My dad used to come home in the middle of the night sometimes from work trips. Trying to be considerate of his sleeping wife and daughters, he would tiptoe through the house – only to bang his shin and nearly take off a toe on the furniture that had moved since the last time he walked through the living room.
When we got older and Mom took it into her head to rearrange the house while Dad was on a trip, Bird and I had to help.
“Why,” we asked, wedging our shoulders under the arm of the couch while she lifted the other end like Wonder Woman, “can’t this wait until Dad is home to help?”
Mom shook her head at us, the upended couch swaying slightly in her grip. “Girls, if we can do it ourselves – and we can – why wait? Now, lift with your legs.” We sighed.
To be fair, two generations of women in my family before her had repositioned furniture while their husbands were away – it was an inherited habit, one that sneakily followed me to college. Last year, when the Commodore and I were sharing a room, we grew tired of the bunk bed arrangement and decided to unstack the beds. I texted the Engineer to ask him to come help us move furniture while the Commodore paced out the new arrangement of our room. The novelty of a fresh room arrangement (and the idea of no longer hitting our heads every time we got in or out of bed) was exciting.
Except the Engineer couldn’t make it. Maybe this weekend he might be free.
The Commodore and I looked at each other. And then we started shoving smaller furniture aside to make room for us to lift the upper bunk down from its perch.
Our third roommate’s boyfriend insisted on helping us, because he heard the scraping and sliding from the living room and, as he told his girlfriend, “I want to make sure these two don’t kill themselves.” But the point was that, regardless of whether or not a Male Personage miraculously appeared to assist us, we felt like moving the furniture, so dammit, we were going to move the furniture.
When we settled down in our newly un-bunked (debunked?) beds that night, I told the Commodore about my parents and my grandparents and rearranging the house in the absence of one’s spouse. She laughed.
“Of course your mom would do that,” she said. “Still, it was nice to have help.” She sat up straighter in her bed and declared, “We are Strong, Independent, 21st Century Women…who are quite happy to let guys do the heavy lifting if they feel so inclined.”
And that’s just what I love. The lesson that I learned from my mother was not to reject a friend’s help, be they male or female, but rather to not put my life on hold until someone bigger or stronger can come and help me take the next step. When Dad was home, of course he was roped into helping. But if the mood struck while he was away, she made my sister and I feel that we didn’t necessarily need a man’s physical strength to get things done. She showed us how to put towels under the feet of the couch to slide it across hardwood floors, how to come up with innovative ways to take a burst of inspiration and run with it despite potential obstacles.
And, of course, always lift with your legs.