My mother was raised in Texas, where they have better manners than in Nebraska, at least they did before 1970. Mom was a teacher before I came along, and she was used to the respect of those younger than her. She always cringed when my friends called her “Carol.” She would have greatly preferred “Mrs. P***,” but none of my grade school friends called her by that name. We all called each other’s mothers by their given names, even Jennifer’s mom, the school bus driver was Kay. I remember addressing the school cooks by Mrs. … except for one, and I knew her outside of school.

When my first baby came along, I made a decision that we would address adults with respect, by adding a title to their names. We call our main babysitter Miss Cindy. It was a good compromise between the official Mrs. M*** name that nobody else’s kids would call her, and yet it set her above all the other Cindys. One of Mae’s early words was “Mih’ Ninny.” Another regular babysitter answers to Miss Kris, and the dance instructor asks to be called Miss Audra. Unfortunately we have let this practice go by the wayside, for those who are not in authority. I am not even sure we could resurrect it.

I don’t suppose my children will refer to my friends as Miss Lois or Miss Coryn, I am not sure my friends would like that. But for myself, it sure makes addressing an older person easier; I would feel more comfortable calling someone Miss Lillian than just plain old Lillian. I guess I don’t often come upon an occasion to call an older man by his first name, but Mister Larry sounds ok. Thinking back on it, we had a minister from the south for a while, and she also called her older parishioners by Miss and Mister. You know it just sounds nice.

As I got older my mother began teaching again in the same high school that I ultimately attended, and all my new friends called her Mrs. P***, making her happy.