Ordinary knowledge

I know how to write a sonnet. I do not know, really, how to mow a lawn. I can write a book, but I cannot keep my house clean. We all know the stereotype of the absent minded professor, right? For an art project in school I designed a branding campaign for a cafe based in my father’s academic building called “The Absent Minded Professor Cafe: Where you can forget your lunch and still eat.” I was ten, but I still think it’s a good idea. But the idea is that the professor is so wrapped up in his/her work that he/she can’t do basic tasks. I know how that feels.

It might be class or gender, I did not mow lawns for extra money as a kid. Instead I babysat, which I hated, unless I was babysitting for Cub Clause and Dr. Cub the Younger (seriously, that kid just got a Ph.D.!! I’d pinch his cheeks and tell him how proud I was if he weren’t a good half a foot taller than me and a few continents away besides.). Because I was the youngest child, my parents were tired. They didn’t want to teach me how to do these things, they just wanted to get it done. As such, I’m good at picking up sticks in the yard and drying dishes.

I learned how to cook in my early twenties by trying recipes and calling my mother every night to help me troubleshoot. The funniest instance of this was the time when my dad answered the phone. “Can I talk to Mom? I have a cooking question.”

“Your Ma is busy, maybe I can help?” I was dubious. As far as I knew, all my father could cook was hot dogs and beans. I wasn’t even sure he knew how to make a cup of coffee for himself.

“What kind of mushroom is a shallot?” My recipe called for shallots and I just had a few plain mushrooms in my fridge. Would that work? There was a silence.

“What?” I asked. I had this weird feeling my father was trying not to laugh.

“I’m pretty sure a shallot is a kind of onion.”


My mother died just before I bought this house, and I have no one to tell me how and when to thin a bed of lilies. What’s a weed and what’s a plant? How do you mow in straight lines? Do you need to mow in straight lines? Why do people even bother with annuals? How and when do you cut back bushes? Did my mother teach me all of this but I was too busy reading novels and plotting my escape to listen?

What can you do that other people can’t do? What can other people do that you can’t?

(And I mowed that lawn like a motherfucker. Just saying.)


8 responses to “Ordinary knowledge

  1. I learned to cook the same way. My mother never taught me much until I was married and living in Germany, when she would send recipes through the mail with adorable little sets of instruction.

  2. I can keep goldfish alive indefinitely, but I can’t successfully grow any plant but dandelions.

    I can mow like a motherfucker, but I choose not to.

    (My Dad the Former Botany Major told me that plants are the ones you want to keep. Weeds are the ones you don’t. The decision is subjective.)

  3. Pingback: What Do You Like Doing? | Fangs and Clause

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