Vocabulary. Pasture. . . Humane Treatment. . . Free Range. . . What is the difference?
I still sold my dad’s eggs, but I listed qualifiers that reflect a myriad of library books checked out since I wrote “The Price of Eggs” two years ago. I think you’ll find it easy to fill in your own questions, Jeopardy style, to statements such as:
“They are not organic, because we don’t feed the chickens organic feed.”
“But, they are well fed, well-kept chickens. They spend time outside dusting themselves. They receive watermelon and zucchini in the summer.”
“We might have to throw some out,” Dad had said, fumbling through his piling cartons reviewing the dates he marked on each one in pen.
“Don’t do that.” I had clinked my plate dirty from toast crumbs into the sink. “I’ll find someone.”
“I am not in the egg business, but I don’t want to waste anything.”
But the answer to the age old question, “How much does it cost?”
“They cost between $2-$4 dollars. You decide how much a well-treated animal, free of chemicals, raised by someone you know is worth to you. . .”
Still, worth can really only be determined by how they define each terms’ worth. And, there is A LOT of vocabulary out there. Translating and understanding words in new contexts is a constant task. Still after two years, I had found a rhythm and enough now and then buyers to break even on chicken feed and not waste eggs. My own summer baking and a quiche every now and then, made up the difference. Then, Dad received a gift from his cousin. Actually, not his cousin, her grandson. Eight more chickens arrived. Egg production doubled. And, I doubled my efforts.
I scrolled through my phone looking for names the way I searched for job postings. I only found one that I hadn’t offered eggs before. She said yes but not before my cousin texted back asking for two dozen. I exhaled. Maybe just a couple more people purchasing on a regular basis would be enough. Maybe like my brother had counseled on my job, it was just a numbers’ game.
In my original post, I had considered myself as the price of eggs. I was supposed to do the same thing. Put myself out there, repeatedly. The list of cover letters had almost hit thirty. I bought bright colors and unique shoes and held my head up like I was worth noticing. I crafted statements about my experiences and what I was looking for. I attempted to act like anyone who didn’t take me up on me didn’t know what they were missing. The undeniable taste, the salmonella free nutrients of farm fresh eggs.
I looked for Fischer’s book recently to include on my Staff Picks display at the library, but it was no longer in the collection. Lost? Possibly. Weeded? I hoped not. The first answer implied it was wanted. The second that it wasn’t. I wrote in the original post that in his book Fischer argued against the temptation to define the good life in terms of material standards, the shiniest of descriptors to catch any buyer’s eye. For three years I carried my basket through possibly appropriate supermarket sections without having to leave the business of education completely. I read lists of “ideal qualifications” and labels of “ingredients”. In fact, my last series of interviews required a slow discovery of several terms used in the field of education through roundabout statements like those I had about my father’s eggs. I held my breath around fragile shells, smooth brown, green, speckled shells.
Each question in an interview was a tap. A tap on the edge of a table. A tap on the lip of a bowl. A tap of a knife’s thin handle. But, pressure evenly spaced around an egg will not crack its shell. The final question of the final interview was “What do you think you can offer that no one else can?”
I said, “I am a problem solver. I don’t know if it is unique to me or not, but I am dogged. I will figure it out.” In short, “I’m a good egg.” But, had I sold myself?
Then, out of nowhere, eggs piled in our refrigerator. I was offered a position as a grant writer for an organic farm.
“Can I tell you tomorrow?” I asked. I tried to wait out that offer, pushing my answer until Friday.
Monday their e-mail arrived. “We decided to go with another candidate.”
“Of course,” I replied. “I understand.” And I did, understand. All my metaphorical eggs were in one basket. Why couldn’t I select that job? It was a worthwhile organization. I would have had purpose. Purpose, but minimal support, an uphill climb, and more uncertainty.
Dad was more to the point, “But, you’ve already don’t that.”
Done what? Helped someone who needed help? Or, not valued myself enough to choose myself. Both, I guessed. Fischer’s definition of “good” boiled down to having “enough”. His examples centered on “aspiration” and “agency”, “dignity and fairness” and “commitment to a larger purpose”.
“You should make some egg salad?” I offered. “That would use up some eggs.” Again, my vocabulary implied desperation and not appreciation for a healthy lunch beyond sugar laced, processed peanut butter.
“Oh yeah. I forgot about those. Do you remember how to hard boil an egg?”
I shook my head. “We can Google it.” I breathed. I texted my cousin, again. After putting her name down for two dozen she hadn’t replied when she would get them. “Can I bring them to you?” I was panicking.
“I’ll be out this weekend.”
I went to the refrigerator and poked at the dozen attempting to decipher the dates Dad had written on the cartons. Some were crossed off more than once.
“What are you doing?”
“Chloe said she’d take two.”
“Hey, I wasn’t sure I’d break even, but I’m not looking to just give things away!”
Why was he angry? “What? You want to waste them?!”
“I’ll figure it out.” He turned his back to me.
“Fine.” I moved toward the doorway.
“You’re acting like they aren’t worth anything!”
I seethed. Hadn’t I spent years putting in the effort to sell each dozen? Then, he accepted more chickens without having customers. Wasn’t this a hobby anyway? Why were we doing this? Love or money? Somehow helping wasn’t helping, him or me. What else could we do with eggs besides hard boil them? Still, hard boiled eggs don’t crack. But, how long are they still good?
As I prepared to leave the library, people said, “This is not your calling. Now you found something that is you.” Others continued the idea, “How lucky you’ve found your passion.”
What started with Fischer had continued in countless library books beyond the feminized narrative of emotion over practicality that had once allowed me to sell myself short. Throughout the past years while job searching, I had considered the price of those eggs. How my words, phrases, definitions, descriptions could mean so much to one person and be an affront or merely elicit indifference to another. Once upon a time, I had been told there was no one who could do what I could do. Each failed interview had led me again to expect that the difference between me and someone else was probably so small as to not to be worth the higher price paid in either the chicken’s health, the better taste or the ecological conscious of the person who bought them.
The week I started my new job, I sold four dozen eggs without asking. I cooked a frittata that used nine eggs. This time when I cracked one open, every eye saw the same yolk revealed inside. Nothing went to waste, not even myself.
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