The mom I knew was a totally competent, in charge, practical person. But she loved to tell stories about how totally naïve she was as a young adult.
My mom complained that growing up, her mom had done everything for her so she never learned any of the practical aspects of life, like washing her own clothes, cooking, etc. My mom went to college in Wisconsin at 16 because schools in those days had the bright kids ‘skip grades’. Mom was unprepared and ill-equipped to handle the logistics of life on her own.
When she arrived at college, something had spilled in her suitcase so she had to wash all her clothes. She knew nothing about washing clothes but reasoned that very hot water would get clothes the cleanest. So that’s how she washed everything, including her nylon stockings. Her clothes survived, but her stockings disintegrated! She called home in tears. Her mother finally taught her the basics of washing clothes.
A few years later, at the age of 19, back in New York City and married, Mom decided to show off her cooking skills to her new husband. She carefully read the roasted chicken recipe, which included the phrase ‘baste the chicken’. Mom knew nothing about cooking, but she did know a little about sewing. She was familiar with the term ‘basting’ in sewing, which means to make quick, temporary stitches. She reasoned that basting the chicken must mean quickly sewing up the holes at both ends of the chicken. She used white thread to be sanitary. And she left the organs inside in their little package (she didn’t even know they were there).
She put the carefully sewed chicken in the oven and soon after began to smell something awful. The oven began to smoke. In a panic, she called her mother and begged her to come over and help her out. After Grandma stopped laughing, she gave Mom her first cooking lesson. Together they cooked a new meal for Mom’s husband. He loved this story and told it often!
Another story of mind-boggling ignorance involves a checkbook. Her new husband had given her a checkbook of her own. He made sure that she knew how to keep a record of all the checks she wrote. So far so good. After a while, he confronted Mom with the bank statement indicating that their bank account was overdrawn. “That’s ridiculous!” my mother insisted. The bank must have made a mistake. Mom ran and got her checkbook. She proudly presented it to her husband as evidence, announcing “Look at all the checks I have left!”
Her husband took her checkbook away and she never used one again until he died nine years later. She had a slow learning curve in some things.
To be honest, Mom never really learned how to wash clothes or cook or handle a checkbook very well. She always seemed to have someone around to do these things for her. So her life never suffered for a lack of these basic skills.
Her naiveté makes for such good stories!