There is a post going around on Facebook, “Things your mother should have told you,” and I can’t get it out of my head. From the title of the post, I expected advice such as how to get bullies to stop picking on you, how to be strong and graceful, and how to figure out what you want and go after it while keeping your compassion and consideration for others. Instead, it was a list of silly household tips such as how to clean a toilet using Alka-Seltzer, how to soften hard brown sugar, and how to get glossy piecrusts. Really? These are the things our mothers should have told us? Why?
Perhaps in a nineteen-sixties television show where mother is always home, always perfectly dressed and coifed, always cool tempered with a wry smile for the shenanigans of her family, always ready with the perfect solution to any household problem, then of course, these mothers should have told their children such things because it was all they knew. But who lived like that? No mother I’ve ever known has had the time to pass down such inanities, especially nowadays when mothers are more apt to be heading corporations or running their own businesses than staying home and having passels of children. (And the stay-at-home moms have plenty of work to do without worrying about passing on such inane tips.)
Besides, today we have Google. If you want to find out how to keep an ice cream cone from dripping, you don’t have to get the information handed down to you from your mother or from a list of things she should have told you — you can Google it, though I can’t imagine why anyone would want to. (Apparently, dripping ice cream cones is a hot issue. I just Googled “how to keep an ice cream cone from dripping” and got 220,000 results.)
Perhaps the list of things your mother should have told you is a leftover from the nineteen-sixties television show era — some of the tips are rather outdated. For example, one of the things she should have told you is that if you want to see if an egg is fresh, drop it in a pan of cool salted water. If it sinks to the bottom, it’s fresh. Frankly, if I want to see if an egg is fresh, I simply look on the egg carton for the expiration date. The few times I have bought eggs fresh from the farm, I had to trust the person selling me the eggs since at the time I wasn’t carrying around a pot of cool salted water.
I think what bothered me most about the list is that it assumed a mother’s place is only in the home, collecting such tips. Can you see Margaret Thatcher, Indira Ghandi, or Hilary Clinton giving their children such tips? Can you see them caring enough about a little leftover wine to freeze it and use it later, let alone take time out from running a country or a constituency to tell their children about it? Can you see them carrying around a bit of raw potato to remove unsightly food stains from their manicured hands? Or worrying about removing burnt-on food from a pan?
There are many important things our mothers should have told us, but using air freshener to clean mirrors is not one of them.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.