Wednesday, February 13, 2013


"Manners Makyth Man" is the motto of New College School, Oxford, England, a preparatory boy's school established in 1379.This is the stained glass window at the school displaying the motto, Courtesy of Wikipedia. 

I had a great grandfather who attended Oxford. I know his manners were impeccable as, I'm also sure, was his sense of humor.

These past months I have been glued to the television on Sunday nights watching "Downton Abby". It is colorful, funny, sad, educational, and offers a nostalgic glimpse into the not so distant past of my forefathers...both upstairs and downstairs.
"To Americans, English manners are far more frightening than none at all." ~Randall Jarrell
StainedglassNCS.jpg (1640×1960)
Courtesy of Wikipedia

Lest you misunderstand, I humbly acknowledge that my manners are not perfect. Everyday I hear voices in my head from my  "descended from English royalty" grandmother angels hovering above me and following me around. 

"Do not speak with your mouth full, don't chew gum in public, dine properly at the table, don't be grouchy, be polite at all times no matter what you are thinking, show respect to everyone, don't discuss religion or politics, don't speak unless you are spoken to, and practice the The Golden Rule:
'Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You'."
"Good manners: The noise you don't make when you're eating soup." ~ Bennett Cerf
Manners are much more complicated than just those suggestions. What my mother, grandmothers and great aunts were really saying is that you must seek social approval.

In other words...don't disgrace them. 
My Great Grandmother, Hannah
Is social status associated with income? Think about it. Have you known upper income people with no manners who behaved like animals or lower income people with perfect table manners, social graces and civility?

"Friends and good manners will carry you where money won't go." ~Margaret Walker

I know it was a reflection on my mother if I didn't meet her expectations. I thought it would be a reflection on me if my children didn't demonstrate what I should have taught them when visiting their grandmother.and...on and on it goes...generation after generation fearing their grandmothers.

Living in the southwest of the USA, I would be perceived as uppity if I practiced much of the protocol of my ancestors. I learned early on, when I jumped off the "stagecoach", that the standards of social behavior in the West were different. The times were more casual as was the language. 

But, good manners never go out of style. Woe to those who never learned them anywhere.
"Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot." ~ Clarence Thomas
They must be ingrained and second nature. You can't learn good manners at the last minute if you are invited to meet the Queen of England or dine at the White House...or invited to your girlfriend's house to meet her parents. You will be too nervous to remember all the rules. 

I'm the short one with the white gloves...with my Grandparents Hunt
Practice daily!

If you don't know any better, you'll only be comfortable with other people who don't know any better.

If you do know good manners and protocol, you'll be comfortable anywhere.

Grandmothers shouldn't be intimidating. They are supposed to love us unconditionally and be cuddly and affectionate.

My mother on her 90th birthday
The traditional image of a grandmother is a plump, soft, rather short woman with white hair pulled up in a knot, wearing a cotton dress, some kind of weird heavy stockings, and clunky black shoes.

Oh, and she always wears an apron that covers her from her neck to the bottom of her skirt...kind of like Mrs.Claus.

I do, on occasion, fit that image precisely.

My mother and grandmothers did not. They were not soft and cuddly. They were teachers. They were dependable, worthy of respect and admiration.

They were kind and with great expectations.

They were the epitome of proper class and breeding passed down from generations of grandmothers.

I am blessed beyond measure to be a grandmother. I do love my grandchildren unconditionally.

A very classy bunch!
I respect the position and wish to be a friend and trusted companion to my grandchildren should they need me. Mostly, they don't need me and I am also thankful for that. Age does slow you down and they can all outrun me.

Nana at 60
I don't, however, want them to fear me.

My mother intimidated my children. They didn't want to disappoint her...or be reprimanded by me.

Mother would never have corrected them. She would just sit smugly and quietly wonder where she had gone wrong with me, their mother.

Before a visit, they were instructed by me "to mind their manners".When we would drive to Illinois there would be two-three days of drilled instruction in the car.

They thought they would be judged by their grandmother if they didn't say the right thing or used the wrong fork or didn't use their napkins properly, or ended a sentence in a preposition like "at" (Heaven forbid!)...say "Where is it located?"...not "Where is it at?" Ouch!.

How could they relax in the presence of such formality?

My children learned their lessons well. If they were afraid of upsetting their grandmother, the process worked very well.Their children, my grandchildren, are being taught good manners.

Being cautious of being around grandmothers is a good thing if the only fear they have is that they won't demonstrate good manners and their grandmother might raise her eyebrows and give them that look.

One of the easiest social graces anyone can apply is not using profanity. My high school speech teacher, Miss Jessop, and my mother said using profanity was like advertising to the person with whom you are speaking that you have no education and possess a very small vocabulary.

Yes. Cussing has impact. The wrong kind. Don't say anything...anywhere that you wouldn't say in front of a child or your minister or priest.

We used to be a civilization of high attainment.


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