Sucking Lemons

A terrible cold with intermittent laryngitis has landed on me hard this week, and I am praying I am human by the time I have to speak awkwardly over the phone to a search committee at noon on Friday. I’ve been drinking tea nonstop, and have had various remedies suggested, including drinking a diet soda (needs to be carbonated but cannot contain sugar, according to the lore) and sucking on a lemon right before the phone rings.

What I really need is a magical elixir that will ensure I don’t blather on idiotically or start speaking in stuttery tongues.

I’ve been preparing as best I can, learning about the school (you’ll notice I haven’t named it and that’s because I am suddenly feeling superstitious!) , the faculty, the courses, the area. All of that. Plus trying formulate intelligent but concise answers to questions I think they’re likely to ask. The job is an assistant professor position in composition and creative writing, with the emphasis on comp. I need to keep reminding myself of that as I prepare. It’s so much more natural for me to think in terms of my creative work and my teaching of creative writing. But I suspect that will be of secondary importance here.

Today,I made the first awkward step in the process when the search chair called to confirm our Friday call. He had asked when he might contact me to do that, and I gave him two windows of time between yesterday and today when I knew the kids would not be with me.

But he didn’t call.

When did he call? Just as I was walking in the door with the post-school day Chaos Twins, yelling for IPOD! and POPSICLE! If I had been in my right mind, I would have let it go to voicemail and called him back in a quiet moment. But I am not in my right mind so I answered it.

Over the last few days, I have read a bunch of articles about interview prep, and one very long thread about the potential danger of letting a search committee know that you have kids before there is an offer on the table. I wasn’t sure how I would handle that. Certainly I wouldn’t go as far as some women I read about who removed their wedding rings before interviews. But I’m also not blind to the fact that motherhood in the academy is a fraught and complicated thing. I mean, I wrote about it.

But I needn’t have spent the time wondering because as I tried and failed to wrangle the kids (“Shhh! Please just give mommy a minute on the phone…HAHAHA!), the voice on the other end of the line said, “Oh, do I hear little ones in the background?”

Busted. I’m a <gasp!> mother.

“Yes, you do!” I said, smiling while I responded because I am happy to be a mother and also because I’ve been counseled to smile while I talk on the phone so that I will sound more enthusiastic to the people who hold my career in their hands.

“How wonderful!” he replied.

But did he mean it? Or is that code for “next candidate, please?” I didn’t have much time to ponder it in the moment because the Kid Need Factor was rising exponentially and I could feel the vortex claiming me…

Finally I had to say, “I’m so looking forward to talking on Friday, but right now, I have to go.” And we said goodbye. And I panicked a little and sent an email thanking him for being good-natured about The Chaos (wink, wink)  and assured him I would be surrounded by nothing but birdsong and the sound of my own brilliance on Friday.

After, I conferred with my oh so wise gal pals and my oh so wise spouse, and they all reminded me that I wouldn’t want to work at a place that wasn’t good-natured about kids anyway.

No, I would not.

An hour or so ago, Dr. Search Committee wrote me back with the message that, “All is well.  I love hearing children.  We have several English  families with young children.  A blessing.”

Well okay then! Encouraging.  Even if I’m getting way ahead of myself here, even if I flub it totally, it does feel good to know that there are spaces out there where this issue might not be such an issue. I can’t really know based on one phone call, though they will certainly be making some rather grand assessments based on one this Friday at noon.

Send me your virtual lemons, friends.

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