When our youngest daughter and her family moved into their new house, she told her older sister and me that we weren’t to boss her around, try to tell her how to decorate, where to put the furniture or how to organize the kitchen.
Naturally, I was deeply wounded. Then I did what any mother would do. I hid the dozen paint chips I had selected from the hardware store deep in my purse. I demurely agreed that I would not try to boss her around, although I may have had my fingers crossed behind my back.
She said, “You both try to tell me what to do because I’m the baby in the family.”
To which we simultaneously responded, “But you are the baby!”
I assured her nobody was pushing her around because she was the youngest, then made the mistake of saying, “Sweetie, did you know vinegar in the wash cycle will get the mildew smell out of towels?”
I may also have said, “Honey, are you sure you don’t want a table protector cover of some sort on that nice new table?”
And, “I see the baby is fascinated with that electrical outlet. You have safety plugs, right?”
Followed by, “You want me to use some window cleaner on those patio doors?”
Her sister refused to give in to the demand to refrain from directing the big move-in. She believed that she was qualified to direct, noting she has moved seven times and knows a thing or two about expediting the process.
Confronted with the undeniable truth that her older sister did have considerable experience with moving, the younger sister weakened and said her older sister could offer one suggestion a week, which was tantamount to opening a dam and trusting the water to stay put.
Well, then we both started bossing with shouts of, “No, don’t put that piece on that wall! Put it over there on that wall!”
“You put the cereal where?”
“No, no, no, the cleaning supplies should be…”
“Did you really want the trash can where the baby could… where’s the broom?”
I suppose you can see why we were virtually banned from the house until she had unpacked everything on her own, although to this day neither of us can comprehend why our overbearing advice, opinions and directions were deemed unnecessary.
The funny thing is, even without either of us present, her kitchen is set up like our kitchens, which were set up like my mother’s kitchen. Kitchen organization, consciously or not, is often passed from one generation to the next.
All of which reminds me of a story about a young bride cutting off the end of the ham before she baked it in the oven. Her husband asked why she did that and she said, “Because that’s the way my mother always did it.”
One day the young bride asked her mother why she cut off the end of the ham before cooking it. Her mother said, “Because that was the only way it would fit in the pan.”
Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Reach her at email@example.com.