I pity the people who call my house at dinnertime. They should get combat pay. Only someone really brave or foolish would attempt such a thing, because lord knows what they’ll face. Another intrepid soul discovered this first-hand Thursday night. I didn’t recognize the number, but it was local and I’d just paid all of my bills, so I wasn’t afraid to answer it.
Turns out it was a lovely woman from the Public Opinion Laboratory at Northern Illinois University calling to conduct a community survey on behalf of the Batavia Public Library.
I winced. I was super busy, but agreed. After all, I’ve conducted research and know how challenging it can be to find willing participants. Moreover, I value libraries so much that I bought a house within walking distance of one.
As the Roman philosopher Cicero was credited with saying, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”
My garden may be comprised merely of a few gangly herbs and those scrappy leftover veggies triumphantly re-growing beside them on the windowsill above my kitchen sink (oh, and our new strawberry patch, hopefully thrumming with life under all of this snow … !), but our library? It’s a real winner. I would do my part and participate in the survey, as I hope the library continues to thrive. I wasn’t sure the sweet lady from NIU would, though, without a tubby and a tonic.
I needed both hands free to clean up after dinner, so I put her on speaker while I answered her questions. But then my son spotted my husband arriving home after work.
“Sorry, I meant to do that!” my teenager yelled out the back door, as he shuffled into shoes so he could help drag the trash cans back into the garage. Not one to miss an opportunity, I motioned to Noah to first take out the recycling. Oh, and the kitchen trash, too, because, you know, the expired chicken I’d neglected to cook before it’s “use by” date was festering in the can. (Ugh. The guilt! The waste, of both money and of a chicken’s life. That poor chicken. Not to mention the yummy, healing soup I could have made, which would be so helpful to Holly right now with her sore throat. But I digress.)
Anyhow, I continued to play charades and answer my caller’s questions and mumble nonsense about the poor dead chicken until Noah got the picture and hauled the bag out of the metal can. It wasn’t pretty. Or quiet. I’ll spare you the grisly details.
“How many children between the ages of 11 and 13 do you have in your household?” my intrepid caller inquired.
I’m sure I replied, but not before realizing that my baby (my baby!) becomes a teenager next week. (Ack! Where has the time gone? I still have to order her birthday cake and find that gift she wants … .) I greeted my husband as he walked through the back door looking exhausted and handed him a plate of the chicken breasts I’d sautéed (after tossing the bird) along with my first attempt at baked cabbage steaks. (OMG. Slather inch-thick “cuts” of cabbage with olive oil after rubbing with crushed garlic, then sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Garnish with fresh bacon bits. I forgot that part because I was on the phone.)
Seemed Todd wasn’t game for the cabbage (not a garlic fan), though he would have enjoyed the green beans. But I totally forgot to save a few for him because I was ON THE PHONE and let Jake eat them. You know, because I was trying to keep him off the kitchen counter and failed. A huge challenge, because the big red dog is TALL. And, well, because we failed puppy training. Twice. Why? Don’t ask. That’s another story.
“And how would you rate the selection of books available to teens?” my caller’s voice echoed in my suddenly bustling kitchen. “Excellent, good, fair or poor?”
Noah, who’d wandered back in and now foraged in the freezer, because he was apparently still hungry (not game for the cabbage either – but trust me, it was GOOD!), shrugged and said “Bon.” (At that I crossed my eyes. I think he’s trying to teach me French. Some days the kid only talks to me in Francais. You know, unless he wants something.) So I told her “Good!” nudged Jake off the counter again, fed the cat and put the gluten-free doughnuts (which Holly spotted in the freezer when Noah left the door open), into the toaster-oven. Not half-bad, as it turns out. They were quickly consumed (I even snuck in a few bites). But not by Jake, who gave it his best shot, meandered through my legs and then finally foraged for food in his own bowl.
“ … And how would you rate the computer lab at the Batavia Public Library,” my sweet but helpless caller inquired.
“Excellent,” I replied. Because since my printer died, I’ve needed to use it to print things. Which reminded me, I need to do something about that. I yanked open the kitchen junk drawer and added it to my already long to-do list. Cake, gifts, printer. Whatever. At this point my girl walked in to consult with me about whether or not she could spray her painful sore throat with Chloraseptic. Holly and I played charades while I answered a question about my family’s use of E-readers.
“None!” I shouted, from across the room now, as my ever-growing Frenchman dumped a tub of yogurt and the contents of a bag of frozen wild berries into the blender and flipped the switch.
Because, you know, he was still hungry.
“Whirrrrrrrrrrr … ” went the blender, mere inches from the phone sitting on the counter. I’m not sure my caller will ever recover. As for me, that was a busy 30 minutes. And the beat goes on.
• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.