongs of the fork pointing upwards.
  • Never hold your knife like a pencil, it just isn't good manners.
  • If you are given a spoon and a dessert fork for the pudding, use them both, but only eat from the spoon.
  • Never use the pepper and salt until you have tasted the food. It's not much of a compliment to the cook who may have seasoned it sufficiently for your taste.
  • Never leave any food on your plate. There are people in the world who are starving; It also says that you don't like what you have been offered.
  • When the meal is finished, never refold your serviette, but leave it beside your plate crumpled - neatly!
  • Never leave the table before the host, unless you ask permission: 'Please may I leave the table?' To which a mischievous uncle always replied, "You may eat the food, but please leave the table."
  • Always compliment the hostess on the meal, especially if she apologises that it wasn't so good.

Thank you. I have finished.
Thank you. I have finished. | Source

Did you have so many rules when you were a child?

See results

Out and About

Never visit empty-handed. Chocolate, flowers or something home-made is usually acceptable.

Make sure that what you give your host is suitable. If she gets hay fever, don't give flowers, if she's diabetic, don't give sweet things.

When alighting from a car, never get out backwards. Swivel in your seat and then step out forwards.

If travelling by public transport always wear a hat and gloves.

Never eat in the street (a school rule, too). The memory of this rule remained. I remember one a hot day when I had our two small girls and was taking them to visit my parents. On the way I bought us ice-creams and who should we meet? My old school Principal. He still remembered my name and was friendly, but I felt so guilty with the ice-cream in my hand.

Out and About
Out and About | Source


There were lots of rules about cleanliness, and some were quite sensible, others interesting:

  • Always wash your hands before meals and after visiting the lavatory.
  • Change your underwear every day.
  • Keep your school uniform neat and pressed, but it only gets washed in the term holidays; sponge off any spots.
  • Don't shower every day, it's bad for your skin.
  • Wash every day, especially your neck and behind your ears.
  • Only wash your hair once a week in winter, it keeps the natural oils there.
  • In summer always wash your hair after swimming to remove the salt.
  • Cleanliness is next to Godliness.


If someone opens a door for you, thank him.

It's more polite to sit with the ankles crossed, than the knees, besides crossed legs leads to varicose veins.

Sit with your skirt down. Cover those knees! (That was my Grandmother).

If someone is speaking, don't break in unless it's an emergency. You might learn something if you keep quiet and listen.

Children should be seen and not heard, especially at mealtime (my Grandmother again).

Three Generations.
Three Generations. | Source


If you want to have friends you need to be one.

And so Mother's rules continued into adulthood:

  • Never let your husband into the bathroom when you're in the bath.
  • Certainly keep a joint Bank account, but be sure to have your own private one, too, and don't let him know how much you have in it. If he dies, you will still have money you can access.
  • Don't let the sun go down on your wrath. If you've had a quarrel, make up before you go to bed. You'll sleep better.

A Gold Coast Sunset
A Gold Coast Sunset | Source

© 2014 Bronwen Scott-Branagan


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    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      MonkeyShine75: That must have been terrible to lose your mother at such a young age. It's lovely that you have happy memories of her now and such a positive attitude. God bless you. Thank you for your vote, too.

    • MonkeyShine75 profile image

      Mara Alexander 3 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      A wonderful Hub that made me think (even more) about my loving mom.

      I lost her when I was ten years old, and experienced extreme pain, and loneliness, so much I thought I would never be able to be happy again.

      But now when I think about her, I usually find myself smiling, and being so thankful that she was my mom, if only for a short time

      I Voted your Hub up and awesome

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      marcoujor: Glad about the LOL, I was beginning to believe you! Thank you so much for your comments.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 3 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Dear BlossomSB,

      Funny, I had no problem 'obeying' my sweet Momma, who had these same ettiquette standards and natural expectations that her children behaved like ladies and gentlemen...(LOL)

      And yes, indeed, I have always maintained my own bank account...!

