As most disasters do in my tiny world, yesterday began with cooking. We’re low on food, but I want to wait until pay day to go do a big shopping trip. My sweet tooth, however, couldn’t wait, so I decided to make cookies. Having no chocolate chips, I opted for my third favorite, Aunt Carolyn’s gingersnaps. My sister called as I was cooking and I became distracted and measured 5 tablespoons of baking soda instead of 5 teaspoons. This wasn’t a big problem because part of the directions instruct to dissolve the baking soda in 5 teaspoons of water before combining it with the rest of the ingredients, therefore, it wasn’t a big deal to dump it from the bowl back into the container and begin again.
Still on the phone and still distracted, I measured two of the teaspoons in with the other ingredients before remembering to put the remaining 3 into the separate bowl. Figuring it couldn’t really make that much of a difference, I pushed forward. This time I was short only three ingredients; nutmeg, cloves, and – more of a necessity – flour. So – as I usually do, relying on my mom to make it all better – I covered the dough with a dishtowel and prepared to go to Erda.
A series of seemingly unrelated events caused the downfall of the evening. We have chickens. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that or not. We had 19 and a duck, but have recently been able to reduce our flock to the allowable six hens permitted by Tooele city. Okay, really there are eight chickens and a duck, but whereas two of the chickens are for eating – and more likely sooner than later – we figured we could keep them and if anyone complains we’ll consume the evidence. They are sort of funny little creatures and have led to some interesting conversations around our home. For example, my niece went to preschool and announced to her teacher that she really likes black chicks. I think my son is partial to black chicks as well, but doesn’t mind brown chicks. My baby girl likes all chicks, but – like the rest of the mainstream world – no one likes a dead chick.
My son adores his new pets, and pets they are. Every day, he wakes up, dresses himself, eats, and goes to hang out with the chickens. They have been a nice babysitter for our children, entertaining them for hours while my husband and I work in the yard or on the shed or one of the other many projects he deems necessary for our survival and proper acclimation to this world in which we live. My oldest son has utilized these hours to develop his tendencies toward show business. Every day before returning the chickens to their cages we watch the chicken circus. This routine is usually as follows: My son catches a chicken and holds it in the air. It roosts on his finger for a moment until it flaps down to be with the rest of the chickens. He smiles, looks at us, and says, “See, I taught them a new trick.” Each day it’s a new trick, but seems to be remarkably similar to what I have described above.
In the beginning, when their legs were weak and wobbly and their wings undeveloped, it took very little to capture the chicks and put them back into their cage. Now, however, it is quite the undertaking. Thus was the case yesterday. The cousins had been in town and over visiting. Wanting them to have a preview of the chicken circus, my son begged me to let them out, and I relented, cautioning him that he would have to put them away when he came in because they were getting too fast for me. He agreed and went out to play.
Let’s jump forward several hours to 4:45 p.m. Dinner was at 6:00 at my mom’s. Before dinner I needed to take the black dump truck to dump the load of rocks we’ve screened from our soil. My son opted to ride to Erda with his cousins – because almost anything is cooler than riding with your parents, even when you’re four. I grabbed the cookie dough, a sweater, a CD and my daughter before heading out to the truck in the front yard. As I closed and locked the door behind me, I realized I had no key to start the dump truck.
Setting down my partially finished cookie dough, I unlocked the door and went into the house for the key. I also remembered my daughter’s car seat was in the yellow truck parked in the back. I opened the back door to go get it and noticed movement. The duck waddled out from beneath the cage followed by all but 3 of his feathered posse. The yard isn’t fenced and if they animals were left out, their likely destiny would be a neighborhood dog’s dinner. Deciding the most brilliant plan to round up the chickens would be to lead them into the cage by refilling their food and water and putting it in the cage with the door open, I replenished their supply. We now know why the Lord saw fit to send me to earth in this day and age rather than in a time when my family’s survival would have been dependent on my trapping abilities.
The chickens outside the cage had no clue what was going on in the cage above them as they sat beneath. The chickens inside the cage, noting the open door, took advantage of the escape route and flew out. So now, all eight chickens and the duck were out of the cage. I thought about trying to catch them, but remembered my daughter was still out front alone and I had as much chance of catching them as of catching the swine flu from an aardvark. Besides, they had been out all afternoon and had no harm come to them. So, making a decision, I grabbed the car seat from the truck, left the cage door open with the food and water in it, and went back through the house to get to the front porch.
