PrompTuesday: a childhood friend and a cheat

A post I’ve labored over for a week vanished. It’s not really Tuesday unless you’re living in the past, which I am not most of the time, but I am desperate to forget the lost post. So, I’m jumping on San Diego Momma’s bandwagon a day late AND with a repost. Her prompt:

Describe your closest childhood friend
–from June 2009


jumper

This was my wardrobe for six years

Like many of you, I found a childhood friend on Facebook.

We were best pals in grade school, where we both wore our itchy wool plaid uniforms, stiff white blouses and knee socks. The two of us, along with a few others, formed a “Batman” TV show fan club. This involved tying our jacket sleeves just-so around our necks to double as super-hero capes. We made some type of “utility belt” out of paper and tape and staples. We often fought about who got to play Batgirl.

I have other hazy memories of those days:

  • Pedaling my bike home as fast as I could to beat the buzzing, flickering street lights that awakened at dusk.
  • Marveling at how her big, happy family occupied a house the same size as our family-of-four’s home.
  • Wishing I could take her freckles, which she didn’t like. I thought freckles gave a face character and depth.
  • Planning out our whole lives and how we’d play a role in each other’s future.

Then my family moved after 6th grade.

My pal and I exchanged a few letters, called each other once in a while, then our fading friendship became lost in the fast-moving currents of life.

Earlier this year, as I was sifting through big boxes containing the relics of my life  I found a packet of letters held together with a rubber band. They were from my old pal. I wondered what had become of her.

A quick search on Facebook and a mutual “friending” put us back in touch. A while afterward we agreed to meet.

As I drove to the little coffee house, I flashed back to last fall when I volunteered at a local campaign office. Turns out one of the organizers was a classmate of mine in high school. Had he not pointed it out to me, I never would have recognized him. I never would have known what happened to that well-muscled jock I rode the bus with freshman and sophomore years.  While I casually flirted with him on those bumpy rides to and from school, I knew he was out of my league. Last fall, I saw the future of a teen girl’s fantasy. It features a cranky, balding fat man.

Meeting up with the past is always a tricky business. Exciting. Scary. As my friend waited for me to arrive, I’m sure she probably tossed around in her head some highlights of our friendship: How I was like a monkey on crack. A skinny, wide-eyed monkey on crack who logged a lot of time in the principal’s office.

Facebook does allow some idea of how a person looks today, where she works, and how she votes or what books she reads. So a meet-up shouldn’t be a total shock. But virtual connections are not the same as sit-down chats over steaming mugs of coffee.

I stepped into the coffee house a few minutes early, hoping to at least place myself in a flattering way, armed with a cup of something caffeinated. It turns out she was even earlier. She’d already ordered her coffee and was engrossed in a book when I spotted her in the far corner. She was the same freckle-faced girl now living inside a grown woman’s body. Same smile. Same laugh. Same good humor and good nature. Whatever life had tossed her way, she’d caught it, dealt with it, and kept on going.

We didn’t have too much trouble starting a conversation or keeping it going. We found that we shared similar views on a number of issues. Sure, our lives took very different paths, but not in ways so divergent that we couldn’t find common ground.

I wondered if we would have remained close friends if my family had not moved.

I wondered how different I would be today.

I wondered if she still liked Batman.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Gratitude vs. attitude at 6 a.m.

onoff

Photo by Misserion via Creative Commons

I think I’ve mentioned before that I am not a morning person.

Whether or not I embrace the darkness before dawn, I have no choice most days.  My Girl from the West starts school at 7 a.m. School is more than 25 miles away. We need to leave the house at 6 a.m. This means I get up at 5 a.m. in order to shower, prep things for Girl from the East to get to preschool on time, and most importantly,  to chug massive amounts of coffee.

Today we needed to stop at the corner gas station/convenience store to make up for some lunch shortcomings. As I entered the brightly lit world of piped-in pop music, polished tile, humming refrigerator cases and shelves bursting with packaged foods, I noticed the attendant on duty. He was well-groomed, middle-aged and whistling contentedly as he wiped the coffee /doughnut counter.

“You must put in some serious overnight hours, huh?” I asked, figuring the guy was lonely.

“Oh, it’s not so bad. I start at 10 and end at 6,” said the attendant as he walked briskly to the cash register. I noticed he had really nice teeth. The register sang a little electronic ditty as his fingers danced on the keypad. “I am so grateful to have a job. Very thankful.”

I grabbed my change, the plastic bag containing bottled water and Doritos, and looked up at the lean, tidy man with the dazzling smile. He was at the end of his shift and looked as if he’d just showered and shaved an hour ago. I wondered if he had a wife and children and if they missed him at night, when he wasn’t there to read bedtime stories or administer good-night kisses. Or, was a dark and empty apartment  awaiting, with only the mewing of a hungry cat to signify anyone’s absence.

It wasn’t until I slipped out of the artificial light of the shop and into the dark and chill of predawn that his words reached the processors of my brain.

“I am grateful to have a job.”

He didn’t say: “Working nights sucks” or “Those bastards at (Company X) let me go and now this is all I can get to keep Velveeta on the table” or even “I own the damned place but I can’t find find honest help so I’ve gotta be here myself.”

He was thankful. He had a paycheck. He had a purpose. He took pride in his work.

I’ve been hearing this so much lately, from people in all sorts of underwhelming jobs. Happy to be there, collecting a paycheck, doing something other than job hunt or collect unemployment. I can’t remember the last time I heard a workplace bitch-and-moan session.

Before this Great Recession that has cast my hometown in such a negative national spotlight, who would have thought anyone would embrace a gas station/convenience-store gig? Who would think maybe I felt a twinge of envy.

Not many, I’m sure.

Do I envy the job?The hours? No. But I do admire a person who radiates gratitude in the worst of circumstances, who makes being up at 6 a.m. a pleasant experience, who takes pride in his appearance and attitude even if he’s in a room all by himself.

All this I learned before 6:30 this morning.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]