Guest post by Jessie Gussman
(First Published on With Love for Books, June 18, 2018)
My kids have been listening to the soundtrack of The Sound of Music lately in the car. You know, A Few of My Favorite Things? Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens? It was written to soothe the Von Trapp children during a thunderstorm. I suppose that might work for girls.
But I had boys. First, anyway.
My boys would never notice anything like raindrops on roses. Maybe if it were pee drops on roses–or pee on anything, for that matter. Pee always makes a boy laugh.
Our last two children were girls; they are so different than boys. My youngest is sweetly naïve and believes almost anything. When she was eight, she heard my husband joking, joking, with a friend about how we needed to go up to the barn after the lights went out and rotate the tail feathers on our 15,000 laying hens so they’d lay eggs in the morning.
The next day, after my daughter’s dental appointment, the dentist came out to me in the waiting room. After giving me the low-down on how I’d be paying for her oldest child’s college education with the dental work my daughter needed, the dentist said, “I can’t believe how articulate your daughter is! It must be because you homeschool. She was telling us all about how you rotate the tail feathers on your chickens at night after the lights go out.” The doctor’s gaze was admiring. She shook her head in wonder. “I never knew you had to do that to get the chickens to lay eggs! That’s fascinating!”
Back in my own naïve young adulthood, I was two years into my degree when my husband, who had grown up around trucks, started a trucking company. I told everyone I quit school to keep his books, but it was actually because starting your own business means working 24/7, and I had started to believe in alien abduction, since I never saw my husband anymore.
Twenty-three years later, I’ve almost adjusted.
Last weekend my husband and I were heading eastbound on the interstate, hauling eggs back from Ohio, going about 75 mph. My door jiggled open. At that speed some people might wonder if their door will actually open. I can’t say about a car, but in a 379 long-nose Pete? Yes. Yes it will.
It was kind of interesting, watching the pavement fly by from a new and rather distressing perspective, as I leaned out, grabbing for the latch. I got the door shut and sat in my seat, panting. I hadn’t quite made it to the euphoria-from-having-cheated-death stage, when my husband, who never left off the throttle, because, you know, he’s a man, and we have to GET THERE FAST, looked over at me. “Wow. Wasn’t expecting that,” he said. With one hand on the wheel, he dug under his seat and handed me a wrench and screwdriver. “You mind checking the latch? I’d hate to lose that door.”
My husband was always interested in trucks—I should have seen the trucking company coming—but I really didn’t anticipate having five children. It took a little while for us to get with the program, but by the time they hit elementary school, in the midst of the chaos, we looked around at all those kids and said to each other, “What are we going to do with them?”
Hubby blames me, but I know it was his idea. We bought the 70 acres of woods beside us, put the kids to work clearing it, picking rocks, digging holes, lying irrigation. We bought a big, old trackhoe and rented a bull dozer and our early-teen boys learned how to use the stuff. I was banned from running heavy equipment after I ran over the lawnmower. The best way to get a new lawnmower is to bulldoze the old one. (My next book is going to be titled, Getting What You Want; How to Run a Bulldozer.) Eventually we planted the 10,000 blueberry bushes we trucked back from Michigan.
Today, as I write this, blueberry season is gearing up and those little balls of nutrition sell before we’ve even gotten them picked.
Trucks. Chickens. Blueberries. They represent some of my favorite things—now. Certainly when I was a young woman, thinking of majoring in pre-med and becoming a doctor, I never dreamed they would. Life sometimes has a way of not working out quite the way we think it will.
But, really, my most favorite things aren’t things at all. It’s the husband who’s held my hand through this crazy life. It’s the laughter I’ve shared with my family. It’s the music we’ve made together while our backs ached from work made lighter by willing hands and cheerful hearts.
I love showing that pulling-together spirit in my books. The irony. The fun. The values people have and the hard choices they make. Titanium love. Steadfast devotion. Sacrifice. Basically, real life. That’s the kind of life I want to live, and those are the kind of stories I want to write. Life. Wrapped in love.