My sister-in-law called my cell phone the other night around 8:30 pm. And my first question after hello: Is everything OK? I don’t know why I jump to the conclusion that people are calling with bad news. It wasn’t midnight; it was 8:30 pm for God’s sake. I do the slightly panicked voice to my husband on occasion. Paul will sometimes offer a preemptive strike if the telephone call is out of the blue: “Nothing is wrong,” but just checking on … Sometimes he calls just to say hi. Imagine that.
In my effort to spend the year acting more like my mother, I have come to discover how much I already act like my mother, in ways big and small. I would never call my mother at an unusual time of day (or at work) without first assuring her that everything is fine. As kids, if one of us was not home and she happened to hear sirens in the distance, she would assume one of us was in a car accident. And now that my oldest daughter drives, I sometimes do the same thing.
But there are little things too. I cut butter the wrong way, just like my mother. I used to think everyone sliced the stick horizontally across the top in a thin layer until a high school friend commented on my unusual technique. I discovered that, in fact, most people cut butter in a vertical motion, as in pats of butter. But old habits are hard to break and I never retrained myself to cut butter the proper way.
Her influence extends far beyond the refrigerator. My kitchen windowsill is lined with glass bottles and usually a few flowers, just like my mother. I keep the dining room table free of clutter. Before a party, I shove things into closets to make the room look neater. There is an abundance of throw pillows on our bed. All very Alice Flynn.
If I come to a sudden stop while driving, I use my arm as an extra seat belt on the occupant in the passenger side. Every time an ambulance races past, I say a prayer for the people inside. My mother taught me that. Whenever I talk to someone on the phone to make a reservation, or ask a question on a bill, I always ask for a name. I don’t like to waste my day by sleeping late.
For good or bad, many of us act like our mothers in more ways than we probably realize or are willing to admit. We have to decide for ourselves what we want to do the same or set out to do differently. I want to worry less than my mother does. But I’m also grateful every day to still have someone so deeply invested in my life.
The other day my mother happened to pick up the phone at the same time as my Dad. She didn’t catch the caller’s name but heard him asking my father about making an appointment to check his fluids. My Dad’s had a tough winter of colds and coughs, but my mother worried why the doctor was calling now? Were they hiding some bad news from her? She kept listening to the conversation as my father scheduled an appointment to come in to have his fluids checked, with the auto mechanic up the street.
My mother couldn’t stop laughing at that one. Neither can I.