Have you ever been stumped when trying to describe a person you know to someone else? You want to explain a situation, based on another’s personality, and there you are, waving your hands in the air, and saying, “Well, you know, he’s a lot like Jack. You know my friend, Jack, right? The big lacrosse player, the guy with curly red hair, with a big gap between his front teeth? The one who — ,” but all you’re getting is a blank look. This is the germ of frustration, when you find yourself at a loss, because there can be no meeting of the minds. That’s when it’s good to find some common ground, and figure out a home base from which to bring it all into understanding. That’s when eggs come in handy.
Egg metaphors are so handy when trying to explain someone’s personality.
Everybody knows what an egg is. Eggs are not simply nourishment and little cholesterol hoarders; in the circumference of that delicate shell, eggs are the world.
There are good eggs, and bad ones. The bad ones are truly rotten; they can smell, and represent a large spectrum of nastiness, from people who merely disappoint, all the way down to the very worst of the lot, the pirate bad eggs, the ones who are happy to maraud, pillage, rape, and torture, all in the name of rotten eggdom. If my friend Jack happened to be a really bad egg (which he isn’t), you would know exactly to what I referred. There are old eggs, the ones who are past their prime, and if you become embarrassed by something you did, you’ve got egg on your face. If you want to broach a topic delicately, it’s best to walk on eggs, and no one who wants to get ahead puts all their eggs in one basket, unless they want to risk breaking an egg in their pocket. And of course, there are the eggheads, not those who are lacking in hair, (as I once thought), but rather those whose pretentious intellectualism puts us off, because they prefer to leave the rest of us behind to wallow in the mud of pop culture. Oh, the horror of it all. I guess I’ll have to watch Downton Abbey all by myself.
Eggs can be very useful organisms, if it weren’t for their mystery. Those shells hide a lot of essential information.
Take my son Harrison, for example. He’s a fairly typical college graduate: his future is promising, if only he could figure out what he wants to do. Which was why we agreed to his request to visit a friend in Sweden, right after graduation. He thought, maybe, he should apply directly to graduate school, but then, maybe not. Wouldn’t it be great to be a World Explorer, for a little bit? Two days after he was handed a diploma, off he went. The game plan was that, on his return, he would knuckle down, and study for post-grad admission tests.
Two weeks later, he was back on US soil. I hadn’t heard from him much, other than a post on Facebook that yes, he’d figured out the vending machines at the Copenhagen airport, and was able to buy a train ticket to Lund, where he hoped his friend would meet him. Other than one picture of the two of them enjoying coffee and cinnamon rolls in a garden, that was it. He was off the radar.
On his return, he was a whirlwind, full to the brim with new and wonderful ideas. He would apply to a Swedish University for a masters degree, taking time to enjoy Europe along the way. After having grown up in a little town on the Plains, we thought it was an interesting idea, considering that, when he was nine, all the traffic in Denver freaked him out, and even though he was a good skier, he didn’t have a Nordic bone in his body. But, over the summer, while waiting to be admitted to the University, he promised he would study for the grad school entrance exam.
“Why Sweden?” you might be wondering. The answer to that is simple:
1. The Swedes are really nice people (Harrison informed us) and they all speak English;
2. It’s cold in Sweden, and Harrison likes to wear sweaters; and
3. Swedish women are beautiful. . .
Anyway. . .
As we simmered the egg, there was one unknown, a not insignificant one. To be able to study in the country, a residence permit was required. As an American, this is a difficult concept to wrap your head around. After all, we were paying for the degree, and it sounded like a great experience. Harrison is a nice kid, he works hard. Who wouldn’t want him in their country?
Not so fast, some would say. Rules are rules, they’re in place for a reason, and everyone has to abide by them.
The egg timer ticked away quietly, minutes winding down to seconds. At 1:30 am the morning before he was scheduled to depart, we still didn’t have the residence permit.
“Let’s put him on the plane,” Dr. K suggested. “We’re six weeks out from applying for the permit, it’s close to being granted, I’m sure. He can explain that to them when he lands. He’s a nice American kid, and he’s got the acceptance letter from the University.”
Scenes from the movie, The Terminal, popped into my head. “They might deport him. Or, he could end up living in the Stockholm airport, just like Viktor Navorski, until the permit is granted. He would miss the window to matriculate into the University, and we’d have to mail him care packages of Annie’s Homegrown Shells & White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese, except he might not have boiling water to cook it in.” I frowned at Dr. K. Sometimes, being an egghead isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
There was a kicker. Harrison had received the results of his grad school entrance exam, only hours before. They weren’t all that bad. I hesitated. Dare I broach my idea to the nascent World Explorer? I might be shot down in mid-flight, scalded in boiling water, or smothered in hollandaise (mmmm, not a bad idea).
“That score you got today on the exam, that’s a game changer, you know?” I ventured the thought, proposing the idea tentatively. “You don’t have to go to Sweden. You could apply to grad school now.” I waited, expecting to be fried, boiled, and scrambled. What did I know about adventuring?
“I don’t want to go to Sweden,” Harrison told me. “What I really want to do is work in a clinic, and get hands-on experience. I can do that here. That’s better, I’m being productive, and I can apply to grad school now.” It was two o’clock in the morning. I was getting bleary-eyed, and possibly not hearing what he said. Really? All summer long, you’ve been preparing for this Swedish gig! I’m supposed to put you on a plane in eight hours so you can get deported.
When you simmer an egg, you never know what you’re going to get, until you crack open the shell. If it’s soft-boiled you’re after, that elusive three-minute masterpiece, anyone who’s tried to figure out perfection knows that this is an impossibility. I’ve got it down to three minutes and thirty seconds, if I’m reading the bubbles in the pan correctly, if the egg was immersed in the water at the precisely precise temperature, if only all eggs were the same size. As if.
Then there are the hardboiled ones. You tap on the shell, and it all seems so right. You find the bubble, the sweet spot that, once you get to peeling the shell, it comes off in one connected piece. It’s nice when it happens. It was meant to be, except you don’t know that, until you begin tapping on the flimsy calcium carbonate that encompasses breakfast.
You never know what’s going on inside a person’s head, even the heads of the people you’ve hatched. Unless they let you crack the shell.
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Award-winning author Emily Kemme writes about human nature, illuminating the everyday in a way that highlights its brilliance. Follow her on her blog, Feeding the Famished, https://www.facebook.com/EmilyKemme, or on Twitter @. Life inspired. Vodka tempered.