Wednesday, June 07, 2006


waitressing shoes

There are two phrases that sends unsuspecting googlers (a word that suggests waddling duck-like creatures with excessively long necks, huge eyes, and oversized shopping bags) to my site on a daily basis. The first is "Waitressing Shoes." I doubt this overworked pair with the conspicuous hole in the bottom is what they're looking for, but hey, I appreciate the traffic.

Googlers also come looking for their "family motto." Lured by a post I wrote about the unwritten philosophy, the secret mantra that underlies every family, they show up nearly every day. Once again, my personal rant is not what they had in mind.

What they want is something official, the kind of thing that would appear on a coat- of-arms or a family crest. At first, I ignored them, but when the family motto folks continued to show up day after day, searching for the elusive phrase they could hang over the door and tell the world who they are, I decided they might be onto something.

I began to wonder how I'd gotten this far without knowing my own family motto. Maybe that was where everything had gone wrong. If only I knew the meaning of my name, the mission of my clan, my whole life might have turned out differently...

So I stretched out my neck, opened my eyes really wide, grabbed my tote bag, and started my own search. It wasn't Francis that I was searching for. No, what I wanted was the motto for my birth name.

Unfortunately, my name, which I shed at a young age through marriage, was the kind that provided infinite fodder for childhood teasing and adolescent self-consciousness. But now, after living more years without it than I did with it, I sometimes miss it. Not enough to take it back, of course, but enough to feel a certain tinge of regret when I hear it spoken aloud. And no, I'm not telling you what it is. (I didn't get married at nineteen for nothing.)

What I will tell you is my family motto: TRUE VIRTUE RELIES ON ITS OWN ARMS.

Hmm...Very interesting, though I can't say I like it much. In fact, I don't even get it. Does it mean my clan was stockpiling clubs and stones in case the neighbors dropped by? Or does it imply that the virtuous require no weapons? (I prefer the more philosophical reading, but somehow don't think that's what the clan had in mind.)

I think I'll stick to the motto that's currently over our door at home: PEACE TO ALL WHO ENTER HERE.


Sharon Hurlbut said...

Come on, you can share your family name. After all, it can't be worse than the one I willingly took when I got married!

Interesting motto. I haven't a clue what it means, either.

Kay Cooke said...

I used to know our family motto - but keep forgetting it! So that's not a lot of help!

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's an advantage to have such a cryptic motto? It's full of possibilities; you can endow it with what it means for you.

I wonder which sense of 'arms' might be pertinent — I too prefer the meaning implied by your second interpretation. If so, one interpretation might be similar to the idea that actions are more important than words.

And that's a beautiful blessing over your door, Patry. I'm sure it also applies to all who leave there as well.

Melly said...

Funny, I couldn't understand what you're talkinga about weapons for because I took the meaning of the first motto quite differently. I like it.
If I had to invent my own family motto, it would probably be - Have Fun!

Anonymous said...

Can you point me in the direction of the original post you wrote that sounds very interesting.

My family motto, is I'm told Semper Fidelis, which translated I think means always faithful. Though what I don't understand is why an Irish Galway/Mayo family going back to at least 12th cent would have a motto in Latin, at a time when the lingua franca was Gaelige.

Anonymous said...

I think your family motto is a paean to self-sufficiency, and that it also means your own hard work is your clearest path to a good life. But what do I know? My people lived in Eastern European villages and ghettos and had no family mottos. :)

Anonymous said...

I loved reading this. When we first had children I read a book called, "The seven habits of highly successful families" and one of the chapters talked about having a family motto. I loved the idea and so we have always had one. Nothing philosophical like the one you found, but one that comes from our your door one.
Great read.
My maiden name was Andrea Storm which I have always thought sounded like a porn stars name. :)

Fred Garber said...

I liked this post. Half of the people who come to my blog have googled " How to Eat Pho". Pho is a popular Vietnamese soup. I think our family motto was "Steal the rich man's apples but do not get caught. If you are accused keep your mouth shut". Well, something like that.

robin andrea said...