Those of you who are parents, or even those of you with a moderate amount of common sense can probably predict the next paragraph of this tragic tale. I opened the door and found my daughter, who had found the cookie dough. Cookie dough is good, so good that it needs to be tasted with both hands. The bad thing is that cookie dough also clings, clings to your skin and smothers it like a tick being painted over with nail polish, and the best way to remove a sticky mess is to wipe or shake it off, or attempt both.
I covered the bowl again and carried my daughter inside to wash her off. Then, we began our attempt to leave again. Within minutes, I had her, the dough, and myself loaded into the truck and was pulling out onto the street. Strange things happen when you drive a truck that is older than you are. They shimmy and shake a lot, and such movement can cause the lever that engages the dumping mechanism to become disengaged. We’ve nearly dumped two loads that way, and not wanting to be responsible for a pile of gravel on Main Street, I drove to my destination with my left hand steering, my feet working the clutch, brake, and accelerator, and my right hand alternating between shifting gears and holding the dumping lever into the locked position. Whereas I am not a tall individual, this led me to drive down the street, partially hunched over as though the right half of me had just taken a bullet.
Finally I pulled into the driveway where I was to dump the gravel. It was nearly six by now, so I didn’t have time to dump the load I carried and still be on time for dinner. My sister picked me up to take me to Erda. As I stepped out of the truck, I noticed I had cookie dough smeared across the front of my shirt. As it was dough for gingersnaps, it had the color and consistency of duck poo, and noting my prior tasks, could easily have been such. Being able to do nothing about it, I climbed in her car and headed down, realizing only then that I had forgotten the hot dogs and buns I was supposed to have contributed.
At my mom’s house, the turbulence subsided. Actually, a better comparison should be the eye of the storm, where you have storm on one side, with an interval of peace before the fury breaks loose again. My husband stopped by on his way home from work. He wasn’t entirely pleased that I had left the chickens out. I tried to remind him of my non-existent reflexes, but he could not be pacified and insisted we return home to put the animals away before going to the birthday party that we were already 15 minutes late for. I called to let them know of our delay, explaining it as merely a chicken incident. We then returned home where, as I had predicted, the chickens, except two, had climbed into the cage and were settled there. None had been eaten by the wild dogs and heyenas that roam our neighborhood, so my son still has his circus troupe and we our future dinner.
It sound’s like that is a happy ending, and so it might have been had the evening ended there. However, I was already a little irked with my spouse at that point and he with me, partially over the chickens, partially over not emptying the truck, and partially because we hadn’t fought in almost 24 hours so we were clearly due. So we went to my nephew’s birthday party, arriving 45 minutes late and without a present.
Whereas on our arrival I was mostly irritated with my spouse, by the time we left, I loathed him. We still had to go get the truck, and it was nearing ten and was dark. He spotted me while I dumped the load and, much to the delight of the clientele of the neighboring business, shouted at me to be heard over the rumble of the engine and the descending gravel. Then, I drove home.
About a block from my house, something happened. I don’t know what it was, and I don’t know how it happened, but I will explain it as something slipped out of gear. Seeing the house not far away, I pushed in the clutch and continued coasting. The clutch had little if anything to do with the rattling, grating noise and soon my husband was out of the car, running up the street, shouting at me. I pulled over and killed the engine. He was irate, of course, because apparently parts for this particular Franken-truck cannot be purchased and if it is ruined, that’s just it.
I could understand his frustration. The part I couldn’t let go of was the fact that not only had I been driving an old truck under adverse conditions, my entire neighborhood now knew it. To me it made sense to coast the remaining distance. To him, I should have pulled over immediately and sent up distress flares. Interestingly, one should note that if I had those kind of reflexes and that type of reaction time, I would have been able to catch the chickens that started this mess in the first place. So we spent the rest of the evening, make-up fighting. It is a new type of fighting where you just keep pushing and pushing the other person until one of you cracks and smiles. For example, we had a conversation that went something like this:
My husband: Since you’re already mad at me, let me show you how I’ve designed the inside of the shed that you are against building.
Me: Do you want me to respond and pay attention, or respond and pay attention like you do?
My husband: Like I do, of course. (He begins to explain the shelving layout. I cut him off mid-sentence several times.)
Me: (I cut him off mid-sentence several times, interjecting phrases I so often hear him saying.) “I don’t understand your drawing. This makes absolutely no sense. The city is not going to let us do that. You can’t do that, it won’t meet code. We don’t have time to do it like that. Etc.
In the end, we vented our frustrations and ended up sleeping in the same bed, ready to face the challenges of a new day, together, united, and scrappily ever after.