I probably should go back and read posts I’ve written earlier. I may be repeating myself. But this thought or theme is something that has been on repeat in my mind and my life throughout my life. It is something that comes into play in the most profound experiences of life and in the most mundane.
Think back to your earliest memories. Do you see a place? Maybe. A thing? Maybe. An emotion? Maybe. AND I’d wager that your earliest memories have to do with a person or perhaps people (family? neighbors? grandparents?). I am notorious for having a TERRIBLE long term memory (and my short term isn’t so great either!). I’m wondering about my earliest memories – will they be centered on people, places, things, or emotions?
Here’s an example where they all come together – I think I was about 3, maybe 4. One morning, I was sound asleep (this part has been told to me) and my mom had to run my sisters up to the elementary school that was only a couple short blocks away. She didn’t want to wake me (I’ve always been a bit grumpy upon waking in the morning, but that’s another post) so she took the chance on going and returning before I woke up. Oops.
Here’s where my memory kicks in. I woke up in a house where no one was home except me. I went to the front door and opened it. I think there was a screen door there then and I looked across the street toward our neighbor’s house (place), the Herzer’s. As I was terrified, I started screaming and crying (emotion) until I think it was David, came running across the street to see what was the matter (person). He stayed and comforted me until my mom returned, a bit chagrined.
So was it the emotion, the place, or the person. In this case, I’m going with the emotion.
When I was six, we moved up the hill and up the hill from that house was Dunsmore Park. (Yes, the Densmore’s lived on Dunsmore Ave. Weird, huh?) In those years, there was an incredible summer recreation program for kids. It was run by “Lippy”. (I think his “real” name was Mr. Lipniski.) All summer long there were games, pet shows, a wading pool, drama classes, snacks, kid-made carnivals, and more. I don’t really remember much about the activities (except that Tuffy won the “longest tail” in the pet show), but…
…what I do remember about those summers was that I woke up (grumpy), ate some cereal and then hurried up the hill to the park as soon as I knew the staff would be there. I hung out at the wading pool EVERY DAY of those summers because the lifeguards (all young women) treated me like I a junior lifeguard. They were kind and engaging and must have liked kids. They always made me feel like I was their favorite. They made me feel important and that I contributed to the fun ambience of the pool. They also gave me responsibilities like testing the water for chlorine and cleaning out the leaves. (Likely they just found someone who would do the chores with a smile!) I remember one lifeguard in particular who had found a lost kitten. She asked if I wanted to adopt it. I did, but I had a dog and parents who weren’t too keen on pets. And yet, they let me adopt “Sunshine”. Sadly, it didn’t work out because our dog, Tuffy, was having none of it so we had to take the cat to the Pound. Side story – Sunshine ended up making it in the local newspaper because the day we dropped her off a reporter did a story on pets for adoption at the Pound. I always comforted myself with the thought that she was likely adopted because who would see that cute kitten and not go get her?
Anyway, back to the people…I looked up to all of those lifeguards in their white shorts and red shirts. I literally stayed there every day from the moment they started filling the pool in the morning until the moment they started draining it in the afternoon. Then I went home, walking in the gutter with the chlorinated pool water rushing down the street. One time I even got a bee sting in that leaf-filled gutter water, but it didn’t matter – I’d get up and repeat the process every one of those long days of summer.
So people are key to my summer memories though place and emotion play important roles, too.
You see where I’m going here? Me neither. Seriously, when I started this post I thought that the memories I would share would focus on the people. So far…it’s at least a mix of people, place and emotion.
Let me get to an example that I KNOW will focus on the people – my first job.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I LOVE Trader Joe’s. I think I may have mentioned that I worked there WAY back in the 70s when it was a different kind of store. BUT one thing that has not changed…the culture of that store is ALL about relationships – between “crew members” and customers. Even 50 (ouch!) years ago I can attest that we were encouraged to be a collaborative, supportive team of colleagues. We were encouraged to engage with our customers, know them by name, help them find products and HAVE FUN! There was no job too trivial for management to complete or to high falutin’ for a young teenager to attempt. I have super fond memories of Mr. P, Kim, Dick, Cindy, Mike, Tony and so many others. It was the BEST job for a teenager; the hours were flexible, pay was great, plus even as a part-timer, they contributed to my retirement. When I “retired” in 1980, I got $27! But I think that the real importance of this experience was learning that having positive relationships at work, makes work feel less like work and more like a fun family. I think this early experience is why as a teacher, I always looked for a school where we worked together as a team.
And one more thing about Trader Joe’s – I mentioned at the beginning of this post that this theme of relationships matters in profound AND mundane moments of life. Is there anything more mundane than food shopping? (Don’t answer that. I know that there are hundreds of mundane tasks that we do every day!) And yet, to this day, every time I go to TJ’s, some crew member connects with me as a shopper. There is still a feeling of being a part of the “crew” and that as a shopper, I have a “relationship” with Trader Joe’s. That doesn’t happen at Safeway so going there is drudgery whereas going to TJ’s can be fun. (Maybe someday I’ll write about my very unhappy relationship with Safeway. But that would just turn into a complaint-fest.)
Okay. Trader Joe’s memories definitely focus on people and relationships. (Phew. Found one that fits my theory.)
Which brings me to my many years in education. Except…this post is long enough so I think that I’m going to ponder my post on relationships in education a bit longer. It’s too important to gloss over quickly and it merits its own post.
What do you think so far? Where do relationships fit into your bank of memories?