The handy man can

It’s the first weekend in November, the one where we’ll set the clocks back an hour, and my whole family was up before the sun this Saturday morning because we’re not in the habit of sleeping in.

“Did you sleep well?” my husband asked as I poured myself a cup of coffee at 6:30 a.m.

I told him that I slept pretty well between 10:30 p.m. and 3:30 a.m. Then I got up and read for an hour. Then I went back to sleep until the alarm he accidentally set went off at 5:30 a.m.

“What say you?” I asked him pointedly, because it was his fault the two of us woke up at 5:30 a.m. on a Saturday, and because I just finished teaching a Shakespeare unit at school. It’s my third year of teaching and my first teaching Shakespeare.

My husband Dan also teaches high school English and whenever he does Shakespeare, he walks around the house quoting the plays. Sometimes he’ll come in from the garage smelling of fuel, with pockets full of springs and coils, wearing a camouflage hat, and if he doesn’t start talking about pistons and cylinders, he might say something like, “play me some merry dump,” which at least I can understand.

Last summer, I was reading this online lit mag when I came across an essay by this woman who broke my husband’s heart when she dumped him about 17 years ago. I was just reading this magazine that I often read because I enjoy the essays, and then I recognized her name, and then I realized that the essay, which turned out to be some award-winning anthologized essay, was actually about my husband.

His ex-girlfriend was recalling their relationship with what seemed to be nostalgia and wondering if maybe she hadn’t taken him for granted just a bit. It was just that his inclinations toward activities such as hunting and engine repair somehow made him an unlikely fit for this girl who wanted to write about gourmet food and punk music (an odd enough juxtaposition already), so she dumped him. And then many years later she wrote an essay about it.

All I can say is that, for me, stumbling upon that essay was a surreal experience.

The ex wondered in her piece, if she had married Dan, would he have come in from the garage every day with grease under his fingernails talking shop, and would she have reacted with a sort of grudging acceptance. All I could do was nod as I read.

Last week, I did tell my husband that he would not be allowed to wear one of his “King of the Hill” outfits to my upcoming poetry reading. He then went on a tirade about how he will do what he wants, when he wants, at which point I reminded him that he has many bosses, several of whom are female. At that point he delivered a soliloquy about how he fixes cars and mows lawns and cleans stadiums and not everyone is willing or capable of doing those things.

Which is true.

But this morning as he gathered his tools before the sun rose to go to a neighbor’s house for one of his handyman jobs, he joked that he might start wearing polo shirts and loafers, if only so people would stop asking him to please visit their homes at his earliest convenience to repair whatever has most recently malfunctioned. I responded by saying that dressing like a normal person would be an excellent idea for him and that I was excited to help him put the plan into action.

But he was only kidding.

Regarding the poetry reading, I had called an after-school meeting in my classroom on Friday for those who would be participating, so we could practice. Each of us scrounged up a poem we had written at some point in the past couple of years and read it quickly and nervously in front of our small audience, hoping that this would prepare us for the larger one we’ll face later this week.

One thing about being a teacher is that, when they get to know you, students are curious about what you were like when you were their age. They want to know if you were cool because now you are a teacher and that is certainly not very cool.

Because I went to the county school and now I teach at the city school, some of my students told me this week that I must have worn cowgirl boots and listened to country music as a teen. I pretended to be offended, saying, “How dare you accuse me of listening to country music!”

Those who know me better, the creative writing kids, asked if I was one of those teens who listened to Nirvana and wore black lipstick.

That is little closer to the mark, although the lipstick was brown – “coffee bean,” to be specific. I still have a tube in my bag, although I almost never wear it.

When they asked, I told the kids that, even in high school, I was kind of the same as I am now -kind of a plain Jane. Because even then I didn’t want to spend too much time on my costume. I wanted to think I was deeper than that.

After we read our poems, one of the girls said she didn’t think she had done such a great job as the emcee at the poetry reading last year because she was nervous.

I told her that as far as I was concerned, she had done a better job than me, because I had been nervous, too, and I also hated my outfit.

We spent the rest of our meeting reading fashion blogs and looking at outfits on Pinterest.


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