“All the world is a stage”… This phrase was uttered upon many instances in my life while growing up, and even as an adult. Perhaps it was a patch when she didn’t have the right words to say, or it was mentioned to mediate a difficult moment. “Oh, Hells Bells” would always follow and then she would talk to me about what she meant. Who do you think is looking or judging you as a person, in any instance, any place, anywhere? If one were to perceive what you look like or what you are doing, you should make sure that whatever it is you are doing it better be to the best of your ability. One of the last things Mom said to my sister was to tell your sister (me) to wear lipstick for Pete’s sake! My sister couldn’t believe that the last thing Mom said to her was for my benefit.
I do believe that Mom’s world stage phrase has something also to do with moods, because she used to tell me when I was sad or upset to camouflage my inner feeling, don’t let on that someone got to you, just put a smile on your face and let those mean words roll off your back, because you are on that stage of life, and it is what you present and what you represent that the world is noticing.
I realized much later in life that Mom’s way of living was upon that very stage that she preached about. Everything she did was for the artistic effect and if there was an audience even if it was just one person, Dad, or any of us siblings or cousins, and friends, she would make sure that her stage was properly put together, whether it was what she wore, her makeup, how the house looked, and, just for the sake of an example, even down to the table setting would be a masterpiece. She always put fresh flowers, not just in a vase, but each flower would be placed in its stem holder (frog, as she called it) and arranged with upper levels, series of colors, heights, and the end result was exquisite. Some flower arrangements were demur, just white flowers, large and small, placed within a silver bowl and these became the centerpiece on the table or on the side table. Sometimes the flower colors corresponded to the linen tablecloth or even they contrasted in such a magical way that one perceived a hierarchy of colors, twigs, depending on the themes and seasons. She knew what colors worked and whether the flowers needed to portray a bit of grandiose flair or to be sedate. There was a certain art with the table décor and place settings, napkins in napkin rings, tiny salt savors, with tinier spoons, and pepper grinders at strategic places on the table. Silverware was arranged according to how many dinner courses. Not to mention that she presided at her dinner table with such “joie de vivre” and it was a treat to sit at her staged table, with the finesse of such décor and set as though the Queen was coming to dine.
“It is not what you know, it is who you know,” was another one of her favorite phrases, and this went hand in hand with her infinite wisdom. So while you are on that stage of life, putting out that positive energy, getting on with business, working and putting one foot in front of the other, she always said, it is “who you know that will make your business grow.” It all goes back to that phrase about “all the world is a stage” and while you are out there making impressions on people it is the ones who really take notice about how you handle yourself in all situations. Your stage is either going to make you or break you. I think that her profound wisdom phrases and chats were what saved me in many instances.
“Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.” In variably I heard this time and time again too. She used to tell me how stubborn I was and perhaps she was right. I really was stubborn, and maybe I still am to this day. I wanted to do things my way or not at all. Perhaps that is why her retort was, in those instances, to get me to look at another perspective and then she would make me write down why I wanted something one way and then to present it to her. Years later I came across a file in her desk drawer with what to some people would consider to be letters to her, but in actuality they were gifts of words that she made me write down all of my thoughts, which focused me on what I wanted and how to go about getting what I wanted. These little notes made me realize that there is a purpose to everything and Mom (and Dad too) had a hand in making me see that it was important to focus on being the best I can be, but also to look at all possibilities and consequences before making decisions, because what we do affects so many parts, pieces, and hearts — all the world is a stage.
Oh and her last parting thoughts in our chats, always ended with, “As one door closes, another opens“ echoed by Dad, “so true, so true.”
Copyright Helen Holden-Gladsky 2010