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Stories II


by Anne Thistle

A six-month sabbatical is a whole lot more enjoyable when you’ve found a house sitter to hold the fort at home, even when he’s seen to be moving his drum kit into your sewing room. Academic couple, Anne and David, extol the virtues of young Jason the house sitter – ya gotta love the kid!

12 January 2005

Young Jason, our house sitter, arrived on January 5. He’s from Rockville, Maryland, where we spend New Years every year, and we’ve known him and his parents since he was a toddler. Fresh out of junior college, he was ready to strike out on his own for a while, so when we needed a house sitter during our sabbatical, we immediately thought of him. He was due to leave about the same time we did, but (how do the fates know these things?!) he drew jury duty for Monday, January 3! Fortunately, Maryland calls a whole new pool of jurors daily, and he wasn’t empaneled for that day’s trial, so he left Tuesday and (being young) drove all night, to arrive mid-morning on Wednesday.

His small SUV and car-top carrier were packed to the gills, except as necessary for rear vision, and watching him unpack and move into the house was a hoot. He seemed as excited about this sabbatical thing as we are, and his enthusiasm was contagious – I went around smiling all day. The drum set is assembled in the sewing room (though Jason says he’ll have to buy a rug; apparently you can’t play drums on hardwood floors); the four-speaker stereo (with flashing, running, and twirling lights even when it’s turned off) on the bar in the kitchen; the computer in the study (next to our computer, where a splitter lets both modems be plugged in at once); and the acoustic guitar (borrowed from David), electric guitar, electric string base, and music stand in the living room (I think the trumpet, also borrowed from David, will be in there, too).

He politely asked permission before taking over the coffee table on which to organize other things as they emerged from the car: large notebooks of sheet music and others of data on the music industry, more CDs than we own (‘These are just the ones that were loose in the car, out of their cases; I haven’t been treating them very well, so I’m sorting them and putting them all away.’), a 15-lb zippered CD storage album, a Grateful Dead boxed set about the size of a Gutenberg Bible (though not, it seems, the complete works), his beloved i-Pod (systematic tests revealed that, by means of various cables and wireless devices, it will play through any set of speakers in the house including our 30-year-old grad-school-vintage ADSs, which he pronounced darned good for their age – as well as his car radio (when I kidded him that our speakers weren’t used to such loud and modern music, he twiddled the i-Pod dials and switched to big-band boogies), and (packed under the fishing rod, the giant wooden sword, and the golf clubs), a dijeridu in the key of D.

The enthusiasm doesn’t stop with music. He was delighted to see David’s woodworking tools (‘I’m pretty handy; I could fix things for you while you’re gone’; having seen some of his father’s cabinetry, I’d believe it!). The last I heard, he was planning to replace the door on the screen porch and to fire up the grill on the back deck – apparently his mother never served bratwurst often enough to suit him. The handiness was put to prompt use, because David discovered a leak in the toilet tank in the guest bath on Tuesday; he couldn’t find a replacement the right size, so he and Jason replaced the whole toilet Wednesday afternoon. Then, over dinner that night, it was ‘Oh, by the way, do you have a sewing machine?’ Ya gotta love the kid.

Anne Thistle

About the author: Anne Thistle

American academic and oceanographer, David Thistle, and wife, Anne, (an avid Francophile) asked a young family friend to house sit for them while they were away on a recent six-month sabbatical in France. The results left smiles all round!