Member's Anthology

“Hello?”

“G’morning! You busy?” It’s my mother phoning from New York.

“No, just sitting here with my Organic Sumatran,” I reply.

“You want to phone me back when he leaves?” she whispers.

“It’s coffee, Ma, not a fella.”

“Oh. Well, I’m always hopeful.”

I sigh. “I know.”

“I thought I’d give you a call before the garden club meeting.” She pauses. “You sound tired. Everything okay?”

“How can I sound tired when I haven’t really said anything yet?” I immediately regret my petulance. “I’m just weary of the job thing is all. Starting over at 47 is not a picnic by the river, you know?”


She’s quiet for a moment, and I realize I’ve given her the setup line with which she could launch into an “I told you so” the size of Manhattan. Something along the lines of “You’d have to have started once to start over.” But that would have been more my father’s speed actually, back when he still remembered me.

“Last week you sounded so positive about that last interview. Now you’ve changed your mind?” she asks.

“I think so. I’m not sure yet.”

I am famous in my family for indecision and false starts, a condition that hasn’t changed much over the years. I traded the potential security of a nice home and building a family with Jimmy Lukovits for traveling the world and following my dreams. Only I’ve had a lot of dreams, and none of them led to the same destination. As a result I’m rich with stories to tell, and that’s about all.

“What’s the issue?” Mom asks. “Maybe I can help you with it.”

“Well, they haven’t made any offers yet but I’m beginning to think the compensation is not going to be enough.”

“Don’t drive to the numbers, Honey. When you drive to the numbers, you lose track of the bigger meaning for you.”

Don’t drive to the numbers? “Ma, I owe the Feds and Visa a down payment on a house! You want me to deny reality?”

“I’m suggesting you redefine your reality.”

I am speechless. Is this my mother? Or is she channeling some being from another dimension? When did she become so confident? So philosophical?

As if reading my mind, she says, “I’ve been watching Dr. Phil and learning quite a bit.”

“Good for you, Mom.”

“Reading a lot more too, now that your father is in the nursing home,” she continues. “And when you do what you love, the money will follow.”

Yep. She’s been reading all right.

“Do what you love. I am learning that love is a completely unemotional state of being,” I tell her, erroneously.

“It’s also a verb,” she reminds me. “How have the interviews been going?”

“Okay, I guess.” I feel sheepish. “I mean, I tell them what I tell them and then they go about doing their background check, which is probably where I fall off their radar since I don’t have much of a background. So now I’ve been telling them everything at the beginning.”

“And then expecting them to call you back for a second interview? That’s like throwing a surprise party for a psychic,” Mom says.

“Now you’re being critical.” I feel defensive.

“It’s an observation, Honey, not an accusation. Think about this,” she suggests. “When you communicate in these interviews, how much of what you say is to convey information, and how much of it is to create an impression?”

I’m quiet as I let this question sink in.

“Your tendency is to tell people everything. That’s like revealing how much money you have in the bank. Keep some things to yourself,” she says.

I feel like I’m 13.

“And be honest,” she adds. “Don’t embellish your history to make up for something you feel ashamed of.”

I know she is referring to the time I told Mrs. Glastone that I went to college for 4 years, implying that I have a 4-year degree, when in fact it took me 4 years to complete a 3-year program, a fact I conveniently left out.

“And you think too much about all this, Honey,” she adds.

“Yes, yes. I know.”

“You want my advice?” she asks.

“Yeah.”

“Thirty seconds, yes or no,” she says.

“Yes, Ma, I said I want to hear your advice.”

“That is my advice. Thirty seconds, yes or no.”

I’m stupefied. “Wha... What does that mean?”

“It means that in any situation, if you rely on your deepest instinct, within 30 seconds you’ll have your answer.”

I suddenly envision myself on a game show, with the theme music from Jeopardy going through my head as I reach for the buzzer, with Mom standing behind the podium where Alex Trebek would be.

“That’s it? That’s your advice?”

“Go with your gut and get out of your head. Thirty seconds, yes or no. But there’s one catch,” she adds.

“What’s that, Ma?” I ask, sounding tired to myself this time.

“You don’t get to second-guess yourself once you’ve chosen. You just move on to the next thing, and the next, and let go of what has already been decided. You don’t get to have any self-doubt.”

I hear her doorbell in the background.

“Oh, I have to go now, Honey. The ladies are arriving for the meeting,” she says. “I love you so much!”

“Love you too, Mom.”

Thirty seconds, yes or no. She’s been reading and watching Dr. Phil, but this credo sounds like Kate through and through. Get out of your head and go with your gut. It worked beautifully for Kate in her work as the general manager of Vito’s, one of the busiest restaurants in the city, where snap decisions were the rule. Hire this one? No. Fire this one? Yes. Comp these crabby people their meal? Yes. Kate was flawless in her execution of this strategy. It was a perfect method for life, actually. Kate’s life. Mrs. Jimmy Lukovits.