The egg salad moments of life are the best: those times where you connect so deeply with somebody that you have exactly the same idea; pick up the phone only to find them already on the line; text each other simultaneously so that your words cross in a network fine as lace, or where you both — without ever mentioning it — bring lunch having prepared precisely the same food even though you’ve never cooked it, not even once before, in your life.
You’ve had those moments, right?
About three years ago, I was frantically trying to figure out the blueprint for the last book, trying to write something funny and true, and it was like trying to ice skate on the ocean. I hired one my former students, Krissy, to work with me in the office, paying her minimum wage out-of-pocket to help me keep track of the paperwork and to tell me when something I thought was uniquely hilarious was, in fact, as original and witty as a fortune cookie, except slightly less personal.
I’d known Krissy for years, first as an undergraduate and then as a pal when she’d headed off to AmeriCorps and returned to get her master’s degree. She had become a kind of daughter to me and Michael, and was the kind of person who provides the friend version of AAA service: You could call her if you were stuck on the side of the road in the middle of the night — whether figuratively or literally — and she would help get you back on the right road.
Krissy was in the middle of her own drama, figuring out what to do after graduate school, deciding whether to continue her studies or leap into the world of teaching. I kidded that she could afford to make mistakes because she was young; she kidded me about being able to afford mistakes because I was experienced (meaning “old”). Although both statements were true and offered back pats of comfort, we knew they were slightly absurd. We were both anxious.
As the deadline for submitting my manuscript approached, I was rearranging chapters, running titles by friends and grabbing at reassurance with a kind of frantic hope usually reserved for people on their way to the gallows instead of on their way to the publishers. Krissy, too, was coming up to her final submissions of paperwork: Should she take the job at the girls’ school in another state or remain close to the university and find work as an adjunct?
Due to the miasma of vulnerability hanging over us, I decided to make a particularly nice lunch for us one Monday. I recreated my mother’s recipe. A reluctant and begrudging cook, my mother was schooled in food preparation by an unloving and ungenerous mother-in-law; her own mother never taught her. For some reason, however, my mom had mastered the art of egg salad. And yet I’d never made it in my own kitchen. That evening I did. The next morning I bought bread from our local bakery and headed to the basement office with a bag filled with homemade goodness.
Krissy walked in about an hour later. She was carrying an even bigger bag than usual, had a giant smile and a light in her wide blue eyes. “Guess what?” she cried, all enthusiasm. “Egg salad! I made it myself. First time ever!” Had Krissy said “Guess what? I hacked into NASA!” I would’ve been less surprised.
And yet, of course, I wasn’t.
Egg salad moments are the chance collision of ideas, thoughts or emotions between two people who are close but don’t occupy the same household. Like a sun shower or a rainbow or a shooting star, or some other easily explained yet rare phenomena that surprise and delight us, they illuminate our lives.
I finished the book and Krissy took the teaching job; we remain the best of friends. We’ll still text at the same time and say “Egg salad!” which means, of course, “Guess what? I was just thinking about you.” It’s what we all need to hear.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut and the author of “If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse?” and eight other books. She can be reached at www.ginabarreca.com.
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