At one time I was convinced that my mom could fix anything. When I was small and a toy broke, I would bypass my dad and hand it to my mom, informing her that she needed to fix it. Occasionally she laughed at me, but usually that’s exactly what she did. Mom is a genius at patching torn clothing, she’s got a steady hand when using super glue, and that set of car jacks in the pantry are hers.
But then I got older and learned how to mend my own clothes, that super glue can’t fix silver jewelry, and that my dad knows how to rewire ceiling fans while my mom does not. In other words, I learned that my mother was not always the answer. So by the time I received a welcome package from my seminary, advising, “Don’t call your mother from the grocery store to ask her which kind of pasta to buy,” I just laughed. I read it to my mom, and she chuckled too. At seventeen we both knew that I was capable of picking my own pasta – as well as everything else. My parents are excellent sources, and they taught me to be an excellent source for myself.
After I left home, I did call my mom – sometimes even from the grocery store. But I never asked her what I should be buying, where I should be going, or what I should be doing. We talked about what I had bought, where I planned to go, and what was happening in our lives. Sometimes I called her for advice, such as when my finger swelled to twice its normal size. Mom correctly diagnosed me – without a full list of symptoms – and told me to go to the doctor’s office for a prescription. But usually she told me about what she was cooking, who in the family was getting sick and/or getting better, and great articles she’d clip for me from the local paper.
When to came to things like how much to tip my apartment super, I asked someone in my building. If I couldn’t figure out where the grocery store shelved the popcorn, I asked the store manager. When I had to select a new health plan, I read through all the paperwork myself. I knew my mom – and dad – would help me if I needed it, but I didn’t. I – as my mother frequently tells me – am an independent woman.
But every now and then there’s something I’m just not ready for. Something I don’t know how to handle. And then I do the first thing that comes to mind, which is call my mom.
That’s what I was doing when my roommate walked into the kitchen to find me staring intently at the kitchen electrical sockets as I pulled plugs in and out of them. As I listened to the phone ring, I told my roommate that it looked like a fuse blew, but my other roommate claimed it hadn’t, so I was calling my mom for wiring help. I didn’t mention that I’ve never seen my mom rewire anything. But even without that information, she sighed dramatically. “Oh, come on,” she snapped at me. “Really? Here, you flip the switches and I’ll watch”
When I had attempted to use the toaster oven that morning and found it wasn’t working I had gone through all the preliminary steps. I reset the sockets. I plugged and unplugged the toaster. I asked people if they’d blown one of the kitchen fuses. I flipped through the fuses in the fusebox – but I couldn’t see the kitchen fuses as I tested each one. When I was done, the socket still didn’t work. On the upside I did learn that the fuse box mislabeled every single fuse. At that point I’d given up and dialed my mom. But the roommate – an independent woman if there ever was one – was having none of it.
So, I turned on every light and appliance I could find and started flipped switches, with the roommate keeping an eye on the toaster. On the last set of switches, we heard heard a SNAP. My roommate, who’d gotten bored since I relabeled every fuse as we figured it out, was checking her phone. She claimed she’d seen a light go on in the toaster. I ran through the last set of fuses again, slowly. The third to last one solved our problem – and the toaster oven was back in action.
Independence earned and problem solved.