Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Never Too Young To Pitch In

Born with a "Time to lean, time to clean" attitude.

My clothes were always folded, shoes all lined up with the toes pointed out, and dolls played with but kept pristine. Could spend all day playing in the yard and not come in with dirt.

My family has a film, (yes film), of my first birthday. They put a slice of cake in front of me. My older sister and other various family members all have the same type of milestone on film. All the other babies are covered in frosting in no time. I just lightly touch the cake and neatly have some.
To get the baby covered in cake take for the film library my dad smudges cake on my face. They now have the first 'if looks could kill' shot of me.

Around four years of age I decided fresh sheets were on the 'daily' agenda. Had learned how to make the bed. My mother, being of above average intelligence gave me my own shelf and basket for my sheets. She simply folded the set in my basket and put it back on the shelf until they were actually dirty.

When I was seven I received a "Betty Crocker First Cookbook" and a whole new chapter of my life was opened. The very next day my father okayed the first on my own cooking. I made three whole loaves of french toast. My family helped me eat all that they could. And, coming from the philosophy of 'waste not - want not' was told that all the rest had to be eaten before more cooking could be done. I ate french toast morning, noon and night for three days.

Made every recipe in that cook book. Dad even made me a bench that ran across the full width of the stove. By the following year I could make bacon, sausage, eggs and pancakes at the same time. Not so good at coffee - still can not master that.

Looking back I think my dad made that bench for more than just feeding my passion. He always said that our mom was a religious cook. She was great at making burnt offerings.

Our Uncle Bill was not a biological relative. He was my dad's best bud. Used to drive my mom bonkers by calling her Soph and smackin' her butt. He also ran his own television repair shop in the city, on Belmont. Married and father of two.

Uncle Bill gave me my first money making opportunities. I do NOT count my dad paying a quarter to scratch his back for half an hour a money making opportunity. In fact, it could be considered child labor.

The summer after 7th grade and on weekends throughout 8th grade I worked at the TV shop. My older sister and I would take the bus to work. We started at 8am.

Swept the front area by the tube tester, and in back by all the work benches. The back was all guy. It smelled of cigarette smoke, smoldering solder, and silicon.

When a set came in it was my job to find a shelf spot for it. And, when a item was done I would have to relocate it to a spot, and update the work ticket so the counter person could find it.

In the winter, when things came in they did not go directly on a shelf. They would get put in two large garbage bags out back. Then, you would have to spray raid in there between the bags. The majority of the customers were lower income, so the bugs would climb in the sets for warmth. Every time I smell insect spray I think of the TV Shop.

At times people would decide it was too expensive to repair their item. These things would become throw aways. They would then end up next to the parts bench. I could sit at that bench for hours on end. You would take apart the TV, radio, stereo, whatever and just keep going. If part of a board was fried I would get to use the soldering iron and take apart the board diode by diode. Then I could sort and store them up front.

Loved working there; and thought that I was making a killing. My uncle paid me $13.00 a day and all that I wanted for lunch. This is where I thought I was pulling one over on him. I could eat two burgers, an order of fries, a full kosher pickle and a shake every day at lunch.

It seemed that as soon as my mother could, she would pimp out her daughters as baby sitters. So, by the New Year's Eve that I was to watch my uncle's two children, a five year old boy and some month old baby girl, it should have been a cinch.

How do I describe the boy? He was obsessed with Spectre Man. He would jump off furniture yelling it, fly around a corner yelling it, appearing out of nowhere with another Spectre Man, Spectre Man. But, I could handle it - a little discipline and artful distraction.

Let me tell you, he ran circles around me. Every time the baby needed feeding or changing he was up to something. Climbed the cabinet to get to a bowl of sugar that he was eating by handfuls. Under the sink pulling everything out.

Well, during one diaper changing he put ammonia in the dog's water dish. The dog was vomiting everywhere.

Had to call mom. No way to contact my uncle, there were no cellphones. She came with two sisters in tow to help with the baby sitting and left with the dog.

The dog did come back home. They pumped his poor little stomach. And, from then on babysitting there was a two sitter job.

Learned so much from this experience. My mother became part of the Mr. Yuck campaign. It is a round green sticker, a sickly color of green, and face similar to the smiley face with it's tongue sticking out and eyes squinting to put on chemical and medicine bottles.

I talked with the local fire department and set up a babysitting certification program. Baby sitters could go to the fire department and learn CPR, Heimlich maneuver, poisoning prevention and basic emergency care.

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