Got the job—got the dress—got the shoes . . . got the boss.
He was my dad. I'm sure I was hired mainly to give my mother a break. I was 13, and I was dang good at it: I argued, I burst into tears, I swore, I slammed my bedroom door. It was time for Dad to take over and teach me what life was all about.
On the first day of summer, at 8:15 am, we were out the door. Dad had fixed me his standard breakfast— an eggnog. He poured milk and orange juice into the blender, added a little sugar, vanilla, a couple of raw eggs and some ice, and whipped it into a froth that was delicious. (Years later Orange Julius became famous for the same concoction.)
My hair was still wet; I put it up in curlers and hung my head out the window as we drove downtown so it would be dry and poufy. Using the rear-view mirror, I lined my eyes with a black pencil, fluffed on some turquoise eyeshadow and perfected my pout with white, frosty lipstick. I had to look professional.
Dad was an optometrist. He had an office and appointments, with real patients paying good money for glasses and contact lenses. It took several weeks for that to sink in. Although my job was to dust the frame display cases, change the toilet paper roll and straighten the magazines in the waiting room, I was usually on line 3, chatting with Sherrie.
Apparently my boss found that inappropriate. We had a few discussions about it in the back room. There was no Human Resource Department where either of us could lodge our complaints, so in the end he gave me a written job description that hung on the bathroom door. Soon I got into the morning routine of emptying the waste baskets, and cleaning the toilet. Dad taught me how to vacuum (the wheel follows the inside path of the last vacuum track so there aren't small areas that never get cleaned. And did you know it's supposed to take two hours to thoroughly vacuum an office?)
Running errands was the duty I enjoyed most. My white-soled nurse's shoes skipped along the sparkly, granite sidewalk as I ran to the bank, the post-office, the pharmacy and the laundry. Twice a day I went up the street to the Stock Exchange where there was a soft-drink machine that sold little green bottles of icy-cold Coca Cola. I'd love to visit a summer afternoon when we took a break, chugged our cokes and chatted like friends, while Dad laughed and teased, and taught me.
Gradually I got promotions. I learned to file, answer the phone, make appointments, write checks and balance the check book. Oh, there were still days when the boss caught me reading Ingenue or painting my nails. (Why hasn't someone invented odorless fingernail polish?) When he left early, the vacuum tracks were very far apart and the task took me less than five minutes. But I kept my job for several years. I even got regular raises.
Isn't that just like a dad? He paid me to learn what only he could teach. I thought I'd learned it all, so I grew up. Over the years, as I spouted all my wisdom and inspiration to my own kids, I vaguely recognized my expressions. They were the same ones I'd heard my boss use all those summers ago.
Vacuuming, organizing, balancing a check book and chugging a coke were important life skills to acquire. I also learned to laugh, hope, love and work from my first boss. He's been gone for ten years today, but those lessons and memories are forever in my heart.
My father had a great deal of trouble with me. But I think he enjoyed it.
---paraphrased from Mark Twain
---paraphrased from Mark Twain