“You better mend your ways, young man!” I can still hear the exact tone and the pitch of voice my mother used. Sometimes she’d deploy the phrase in humor. But mostly when she suspected that I was about to commit some impertinent gaff in the company’s presence.
My mother was a gracious host and wanted the entire house in good trim for any visitation from family or friends. So I’d be deployed with the vacuum cleaner to get under furniture, rugs, and wayward crevices.
My father may have been the mariner, but she was the martinet commander of the apartment. Woe is to any who disobeyed the order to turn to and sweep the deck – clean sweep down fore and aft.
We were typical New York City apartment, dwellers. Two bedrooms, kitchen, bath, and a living room. There was a wide corridor in the middle that we called the dining room: no entry, no mudroom, and no office space. The kitchen was so narrow that only one person could fit in it.; Cooking for large holiday meals was challenging.
My mother contended that in small spaces, minor blemishes became magnified. So Louis had better do a good job. Mother wanted no slurs from visiting in-laws.
Even a tiny stare at a minuscule defect could bring down a “You better mend your ways, young man!”
Mothers. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them!