A proper woman raises proper children
At least my mother felt this to be true
Good comportment signifies good breeding—
Upright, refined, above the common herd
Unpolished shoes and scruffy knees were slipshod
Unbrushed hair, dirt-rimmed nails a pure disgrace
She taught us by instruction and example
The niceties of life, the golden rules
Of etiquette and dress and right behavior—
Words we heard deep into our sleep:
Be prompt Be courteous Be obedient
Stand straight Don’t interrupt Enunciate
Brother nodded, then did whatever pleased him
I argued back, but dared not disobey
So when they called us last week from Assisted Living
To report she’d rung the fire alarm at 3 am
Calling out two fire trucks and a rescue vehicle,
Causing the evening staff to evacuate
Fifteen feeble residents into the winter night,
I was shocked embarrassed dismayed.
Mother, why? I asked. Whatever were you thinking?
She pulled herself up straight and raised her chin.
“I’m tired of being told what to do and when to do it–
When to eat, when to dress, when to go to bed.
All their rules–they treat us like we’re children!”
Amazed, I looked and saw a well-bred child
Who’d taken 90 years of living to rebel.