Broken Appliances as Metaphor for Love - #parentingwin

The Toaster is an old family tradition that has become a metaphor for perfect familial love. The DVD player is now a toaster. All things are toaster if they demonstrate how you appreciate someone's efforts to worry about your welfare, even if those efforts fall pothole-flat.

In 2000, I was still relatively new as a front desk agent at Palm Mountain Resort. The customer service phone rang; I picked it up.

"Our toaster doesn't work. Can I just bring it down?" Um

"Um, sure." I hung up. I turned to Brandy, "They're calling from a balcony room. Their toaster doesn't work..?"

"Um," said Brandy. "We don't provide toasters."

"They're bringing it down. Do you think engineering will have another one for them?" 

Brandy laughed. "No. I'll call them and ask..." Brandy picked up the phone; she laughed again. I'm guessing the engineer said Um.  A toaster plopped on the desk.

"Here it is." The words came from behind the toaster. I peered over it and saw a diminutive, mousy-gray woman with looming glasses. She smiled benevolently.

"Thank you, ma'am. I'm not sure we can provide another one..." I was interrupted.

"Oh, I don't need another one. I don't need this one, either. It doesn't work." She pushed her glasses back up her nose and scampered off.  Brandy and I exchanged looks; I tucked it under the counter. We noted the event in the Communication Log. 

The director of operations, Maria, strolled through - she was a textbook New Yorker and very sharp. She honed in on the toaster immediately. 

"What's this?" She pointed at it with her nose. 

"Toaster from 316. It doesn't work," I said. 

"We don't have toasters," NY-sharp Maria said with a maternal glare.

"Yeah, Brandy told me." 

"Take it home. You have a toaster in your new place?" 

"Okay. No, I don't." 

"It doesn't work," Brandy whispered. We weren't getting into this with Maria.

By the end of the night I'd exchanged phone calls with my daughter: she wanted her high school friends over to spend the night, and I was going to Flaherty's after work with Brandy and some other coworkers. I had always gone straight home, so I wanted to make sure my daughter wasn't uncomfortable with the idea.

"What time will you be home?" she asked, her voice squinting at me. She'd always been my parent. She still parents everybody. I could hear her friends laughing in the background.

"How about 12:30?" 

"Don't get drunk, Mom," Alia lectured, and then giggled. "Bring me a souvenir." 

"I'll bring you a toaster." It doesn't work, I said to myself.  Perfect. I put it in my car.

"Rawk!"  The giggling hung up. 

By the time I got home I was drunk and I'd forgotten that the toaster was broken. I presented it like the best of all housewarming gifts; my daughter's friends were as delighted as 15-year old girls can be.  They immediately wanted to toast things. I soon heard murmuring in the kitchen.

"MOM! It doesn't work." I fell out laughing.  

This became a family legend and also a tradition - when my daughter got her own place in Michigan, I sent her a toaster to break in the new place. By "break in" I mean inaugurate, not break the toaster. Alia called me when she got the package.

"Mom, did you send me a toaster?"

"Does it work?" I asked, and we laughed the way you do when nobody else gets your joke. For years, as we both moved around the country, I would do the same; eventually I would just ask if she needed one, in case she hadn't left everything behind when she relocated.

We still live far from each other, and so like many people we connect regularly on social media. A message she posted on Facebook spawned The Christmas of Bacon.  This year, just before her birthday, she posted a query for a DVD player, if anybody had one to give away. I did. I had a box of things I'd collected to ship her, including last year's birthday gift, because I can't mail (this is a known thing.) So I told her I'd put my spare DVD player in the box, and hopefully mail it in a timely fashion.

"I don't have a remote for it, though," I disclaimed. 

"IDC as long as it has a PLAY button. They can get up. Does it work, though?"  

" far as I know." We laughed. 

So I did manage to send the box only days after her birthday; she was at work when the package delivery was confirmed. Later that night I started texting her, because giving is a selfish move and you demand a report. You have to know how much they appreciate your efforts. Right? 

"I just got home. We're out on the porch watching somebody get raided. They arrested 3 people already." She texted me a picture of blue police lights.

"Go open the package, dammit. I need to know if the toaster's broken!" 

"LOL" Eventually she did go in, and commented on most of the many things she pulled from the box. She told me she loved everything, of course, but I feel like she meant it. We understand our weirdness.  And then finally she reported: 

"DVD player plays, but the door was loose so I tried to wiggle it and it came off. But it plays just fine. Thank you, momma." 

"YOU BROKE IT?" We laughed.

So it's both broken and not broken - Schrodinger's DVD player. Yes, I know that's not how the theory works; the DVD player's variables are known. Still, I like my joke. Also, I like it that now she breaks her own appliances and I don't have to supply them that way. 

In every action there is potential for a story. Look for yours.  Special Happy Birthday wishes for my poetry coach, Linda Stone. I hope someone gives you a broken toaster.  

Further Reading: 

Texas women are matriarchal by necessity, says her lover Peter Kidd. Linda does things with words that...I can't even tell you...her own words and mine as well. I've handed her my work before and had her bring it to a complete birth, when I thought I was done.  I hope to hug her very soon. 


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