      This is a well-penned piece that brings back many beautiful memories...voted UP and UABI and sharing. Hugs, Maria

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      carolinemd21: Thank you. It's fun to share. Sometimes we got cross with our mothers and all the rules, but they really were wise - and were probably what their mothers had taught them.

    • carolinemd21 profile image

      Caroline Marie 3 years ago

      This is a beautiful hub Blossom. It is full of wisdom. Thank you for sharing. :)

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Victoria Lynn: Well, we needed gloves in the winter and they were part of our school uniform, too - woollen in the winter, cotton in the summer, and not wearing them when out of the school grounds could mean a detention. Yes, it is interesting and times and fashions change.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Wow, we didn't have so many of the etiquette things such as which fork to use in a meal, as all we had was one living out in the country. LOL. Gloves weren't a part of my growing up either. We learned some basics, yes. I find it interesting the different rules of etiquette commonly put on kids of different generations, perhaps?

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Faith Reaper: Oh, yes! Our Mother taught us that, too, and it is so wise. It's so easy to be critical and say things we'd love to be able to unsay. Thank you for your lovely comments and votes. May God bless you, too, dear friend.

      Sunardi: It does take us back, doesn't it? Weren't we blessed to have parents and grandparents who cared about how we behaved? My late husband never failed to bow and open doors for me, when he was able, and I really appreciated it. Thank you for your interesting comments.

      crystolite: I'm so glad that you enjoyed reading it. We seem to never forget the lessons our mothers taught us. Now I'm wondering what my own children think about what I tried to instil when they were young. Was it as effective?

    • crystolite profile image

      Emma 3 years ago from Houston TX

      Very interesting hub. The importance of a mother to her kids cannot be overemphasised! keep it up blossom!

    • Sunardi profile image

      Sunardi 3 years ago from Indonesia

      This article remind me to my childhood when my parents and grandparents taught me how to behave, bowing when I walked around someone who doesn't stand up and ask permission, using thumb to point something, etc.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      You are blessed to have had such a special mother who taught you such things in this life. My precious mother always taught us that, "if we did not have something nice to say, then do not say anything at all." In other words, use our words carefully to build up and to not tear down others.

      In my entire life, I have never heard my mother say one ill word against another person, and she lived to be 84! I wish I could say that of myself.

      Voted up ++++ and away

      God bless you

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Genna East: Although we didn't always like it, we were taught well, and it is surprising how many people do not take something when visiting these days. I guess life is in too much of a hurry. So glad you enjoyed it.

      teaches12345: Well, it's winter here and no way am I going to have exposed legs in this weather, and I don't wear them much when it's hot summer, either, and I can't say I'm sorry! And seamless stockings are so much easier, too. I'm so glad you keep that rule, I do too. Thank you for your comments.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      I remember the seams of stockings being so important back then. I am so thankful I live in South Florida where stockings are almost non-existant. I still keep the salt and pepper rule, don't insult your host by seasoning food.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      These are words to live by...they reminded me of what my grandmother taught me, and my mother as well.

      "Never visit empty-handed. Chocolate, flowers or something home-made is usually acceptable." Very true...and it is surprising how many visitors do not follow this etiquette.

      I enjoyed this hub, Blossom. Thank you !

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Frank, thank you! I'm so glad that you enjoyed it. God bless you, too.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

      wise are the generations that past.. what a wonderful hub Blossoms..bless you :)

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Kathleen Odenthal: Thank you for your lovely comment. We have much to thank them for, even if we did not always appreciate their wisdom when young.

      CrisSp: Yes, when we so fortunate as to have grandmothers nearby, we learned so much from them, too, although some of the things we were taught were from another era and not so relevant for today, but it's good to have a smile at the memory. So glad you enjoyed it.

      travmaj: Yes, it was' just the way it was.' Thanks for the reminder about the piece of cake, etc. to choose. I miss it, too, but we can't turn that clock back.

