She could’ve knocked me over with a feather. “Hey,” she’d said in a breezy email, “I have a last-minute scheduling conflict. Could you host the show? It’ll be easy.”
It was an author friend from California. I’d been on her radio program before; twice, in fact. But I’d never sat in her chair; never been the one asking the questions. Being an interviewee was one thing, but being the interviewer was – well, that was a horse of a different stripe.
It must’ve been brain fever, for in a moment of weakness, at my husband’s urging, I said yes. Then spent the next few days alternately paddling myself and sweating bullets.
True to form, I “processed” this out loud in Mr. Schrock’s presence during our nightly walk. And true to form, he zinged me a good one that left me spluttering.
“I don’t know why you’re so nerved up,” he said blithely. “You’ve been interviewing me for years.” Here, there was a pause as I gathered my wits and climbed up out of the ditch I’d just pitched into.
Interviewing him, huh? If asking questions about his day constituted an interview, then I was guilty. Apparently, wondering aloud who’d called, who’d come in and which, if any, family members he’d talked to was interrogation. To hear him tell it, I stopped just shy of waterboarding. The way our little chat was going, I was ready to consider it.
My world, after all, was pretty narrow. For nine years, I’d worked from home with limited adult contact. The physicians didn’t count. For hours, I’d listened to them slurp, burp, sigh, mumble and blow explosive sneezes that shattered my eardrums and sent me swinging from the rafters. By no stretch could this be mistaken for meaningful adult conversation.
Then, too, I was raising boys. Precious little furballs that they were, our interactions consisted of spiritual training and parental exhortations with a dash of Seuss thrown in. This, while wearing my ref suit, nonunion, with the whistle around the neck.
By evening, I’d be hungry for news from the outside world. Where other adults “lived and moved and had their being.” Where their father “lived and moved and had his being.” Where no one had to be wiped, either end, or needed their food cut up. That world.
I’ll admit that I may have pounced on occasion. May have put the squeeze, so to speak, on the poor, tired fellow, all in the name of gathering the news. And I did it to his kids.
They weren’t exactly founts of information, those boys of his. Not-females that they were, there was much about their day that a mother didn’t learn, not unless she asked. Now, according to The Reluctant Interviewee, I was Barbara Walters, digging for the scoop.
As it turned out, it was a whole lot of fun, interviewing the author from New York. Interestingly, she’d lived in Goshen as a girl. She’d attended Goshen College as a young woman, and she’d delivered The Goshen News as an adolescent. That’s what I learned by asking questions.
I couldn’t help noting several things during my visit with Ms. Hess. For one thing, she talked. Unlike the conversations with Mr. Schrock’s kids, she used words. With several syllables.
There was no grunting during the entire 30 minutes. No “good” or “fine” in response to my questions. If talking with my crowd was a one-sided badminton tournament, speaking with her was a full-on tennis match. And that was fun.
Now that I know I can do it, I can’t help wondering what’s next. Where can a small-town “Barbara Walters” with a knack for debating (read ‘arguing’) find her niche?
Off the top of my curly head, there is one place that comes to mind. The stakes, I know, are high. My knees are green Jell-O at the thought. Only love of country and a desire to help my fellow Americans could make me say yes. And that, my friends, is at the presidential debates.
You heard me. Send a mom in there with just the right skills, and you’ll get some answers. Put her in as moderator, and she’ll cut through the smoke and find the bottom line.
Vague, non-answers and talking in circles won’t work, not on a mother who can wrangle the truth out of short felons in blue jeans with her eyes shut. Even presidential candidates are no match for a mother’s built-in radar. Shoot ‘em the Look of Death, and they’ll sing like canaries and tell what they’re really up to. I can do this.
We moms, we’re used to dog and pony shows performed by the best in the business. Living in a big, white house or a smaller governor’s mansion doesn’t make you better at it than the locals who live with me. That, you can take to the bank.
I don’t really want to do it, but if Bob Schieffer comes down with a cold or Candy Crowley gets a migraine, I’d have to say yes. All for the love of my country, of course.