Candling eggs with a grandma

My mother-in-law Ellen came down Monday night to pack and candle more than 200 dozen eggs with me. The eggs were picked up by our wholesale buyer Tuesday – the same day when my husband needed to enter first quarter grades for his 180 sixth graders. He couldn’t work on packing eggs and grading 6th graders’ essays at the same time, so his mom came down to help.

I’d like to t011hink that if I didn’t have a couple of migraines every week, we would not be candling 200 dozen eggs the day before they were to be picked up. Instead, we would have worked on it carefully during the days leading up to the delivery. Maybe this is just wishful thinking.

I made good progress on the eggs during the day Monday, but the bulk of the job remained to be done by late afternoon, which is always a scramble of activities, homework, chores and dinner. Finally, Ellen put the 4-year-old to bed while I set up an egg candling station in the garage, near our large outdoor egg cooler. This saves a tremendous amount of time because we aren’t staggering around, carrying large boxes of eggs back and forth from the house.

Ellen did most of the candling, using a system Ian taught her. He moves eggs two at a time over a battery powered light that makes the eggs glow so we can see any hairline cracks. He spins each glowing egg to see each side. Then, he drops it in a waiting egg carton. Ian, who loves numbers, times himself and can do a dozen eggs in 20 seconds. (Ellen scoffed very companionably about Ian’s stellar skill, which made me feel less insecure about my own candling speed.)

Sitting in the dim garage, bending seriously over her work, Ellen looked like she was doing something ancient and mysterious. The egg candler, shining up from the table, cast an unusual glow up on her face. It was deeply impressive.

My grandpa and mother did impressive things like this in the garage when I was a child. Grandpa had invented a tool that was used in plastering work, and whenever he had to fill an order, my mom would come help him, welding in his garage shop.

Sometimes I had to go out to that garage and tell Grandpa that he had a phone call. The dark garage was lit with sparks from a welder that I wasn’t supposed to look at directly. My mother wore a huge helmet that made her look like a space traveler or a super hero. She always tipped it away from her face when she saw me, which gave me a wave of relief. A child always likes to be reassured that one’s mother has not been permanently transformed into a helmeted master of sparks.

It was always my impression that they were doing deeply important work in the world, and I left that garage with a sense of awe. I think that if our youngest son had seen me and his grandma at work Monday night, he’d come away with the same impression.

I left that garage with a different feeling Monday: gratitude. I was so grateful for Ellen’s help and her company. She turned a daunting job into a fun one.

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