Janie’s basket was pretty full, but she really didn’t want to make a second trip out to the chicken coop so she kept piling the eggs on top of each other until her basket could hold no more. She was so sick of living on a farm, but soon she wouldn’t have to worry about collecting eggs or feeding the birds or anything like that anymore. In the fall, Janie would be attending The University—well, assuming she got her acceptance letter in the mail sometime soon.
“Janie, come inside. You’ve got a letter here,” Janie’s mother yelled from the screen door in the kitchen.
Janie instinctively knew what it was—she never got mail. She sprinted inside, almost dropping the heavy basket of eggs twice on the way. Throwing open the screen door, Janie came to an abrupt stop just inside the kitchen. She tried not to seem too eager, although she knew the anxiousness was written all over her face. She’d been waiting to hear back from The University for several weeks and her mother had seen her rifling through the mail like a madman on more than one occasion. Playing it cool was not Janie’s strong suit.
After taking a moment to collect herself, Janie set the overflowing basket of eggs on the stool by the door and hurried over to her mother. What she wanted to do was snatch that letter out of her mother’s hands and rip it open like an impatient child opening a birthday present.
But instead, she took the letter with a smile and a small nod, thanking her mother. Janie turned around and faced the corner of the kitchen, creating her own private space as secluded as any other in their modest farmhouse. She stood holding the envelope, trying to breathe deeply for about 10 seconds before her mother spoke up.
“Well, go ahead. Open it,” Janie’s mother instructed.
Janie jumped and looked up from the letter in her hands with a panicked expression. She turned her head to face her mother briefly, surprised to remember she wasn’t alone in the room.
“Yeah, of course, sorry,” Janie said in a near-whisper, speaking as if there wasn’t enough air in her lungs or the room or the whole world to calm her down with deep breathing.
She turned her attention back to the envelope in her hands and opened it using a kitchen knife as a letter opener, careful not to slice into the letter itself. She slid it out of the envelope and unfolded it, and then began to read.
What little hope was left in her face slowly drained as she read the first sentence until her expression resembled the very definition of sorrow. Janie was not accepted to The University, and would not be attending school in the fall. She was devastated. The University was the only school she applied to—she’d been so sure she’d be accepted! It was too late to apply anywhere else, and now Janie would surely have to stay here on the farm for another year. She wanted to be alone, to have a little time to process the fact that her dreams were just crushed in a single sentence, but her mother wasn’t about to let that happen.
“Janie!” she yelled from the other side of the kitchen, over by the door. “You clumsy little girl, how many times have I told you not to put all your eggs in one basket? It’s too heavy and all of the eggs break. These are all cracked—they’re ruined! Looks like there will be no cake for your sister’s birthday today, and she’s got you to thank for that…”
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, Janie thought, temporarily tuning out the yelling. She finally understood what her mother had meant all these years—if only a little too late.