When a Grown Daughter Doesn’t Call — Or, How to Overmother a Twenty-Something

Christina Newhall with cell phone. Photo by BF Newhall

Christina owns a cell phone -- I'm sure of it. Here she is with one in a photo made after the Bay to Breakers race in 2010. Photos by BF Newhall.

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Christina hadn’t called. We had dropped her at the airport hours ago. The flight to Burbank takes only seventy minutes. She should be home by now.

But Jon and I still hadn’t gotten the, “I’m home. The plane didn’t crash. My roommate remembered to pick me up, and we didn’t get mugged in the garage,” phone call.

It’s a phone call that we have come to need from our twenty-six-year-old, totally grown up, perfectly competent daughter.

Days can go by — a full week can go by — without a peep from Christina. Not a problem. We live in the San Francisco Bay Area. She lives hundreds of miles away, in Southern California. She is off our radar.

Southwest Airlines plane on the tarmack at sunset. Photo by BF Newhall

Did she miss her plane? Did it crash?

Jon and I go about our lives like normal adults, working, shopping, cooking and kicking back after dinner to watch TV, Jon in the den with the latest episode of 24, and me in the living room with House reruns.

But when Christina visits, or Peter, they are back in our lives in all their lovableness. My not-quite-extinguished mothering hormones – my overmothering hormones  — kick in. So when Christina, or Peter, departs and I can’t be absolutely sure that my kid is totally safe, happy, and equipped with a sturdy umbrella and 60-watt sunscreen – I start to wonder.

The next thing you know, I’m dialing Christina’s cell phone.

No answer. I finish clearing off the dinner table and go to the living room to see if I can find a House episode I haven’t seen.

Half an hour later, Jon calls from the den. “Have we heard from Christina?”

I wasn’t worried up till now. But if Jon is worried, I’m worried. I dial Christina again.

Still no answer.

It’s 10 p.m. Late, but not too late to phone Christina’s roommate. She won’t be in bed yet. I picture her sitting around the apartment playing with the cats, or eating popcorn and watching Ugly Betty, or flossing her teeth.

There’s no land line at Christina’s apartment, of course, so I look up her roommate’s cell number. I just happen to have it written down next to every phone in the house. Just in case.

I dial.

Christina’s roommate picks up. “Hello,” she whispers.

“Hi. It’s Barbara, Christina’s mom. Is Christina home yet?”

“I can’t talk now.” Roommate’s voice is muffled. Strained. Annoyed maybe. I hear voices in the background. “I’ll call you back,” she says. She hangs up.

Later that night, a phone call from Christina. “I’m home. I’m trying to sleep. My cell phone battery ran out. Talk to you tomorrow.”

I found it.

The next day: “Mom. Please don’t call my roommate like that. She was in a meeting when you called.”

“You mean she wasn’t home, getting ready for bed?”

“No. She was in a meeting. A business meeting.”

“Hmmm. How about if I get myself an iPhone — so next time I can just text her if I have to?”

“Mom. You’ve got a life. I’m pretty sure you do. Why don’t you go downstairs to your writing room and look for it. I’m sure it’s down there somewhere.”

I go downstairs.

I sit at my desk. I am surrounded by two walls of bookcases and a serious bank of file cabinets, both overflowing with important stuff. My desk and parts of the floor are covered with papers, three-by-five cards, unopened mail, thumb drives, half-read books, empty tea cups and coffee mugs — important stuff all.

And right in front of me, juicy story ideas jotted on sticky notes make a halo around my computer monitor. Whaddya know. Here it is. My life.

I almost forgot.

If you liked this story you might like “My Daughter the Trash Heap.”



  1. There is TweetDeck and HootSuite — but they post automatically to Twitter and/or Facebook. I don’t know of anything that posts on those networks automatically from a website. Good luck.

  2. Judy H Mitchelson says:

    Love this story

  3. I like this website its a master peace!

  4. That is too funny! She should’ve called though. ha! One day when she has kids she’ll see how it is. My aunt Linda told me that once you have kids you basically just worry about them constantly from the moment you get up every morning. I always call my parents on Sundays- generally more but always Sunday. If they don’t get that Sunday phone call for some reason they get worried. They start calling or writing emails. I suppose it’s nice to be worried over. It means that you’re cherished.


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