Growing up, I was fascinated by my grandmother’s collection of American flags and pins, along with a file stuffed full of papers peppered with strange words like immigration, naturalization, and Oath of Allegiance. A Canadian immigrant, this patriotic memorabilia served as symbols of her US citizenship. Her roots were in Prince Edward Island, but you’d never know that she was anything but a transplanted Bostonian—Charlestown to be exact. She was a brass lady, proper and etiquette-wielding, but also possessing the ability to put you in your place if necessary. Curse words were said under your breath, not through clenched teeth. And if a life lesson could be taught, there was no need to teach someone “a lesson.”
She was full of worldly and practical advice. For me, the greatest lesson I ever learned from her was that burning bridges will get you drowned. I learned this lesson when I was quick to leave someone hanging rather than owning up to a situation and doing the right thing. I learned this lesson when I viewed someone as insignificant and inferior, as opposed to someone who was just different. I learned this lesson when those I called “friends” suddenly turned into my worst enemies. And I learned this lesson early-on in my childhood. Burning bridges will INDEED get you drowned.
My grandmother put variations on the phrase depending on the circumstances. The one that has really had a lasting impact: Never get so big for your britches that you start burning bridges. It’s the bridges that get you over the rough waters. When the world is falling down around you, it’s people who can pull you from the rubble and help you get back on your feet. You never know who these people might be, so treat those who deserve it with dignity and respect. I’m not religious, but do unto others comes to mind.
Sadly, I’ve seen many people get too big for their britches. With new-found wealth, power, or influence, they no longer want to be bothered with the “little people,” or those who might possibly tarnish their flawless reputations. They leave friends and family behind, scoffing at their seemingly substandard ways of life. These might be the same people they have come to rely on over the years; the same people that, should the waters become rough, would cast them a lifeline.
My grandmother was a simple woman, but I’m sure she would have maintained bridges even if notoriety had come into her life. She enjoyed love far beyond her immediate family. In our community, she was cherished as the neighborhood “Grammie.” She kept in constant and close contact with friends and relatives in Prince Edward Island and Massachusetts. Her handwritten notes were lovingly penned.
I can only aspire to be the woman she once was. I’ll hang onto her lessons, and try to keep my bridges intact. So far, so good. How about you?
Look for more motherly lessons in my upcoming book, Only Trollops Shave Above the Knee!