Remembering Momilies

A friend from high school recently posted this former blog post on Facebook so I thought I would send it out again, too. Momilies are timeless! Happy Mother’s Day!

DSC03428I grew up in the South thinking everyone’s mother said, “Katie, bar the door” in times of trouble and “I’ll swan” when something truly amazing happened. On a really busy day, there would be “no flies on us,” and when something was perfectly ready it was “all saucered and blowed” (like you do to hot coffee before you drink it). My mom also described someone who talked all the time as having been “vaccinated with a phonograph needle,” and a braggart was “too big for his britches.”

Now that my mom is gone, I’m glad I have these momilies to remember. Momilies are like homilies but a lot less preachy. They are the gentle bits of advice passed from moms to children and repeated with a frequency that insures their remembrance.

“Rise above it” my mom would say when she was encouraging me not to stoop to someone else’s level. Whether applied to junior high gossip or office politics, this simple three-word phrase always has helped me keep my focus.

“It’ll never show on a galloping horse” was my mom’s version of “don’t sweat the small stuff.” A pimple on the end of your nose the night before the prom? A greasy stain on one of the linen napkins you need for a dinner party? Not to worry. “It’ll never show on a galloping horse.”

In fact, horses were the source of a lot of wisdom. “Don’t put your cart before your horse” was trotted out whenever I impatiently scrambled the logical order of events, and “no sense closing the barn door after the horse gets out” reminded me to think about the consequences of what I was doing before it was too late.

There must have been chickens in the same barn, because I was frequently reminded not to count them before they hatched. (They may have been the same chickens who later ran around with their heads chopped off.)

Young girls coming to terms with their physical appearance need all the support they can get. My sisters and I remember our mom telling us “beauty knows no pain” as we squeezed into too-small patent leather shoes or girdles with garters. But since she was a lot more concerned about our behavior than our beauty, we also daily heard “pretty is as pretty does” and “beauty comes from the inside out.” Little did we know it was her subtle way of teaching us the truth of 1 Peter 3:4 which describes beauty as “a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s eyes.”

Whenever we said we wanted something we didn’t need or couldn’t have, Mom would remind us that “people in jail want out.” It was years before I saw the connection between those people in jail and me. I just knew that whenever they came up, I wasn’t going to get what I wanted!

When it came to wanting all the food I saw in a cafeteria line, Mom would say, “don’t let your eyes be bigger than your stomach”—meaning take only what you can really eat!

That particular momily is one I passed on to my own kids. My son said it was years before he knew what it meant, but he sure thought about the possibility of having eyes that big! Since I also warned him not to “cut his nose off to spite his face,” he worried about his facial features a lot.

Although it was always strange to hear the same momilies my mom used coming out of my mouth, I’m glad I passed them on. After all, she wasn’t “just whistlin’ Dixie.”


  1. Lea Ann says:

    Reading through reminded me of my own mom’s “momilies”!!! The one that really sticks out is “pretty is as pretty does”. Thanks for the memories Nancy!!

  2. Deborah Bliss Turner says:

    This is such a good blog, Nancy! And so fitting for Mother’s Day too. My mother used many of those same momilies too, and so I think about her today and miss her so.

  3. Nancy,

    Delightful! My mom often used just about all those expressions (except for “saucered and blowed”). And we lived in the Bronx, a long way from the South, both geographically and culturally. Thanks for the memories — and the momilies!


  4. Betty Van Liere says:

    Makes me wonder what my kids will remember about me. Hope it’s with as much love as your memories of your mother are to you, Nancy.

  5. Ben Ross says:

    My mother was from Norfolk Virginia, and was an English major. Her version of “It’ll never show on a galloping horse,” was “You don’t see silver saddles on racehorses.” It was usually administered with the quote from Ophelia in Hamlet…th’ glass of fashion and the mould of form, the observed of all observers…” which was to remind me when I was too concerned about how I looked on a particular day that I should be more concerned about my performance than my appearance. Thanks for jogging that memory of a momily.

  6. Jimmie says:

    Did you hear…’keep your eyes pealed’? That used to freek my sister out!
    Then when we were impatient about something, we heard,… ‘just hold your horses’!
    You are right…there is something about horses…then there was ‘ monkey see, monkey do’!!
    I could go on…great blog!

    • Yes! All those, too! There were so many. When my mom turned 90 and we collectively wrote “90 Things We Love About Nana,” there were a lot of momilies on the list!

  7. I was familiar with all of the momilies, Nancy, except “all saucered and blowed”–what a wonderful phrase and meaning! The picture with your mother is beautiful.
    Happy Mother’s Day.

    • Thanks, Marylin. When Mom found out I was marrying Jim, who had two daughters, she said she was getting two granddaughters who were “all saucered and blowed.” He wasn’t sure how to react to that! 🙂

  8. This- as always – was delightful and brought to mind so many sayings from my Mom and Mamaw. Wisdom of the ages.

  9. Linda Mitchell Crawford says:

    Thanks for sharing the momilies! I’ve heard them all and have heard them come from my mouth, too. My husband tells our grandsons all the time that they’ve been “vaccinated with a phonograph needle”. They began to understand a little better after I actually showed them an old phono needle saved in some of my “stuff”! Every Mother’s Day makes me wish I hear one or two momilies just one more time. Happy Mother;s Day to you!

    • I agree, Linda. We are blessed to have moms to remember fondly, but it’s a sad time of year when they are no longer with us. Happy Mother’s Day to you, too!

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