I took my first husband's name when we were married and had that name for ten years. When we divorced I went back to my maiden name, and kept even after marrying dpr. I love having my original name back. It's a connection to my old self. No family motto though.

MB said...

Ah, but consider that the pen is a mightier weapon than the sword, dear Patry, and then that family motto just might take on a new meaning in your case?

Spes et fides or Hope and Faith, is my family's motto according to what I just looked up.

Patry Francis said...
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Patry Francis said...

sharon: Creative grammar school or middle-school kids could probably have some fun with your name, but until you mentioned it, I never considered the possibilities. I had the kind of name that even adults commented on. I dedicated my novel to my parents though, using the name, of which my dad was always very proud, so it will come out in the end...I can almost picture you sniggering in the book store when you open the cover. (How's that for clever promotion? Anything to get you to pick up that book...)

chiefbiscuit: I had to consult a notebook where I'd recorded my motto before I wrote this post...

pohanginapete: Ah! You've pinpointed
the real challenge: it's not how visitors feel when they enter the house, it's how they feel when they leave. Somehow, your comments always make me dig a little deeper.

melly: maybe that's why I always leave your site smiling. The fun is infectious.

ainelivia: After reading your comment, I added a link to the original post in the text. Thanks for asking!

I don't know how far back the use of Latin goes in church history, or if old family mottos predate Christianity in Ireland, but it's possible that explains why your motto was in Latin. In any case, it's a good one.

sara: I can almost hear your hard- working Eastern European forbears speaking through your interpretation. If you define "arms" as power, it makes sense.

andrea: It's great that you found something in a book that you still use in your family. So often I read books like that, heartily agree with them, but then forget to implement any of their suggestions.

Andrea Storm. It's very visual. Maybe that'w why you became a painter?

Fred: Being a highly suggestible type, I now must immediately find out how to eat pho. I'm getting my googler's face on right now.

As for your motto about the apples, maybe that's what mine means, too. It fits!

Patry Francis said...
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rdl said...

I love yr. birth name and yr. over the door family motto. where do i find my family motto - is there a website??

Anonymous said...

Actually, Patry, literalist that I am, I took "arms" to mean actual arms, like the things with hands on the end, those appendages of ours that do all the work of our lives and lead us into trouble, or into virtue. "Idle hands are the devil's workshop." But busy arms wielding hands full of tools, arms that build things for themselves instead of waiting for others to come and do for them, as well as those that hold loved ones close, those (I think, per your family motto) are arms that can be relied on and lead virtuous lives. It's sort of like saying you don't depend on anyone else's opinion of you. You do your own work, and you achieve your own virtue.

I don't know. Maybe I'm overthinking this. Maybe it's closer to "Dieu et mon droit."

Patry Francis said...

robin andrea: I understand the impulse to have one's own name, the one that connects you to your family and your past. A couple of reasons I stuck with Francis after I was divorced from my first husband: my two oldest kids wanted me to have the same name they did, and I had begun to accumulate some writing credits under that name. Since my first husband was a Passamaquoddy Indian, it wasn't his "real" name either, but one his family had adopted because they admired the saint. Thus it is something of a chosen name--both for them and for me.

mb: Find me a bluebird seems like another way of saying Faith and Hope. Maybe our blog names are our new mottos?

r: Thanks for liking the old name. Only a true friend could love it...

sara: Yours is a beautiful interpretation, and like many of our ways of seeing, probably says more about you than it does about the motto.

Sky said...

i got such a chuckle out of this. oh, i soooo agree with sara...i interpreted it to mean: true virtue needs nothing but self- sufficiency and independence - no one and nothing else - to shine!

i enjoy my visits here so much, patry! :)

Anonymous said...
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Patry Francis said...

Thanks, Sky. I enjoy your visits as well. xo

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine recently visited Ireland and returned gifting me with my family plaque and Motto. I was indeed thrilled and touched.

Patry Francis said...

Coll: Maybe you'll write a post about it? Or at least come back and tell me what the motto is.