      Manatita44: Thank you so much for your comments. I loved my Grandma, but she was very strict - we could never say to her 'I love you', only 'I like you.' She came from the Victorian era and was really straight-laced. It's fun to remember all those things we had to learn.

      bluebird: It really is the best advice, especially as we know that it was given with so much love and concern that we would grow up loving God and being thoughtful and loving for our neighbours.

      K. Burns Darling: Love your comments. It's so true that many of these rules are simply common sense, but sometimes we don't use our common sense very much and it's so good to be reminded of them and to appreciate the way our parents were so interested in our welfare that they spent time teaching us these things so patiently. Your lovely comments have brightened up MY day!

      denise.w.anderson: It's fun to think of those rules and how obsolete some of them seem to have become. You were not so concerned about appearances, but on a farm there would still have been many rules about how to behave, especially about safety, I would think. I always thought that one of the things about dressing up was that we were also allowed to wear old stuff around the house and garden, so it made dressing up more special.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      What a trip down memory lane! I remember many of the same rules in our house, but since we were farming folk, we weren't as concerned about appearances. We rarely went to town, and when we did, we had to dress up to do so.

    • K. Burns Darling profile image

      Kristen Burns-Darling 3 years ago from Orange County, California

      Love this hub! Your mother and my grandmother were definitely cut from the same cloth, so much of what you wrote about here are the same things that she taught me, and I have passed much of it on to my children. Even my eighteen year old knows that ladies cross their ankles, not their legs, especially in a dress or skirt! Most of these rules may seem outdated, but they're really not, they are common sense rules on how to get along in society, and are still relevant today. Thank you so much for this walk down memory lane, it has brightened my day. Voted up, useful, awesome and interesting.

    • bluebird profile image

      bluebird 3 years ago

      Thank you for this special hub. Those three magic words takes me back to my childhood days, such good and simple advice. Then, and especially now, still the best of advice for kids. And even now for all of us. It's a way of living in respect of God's law which is love. Enjoyed this hub and the third generation picture.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 3 years ago from london

      Lots of ethics and etiquette here. The good old-fashioned way. Amazed that you remember so much. I don't. Still, something or someone helped me.

      Yes, grandmothers were extremely beautiful. Interesting Hub

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 3 years ago from australia

      Hi Blossom, what lovely nostalgic reminders. I grew up with the same magic words. It was just the way it was. Also my mum always said - when offered a cake from a selection I had to take the nearest one. Oh my, it was never the one I wanted. Eating in the street was a definite no no, never even contemplated. Sadly, nowadays sitting around the table seem to be obsolete in many families. Family life is hectic. Nice to turn the clock back for a few minutes. Loved your stories.

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 3 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Oh, how I miss my grandma who would always dress me up nicely and take me along to the church to hear mass because as you said in here, we're going to the house of God. We should be well presented and to always dress up appropriately depending on the occasion.

      Great hub, mostly resonates my growing up years with my grandma except for "Don't shower every day, it's bad for your skin." Grandma taught us to shower/bathe everyday and never go to bed dirty. This is a habit I still practice and have taught my own grown up girls. It's a morning and nightly ritual. :)

      I like the grape seed story. Enjoyed!

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image

      Kathleen Odenthal 3 years ago from Bridgewater

      Great hub! Thank you for sharing this with us! Mothers are amazing people

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Annart: Yes! My Grandmother came out with some beauties, usually prefaced with "You want to..." when I didn't want to in the least! We did have the 'look the person in the eye' and the firm handshake, too, although at church in the 'Passing of the peace' there's one man who does it far too firmly for my arthritic hands! I love your addition of the smile.

      Ericdierker: Love them! I wonder what the young ones today would say if we tried to impose such rules. I'd forgotten the one about keeping the body from touching the table. It was a more thoughtful time - more thoughtful for others, too, quite often.

      Jodah: Oh, I remember those! Especially the "Very well, thank you, and you?" Again, it's part of thinking about others. Now, it's often just "Good thanks" even when we're not feeling good at all. Funny world!

      always exploring: I do agree that some good manners are timeless, and sitting down together for meals is so important for family togetherness, but there are so many homes these days where it just doesn't happen.

