Arriving at my sister’s house yesterday, I was greeted with the information that she had just experienced a small electrical fire in a wall sconce and had called an electrician.

After having her cut the breaker, I dismantled the fixture and find the culprit- a worn wire touched the metal of the socket and that was all it took.  Plus, the grounding wire was never connected.

“I can fix that”, I hear myself say.

She says, “Really?’ out loud as I say “Really?” to myself. What am I thinking? It has been decades since I worked with my dad, an electrician, holding the flashlight as he repaired a light switch, installed an overhead fixture or diagnosed just the same problem we were facing at this moment.

When I was child my father often took me with him on house calls to fix just these sorts of electrical issues. As a child, in the 1950’s, I was aware that most girls did not have this skill set and while I thought it “cool” to be taught how to do this, it was not something I gave much thought .  Since my sister is ten years younger than I, she did not have this experience; by the time she was old enough to join him on house calls, he was close to retirement.

I had not handled this kind of repair in years. Nonetheless, silently questioning my own expertise, we went to Home Depot, purchased a replacement fixture and returned to begin the project. Like hanging wall paper with a family member, it could have been a disaster.  However, we fell into any easy rhythm-she eager to learn, let me take the lead (even after I mimed a dramatic electrocution) and I was grateful for her apprenticeship. She held the flashlight and handled me tools, just as I had once done for my dad.  I lacked the shoulder strength, she couldn’t find her glasses and the wire strippers were marginal at best; yet all went smoothly. When she flipped the breaker back on; we high-fived as the room lit up.  At the moment we knew our dad, who passed away some years ago, would be very, very pleased. He would have reveled in the knowledge that he had taught his “girls” a useful skill.

Later, driving home, I had a sense of having gotten a gift and then given a gift- one generation hands off to another and so on- not in some big, flashy way, but in those little ways- Like Marie in Everyone Loves Raymond when she finally shares with Deborah her treasured recipe for meatballs. There is in the small sharing of knowledge, a great sense of value and continuity.

Our legacy is often in the little things- a recipe, the ability to fix a small electrical problem, the secret for growing prize roses. Sometimes, we tend to wonder about our own value and what we contribute to the next generation. Perhaps we miss these moments of being part of a great continuum when we aim too high and too big. I would like to think my sister will teach her sons how to fix a faulty light fixture and one day when a light burns out in their home, they can say with some confidence to their own kids,  “I can fix that.”



© 2013 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Farmington, CT since 1986. She is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce now available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback.


  1. Wendy on the 14. Jul, 2013 remarked #

    Wow – that struck a chord with me. My first thought was of one of our group members who, when first on her own after many years, had to rely upon on her own abilities to get the job done. And, after some tears and gnashing of teeth, she did! Sometimes we have to trust in our own strengths and abilities.

    My second thought was of a piece I had read regarding our loved ones when they pass on. I believe it was a mother explaining death to her son. My memory is a little blurry, but it was something along the lines of…”they live on in our bones and in our memories.” Donna, when we remember our loved ones through actions like the one you recounted, we honor them.

  2. cj golden on the 14. Jul, 2013 remarked #

    It is in these “small” times of sharing that we make the most impact. We don’t often realize the importance of what we have given. The recipient does.

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