What is Mother’s Day without fondly remembering the times when our mothers were looking out for our best interests? Mrs. Bennet certainly took great pains to ensure the future happiness of all of her daughters. When Jane asked for the carriage to visit the Bingley sisters, Mrs. Bennet replied, “No, my dear, you had better go on horseback, because it seems likely to rain; and then you must stay all night.” Always thinking ahead, that Mrs. B. And she wasn’t wrong, was she?
To celebrate Mother’s Day this year, I have collected some wisdom bestowed on me and my friends by our dear mothers.
On marriage prospects…
• When you get on the plane, you have to be nice if there is a man sitting next to you. He might be single and marry you.
• The entire family is going to fast for one meal every day until you find someone and get married.
• After receiving an email saying I was dating someone, her response was, “I’m so happy! I’ve been praying for this for so long!”
On personal safety…
• No, you can’t go to the New Kids on the Block concert. If you were to go to a concert, you’d probably stand up on a chair to see better. Then you might fall off the chair and break you neck!
• Whatever you do, don’t try on clothes in a Parisian boutique. If you do, you will be abducted and sold into white slavery in Saudi Arabia! I read about it in a magazine.
On the lack of hardiness of subsequent generations…
• Your Great Grandmother Lizzy would wipe her arse with a broken gin bottle.
On becoming a lady of musical accomplishment…
• Don’t bother playing those country songs. Just scream rock ‘n’ roll and kick up your leg and shake your bum!
On the importance of an heir…
• Just get pregnant, you don’t have to get married. I want great grandchildren.
• What? Why would you adopt? You don’t know where that baby came from! If you can’t find a husband, just go out and get pregnant. (Note: This occurred when I was in my 30s.)
On appropriate clothing…
Happy American Mother’s Day, everyone! (British Mother’s Day, or Mothering Sunday, as it’s endearingly known, was over a month ago.) I suppose love of Austen often goes along with love of word games. At least this is the case with my own Austen-lovin’ mama. And when you have to combine your knowledge of Austen with your word game skillz, that’s the best. So, for the slightly procrastinary, here are some Mother’s Day gift options. For the non-procrastinary, I’m sure dads love Austen too!
Pocket Posh® Jane Austen: The six or so varieties of word games in this pretty little volume range from easy to moderately challenging. If you have any knowledge of Austen, some of the puzzles are so easy as to be pointless. However, some, like the word searches, occupy one’s time pleasantly, and others, like the codewords and criss crosses, do require some thought. There are a few quizzes on Austen’s life and books, and these questions vary in difficulty too. I was disappointed, though, that in the crosswords (which have British-style grids), the clues don’t have anything to do with Jane Austen—the Austen connection is usually a set of shaded squares to fill in. Only a few of the puzzles require you to combine Austen-fu with word game prowess. But I would recommend this book to any Austen lover who, say, can’t usually solve the New York Times Sunday crossword.
I would love to see an all-Austen-clued American crossword somewhere. Does anyone know of one? This online Jane Austen Crossword Puzzle has Austen clues, but a British grid.
Speaking of online word games, the Jane Austen Word Search Game is rather hypnotic.
Back in bookland, there’s also the Jane Austen Quiz and Puzzle Book, though this is from 1982, and I don’t have a copy. It sounds pretty cool though. According to Abson Books, “there is one crossword for each Jane Austen novel, all clues being quotations; similarly with the ‘name games’. In addition there are 3 ‘word search’ puzzles together with 13 quizzes on all aspects of Jane Austen’s world.”
But I think my next Austen/word game purchase might be So You Think You Know Jane Austen, A Literary Quizbook. This seems like a literary scavenger hunt of a book. Speaking of which, I see there’s been at least one Austen Internet Scavenger Hunt, but I’d love to do a real-life Austen scavenger hunt, like the Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt, but in Bath and connected to Jane Austen. Has this happened? It needs to!
Or, you know, you could just play Austen-themed Scrabble with your mom. I think that would be quite hard enough.
On this special day, I’d like to thank you for introducing me to many fine authors throughout my childhood, all of them sarcastic, most of them British, and one of them Jane Austen!
I’d also like to thank you for not being a Jane Austen mother. I’d like to thank you for not giving me away in childhood, like Fanny Price’s mother (and thank goodness you didn’t have to). I’d like to thank you for not sitting on the sofa playing with your pug dog while my evil aunt ruined my childhood, ala Lady Bertram. And I’m certainly glad you didn’t die in my formative years like Mrs. Woodhouse and Lady Elliot. Though, if you had been like Lady Susan, I might have wanted you to! Most of all, I’m glad you didn’t try to force me into marrying my own cousin, because he may be cute like Mr. Darcy or ugly like Mr. Collins, but either way, EWW! You haven’t even been explaining all about my love life to anyone who would listen, like the amiable Mrs. Bennet. Geez, Mom, how do you expect me to get a husband, anyway?!
That’s right, you didn’t ever pressure me one way or another. Like Mrs. Dashwood, you were always supportive but discreet, respecting my privacy. It’s just lucky Mr. Fitzpatrick didn’t turn out to be the Willoughby type. (For the record, gentle readers, Mom’s reaction to my announcement that I was getting married was, “Do I know him?” Sarcastic through and through, that’s my aged relative!)
To the other mothers out there: take a moment to reflect on your behavior. Have you emulated any of Jane Austen’s mothers? If so, which ones? Because if you’ve taught your daughters to read Jane Austen (and I hope you have), they’ll know how to deal with you!
Likewise, daughters, thank your mothers for any non-cousin-marrying behavior. It’s hard to be a mother, so they tell me, and Jane Austen certainly showed us how low the bar could go.
So, Mom, happy Mother’s Day! I hope you enjoy our traditional out-loud reading of “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses” by Mark Twain. We can certainly follow it up with some P. G. Wodehouse or Jane Austen if you want!
Your loving daughter,
Photo credit: ©2009 Heather Dever. All rights reserved.