“Gretchen?” comes Mama’s hesitant voice over my cell phone. You called my phone, who else would it be? I’m borderline irritable after getting up before 5 and still not getting to Seattle until 8:20 after three hours in drizzle and interstate traffic; and a baby who took 30 minutes of his usual 90 minute morning nap. “Yeeees?” I say.
“The furnace isn’t working. Michelle said oil was delivered yesterday, but I thought they were coming today and I don’t see a bill.”
“They came yesterday, the bill is in the cubby.” And Michelle was there when they came; why can’t you just believe her? Elliot is ready try another nap and getting fussy. “Let me talk to Michelle,” I say, cutting off her monologue before she gets wound up.
Michelle comes on the phone; I tell her how to reset it, and she hands the phone back to Mama. “I told her how to reset it,” I say.
“I have to go downstairs with her!” Mama exclaims. “Why?” I ask. “I need to tell her how to reset it!” She sounds frantic now, Michelle is tending to business without her and disaster is pending. Whatever. “I’ll call you back if it doesn’t work.” Click.
I get Elliot into his sleep sack, find his pacifier, and I’m reading him a book when the phone rings again. It’s Mama. Michelle isn’t sure where the panel is. Did I tell her to stand with her back to the counter? [yes] and the panel is on the right or the left? [right] on the front or at the end? [at the end] and she needs to take the wood panel off first? [no, it’s not necessary] and the button is on the right? [yes]. On and on.
I’m bouncing baby on my knee now; he’s impatient, pulling my hair, and reaching for my glasses. I had a granola bar for breakfast and now it’s time for lunch.
“May I just talk to Michelle please?” And then maybe you could get out of her way and let her do it? I’m sure Michelle is confused only because Mama gave her different instructions than I did and she won’t contradict Mama. She was reprimanded this week for emptying the dishwasher without being told; she’s not taking any chances.
“Does Rebecca know how to reset it?” Mama says, her tone implying I don’t know what I’m talking about—or that Michelle will never figure it out and Rebecca will have to close her shop and come and do it. “Yes. And so do I. May I talk to Michelle, please?” She clearly doesn’t want to give up control to the paid help—or to me, really—but she exhorts me to be “explicit” and puts Michelle on, telling me she will call back if it doesn’t work. Michelle is calm, and that makes me calm. We roll our eyes virtually and I explain to her again. “Got it,” she says.
I get Elliot to bed and he goes to sleep.
Ten minutes later Mama calls. “It’s working,” she says. Does she sound triumphant, or surprised? I’m not sure.
Fifteen minutes later, Elliot wakes up.