I am a cat with nine lives. I’ve lived a few of them, and can’t wait to see what the rest bring. One of them lasted for sixteen years, and in it I was a stay-at-home mom. I am very proud of it, and wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. Except I did.
Let me acknowledge that every stay-at-home parent has a different story just like every cashier, or doctor, or educator has a different story. My experience was that before I was a SAHM, I hadn’t had a lot of opportunity to establish myself in the world. I was young, had only worked with my mother in a retail store she owned, and had only been married for two years. I was twenty-four when I became pregnant with my first of four children, which were born (give or take a few months) every two years.
My husband was a police officer. He was my window to the world. His world was dangerous, cynical, and narrow. I was very thankful to have him to protect me from the big, scary world he told me about. We were lucky that he made a nice living, but to run a household for six of us on the one income, I needed to be resourceful. I cooked from scratch, sewed, planned and budgetted. One day that just wasn’t enough to make ends meet.
When I decided to dabble in the workplace about twelve years ago, I took a 3-month seasonal position as a cashier. After that there was a weekend catering gig, an educational assistant, and a magazine vendor changer-outer — not my official title, but that’s a descriptive as I can get. Then one day I saw a sign for the Barnes and Noble being built into the mall. I just about jumped right out the window of the car.
Barnes and Noble was the place I went when I managed to eke out a night away from the kids. It’s the one place I could justify buying new things. I huffed new-book smell straight from the bag, and hid the receipts until the canceled checks arrived in the mail (remember that?).
I worked for that store even before the books arrived. We dusted and cleaned and then stacked boxes upon boxes in heaps seven feet tall! It was magical and exciting. Then one day they told there were placing me in the café. I know it was due to my catering experience, but I didn’t even drink coffee.
Within a year I rose from the lead to the café manager. I loved my job, but even more than that, I loved the people — both the customers and the staff. They came from every walk of life. There were old women with pink crocheted hats. There were businessmen in suits and ties. There were young people with piercings and tattoos. There were gay people and goth people and mean people and pretty people.
And do you know what? None of them were as scary as I was led to believe. The world was a friendly place. And not only did I like the world, I realized the world liked me! I found I had a knack for making people happy. Changing each person’s day in a positive way became my goal, for those who visited and those who showed up to work.
These days I work for a food bank. We distribute food to agencies who feed people who are hungry. For five years I’ve worked in our Agency Services Department, helping agencies get what they need.
The walls are thin, and a department called Food Rescue inhabited the other side of my wall for many years. They had a lot of fun. Sometimes they laughed so hard, I had to plug one of my ears to hear my customer on the phone. They were the cool kids. The ones with the quick wit and keen sense of humor. They came and went, often out of the office for days, on covert missions the likes of which we knew not.
One day I decided it was time to learn more about this great place that employed me. I ventured out on a ride-along with a couple of Food Rescue staff. I hadn’t planned to fall in love, but I did. Head over heels, birds singing, heart-pounding love. Within a year I managed to land the position I wanted. I will be executing covert, dangerous food-rescuing missions in hard-to-reach places. I imagine there will be a cape and super powers involved, although there has been no mention of them yet.
The relationship I established with the world brought me to this place — this yearning to make it smile, to brighten a corner wherever it is, a genuine appreciation for humanity. I’m obviously still in the honeymoon phase, and I’m not sure I’m a cool kid yet, but I have a good feeling about this.
Peace . . .