What matters

How did the formal wear of my mother’s
generation decay into the shabbiness
of my own? Never would she leave
for mass in less than a dress, good shoes,
hair done, a hat and gloves, a handkerchief
tucked into her purse.

She would, I think, like me to dress her
more properly now: to weed her plot,
trim the grass, plant some small bright
flowers, clean the headstone. Not to beautify
her—she’s beyond all that—but to adorn me
with my actions. To her it did not matter
what you wore, its how you wore
what you were that mattered.

Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, my generation took pride in ridiculing the 50’s as a time of great hypocrisy covered in a thin veneer of  politeness and decorum…a world in which racism was rampant (and it was), where war was considered romantic (it isn’t and wasn’t), where women were considered—if they were considered at all—subservient (big mistake that one) and where the overall, arching impetus of life was to show a perfect front, never mind the misery that was behind the facade.

Thus did the Flower Power generation excuse their own excesses as ‘breaking out’, ‘being free’ and ‘letting it all hang out’. Politeness and ‘the proper way’ became stock characters of silliness and hypocrisy. And yes, while the times they were a changin’—and there were things that needed to be changed—I have long given up the belief that everything that went out the door with the bathwater should have been got rid of.

From the ‘high’ of politics (i.e. publicly visible) to the ‘low’ of everyday interaction, rudeness rules. And the motto of the entertainment industry is, if it’s disgusting, slutty, petty or mean, it stars!

Courtesy is free and yet priceless. So is honesty, trustworthiness, humility, justice and kindness. And I’m greedy, I want them all.

Thank you for reading What matters. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.


© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.


Filed under Poetry

3 responses to “What matters

  1. John, I have not heard from you in a while. Of course I have not written to you either. I really like this poem, so different and straight forward from some of your others. I could make some few minor suggestions if you would like to entertain them.>KB

  2. John, did you do this on purpose to get me back for the post about my kids? This is so beautiful, I read it and it moved directly into my heart. Thank you Sir. Kim.

    • Kim,

      No, never to get you back, but to compare my post with yours on your children is a very sweet compliment. Thank you! I am glad you like this one. My sister loved it too, and that was really special to me also.