      Jackie Lynnley: It certainly is saying something and if parents don't teach their children, how are they to learn what is acceptable and what is not?

      FlourishAnyway: Thank you so much for your lovely comments and for sharing. You were so blessed to know your great-grandmother, I'm envious!

      Will Starr: I love your comment, "A polite society is a peaceful society"! How true, because good manners help us to be more thoughtful for others, and how much we need a peaceful society - all over the world!

      billybuc: They did often seem irksome at the time, but yes! We still remember them - and mostly live by them, too.

      to business: Etiquette really was something that put us in good stead for the whole of our lives. Now I wonder, is part of today's problem that we were not firm enough in passing them on to the next generation? Or was it that times just changed?

      Dim Flaxenwick: They did seem normal at the time, and some seem amusing now, but I guess our parents always wanted the best for us. I'm probably showing my age by taking those trips down memory lane, but they are fun, too.

      Ari VK: I still feel embarrassed if I turn up empty handed! I sometimes wonder if it was our parents who imbued us with all these rules, or if, somehow, they're in our genes!

    • profile image

      Ari VK 3 years ago

      "Never visit being empty handed." Oh, I remember my mother giving me things when I would go to a friend's get-together when I was very young. I always was so embarrassed to show up with something! Now as an adult I do try to bring a little something, out of kindness though, not out of duty.

    • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

      Dim Flaxenwick 3 years ago from Great Britain

      Oh Blossom. This was like a trip down Memory Lane !!!!!!!

      Thank you for the exact same reminders that l grew up with. All of them Ha Ha . Some of them seem so funny now, but l remember them well. It seemed normal at the time.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      A glimpse back into a more gentile time, your mum was quite a lady! Most of these were taught to us in school and places like Lucy Clayton's. What I learned then, continue to hold me in good stead, how times has changed, and not necessarily for the better. Voting up and sharing.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Such silly little rules it seemed to me growing up. Funny how I have not forgotten one of them. :) A very lovely look back my friend.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      "When we were children, there always seemed to be so much to learn about etiquette, things such as:

      to remember our manners,

      to wait until spoken to,

      to be polite,

      to wear the right clothes for the occasion."

      You make an excellent point. Most children (and a lot of adults!) simply have no manners these days, and society suffers for it. We would all be a lot better off if we returned to the old and very polite ways of the past.

      Super Hub, Blossom and thanks for reminding us that a polite society is also a peaceful society.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      This was perfect reading for a Sunday afternoon. It took me back to memories of my own great-grandmother's teachings. Voted up and more, plus sharing this treasure.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Some of these are familiar; some not, but my parents did teach their children good manners that I am very proud of. None of us ever had to be called down in public or visiting at any time that I ever recall and having four younger brothers that is really saying something. ^+

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Many of these customs are not outdated. I don't wear gloves and hats, but i still believe in using good manners and i taught my son the same. I like to think that families still have a sit-down meal together. Great hub.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      I can remember some of this advice Blossom, but my parents weren't quite so strict. I was always told things by my dad like," boys should never hit a girl", "stick up for yourself, but never throw the first punch", "men should always watch their language in front of women" etc. My mother always instilled in me to always say "please and thank you" and if an adult asked me how I was to reply, "Very well thank you, and you?" Good hub here. Voted up.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      A few different customs than my but something covered every subject. Also us boys had different ones. Like always walking on the street side when with a lady. (to protect her from splashes) And our fork could never ever be placed or held upside down except when cutting meat. No part of the body could touch the dining table. A gentleman's coat could only be worn if no one else was cold. Wiping of feet was paramount.

      Thank you for bringing back wonderful thoughts of a more thoughtful time.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      Lovely words here, much of which I recognise from my childhood too! It was mostly grandparents who came out with the rules but my parents continued with the more reasonable ones.

      My mother advised me always to look people in the eye when you were introduced and to have a firm handshake, two things I've always followed and I firmly believe in. I add a smile too!

      Great hub, bringing back fond and humorous memories.