Ever since he was a toddler, my son has been famous for saying, “I’ll do it myself.” I love that about him. Still, sometimes you just have to let your mother be a mother.
A junior in college, he was working on a short film for school and had slept three winks in four weeks. Between his own project, helping on his friend’s projects, full-time classes, and an internship, something had to give, and as usual, it was sleep. He was on his umpteenth cold and so, being his mom, and being 1400 miles away and unable to bring him chicken soup, I asked how I could help. He said he was fine, didn’t need any, and proceeded to cough loudly into the phone.
Several days later, during a brief call about a truck rental he needed to make and his plans to fund the rental himself, I offered to feed the crew for the upcoming three-day shoot. “How?” he asked. “I’ll figure it out,” I said. There was a brief pause, before his father chimed in: “Let Mom help you with this. She’s really good at it, and that way you can focus on all the other millions of things you have to do to pull this off.”
“One of the crew doesn’t eat red meat,” my son said, “and one of the cast members is a vegan and lactose intolerant. And nothing fancy, except the last meal, if we could make it nicer – you know, the wrap dinner, I want to say thanks to everyone,” he said.
“Got it,” I said. “Just send me the schedule and locations, and I’ll send you a list each day so you know what’s coming and from whom.” I heard some rustling then a clearing of his throat.
And so it began. I hadn’t lived in New York for thirty years, but it all came rushing back the moment I started calling restaurants — the sound of employees juggling calls and crowds and staff. I got the lowdown on rules about payment options, about delivery fees, and about minimum orders. I inquired about the best times to place an order, triple-checked addresses, clarified Greek and Asian and Italian menu items, and typed it all up. I even color-coded. In retrospect, nobody understood the colors except me, but no matter – I was in the groove.
Two days before the filming began, I started ordering and kept a copy of the schedule with me at all times, along with phone numbers to make sure the meals were on their way. I spoke with Jay, with Omar, with Manuel and many others. They all listened politely, responded politely. At the end of each order, they asked for my contact phone number. I began with mine, then added my sons, explaining that the order wasn’t for me. “I live in Dallas,” I said, “my son’s in college and working very hard. I’m just trying to help him on his big project, because I can’t be there to cook for everyone. You’re helping me be a mom from far away, so thank you.”
That’s when these restaurant managers and owners, most of whom spoke broken English, warmed up — when we realized we had something more than a love of dumplings, dolmades, and tiramisu in common. “I have to call my mother now,” Jay said. “You remind me of her and I really miss her.” This sentiment, repeated by nearly everyone I spoke with, touched me every time. It was that rising in your throat feeling — that thing you get when you are, as they say in Yiddish, verklempt.
On this Mother’s Day, if you want to score big with your mother, call her. And know that now and again, even though you can do it all yourself, just say yes to letting her help. It’s the gift that will keep on giving.
Trust me on this.