Last week my friend Heidi shared a story with me, based on a musical conversation we had. I told her that it was really good and that it should be shared here at my blog site. She agreed. Here it is in all of its glory:
“A friend emailed me asking what my generation’s take-me-back music was. His question got me thinking and inspired me to write out a memory I think of clearly when I hear a few songs. It’s not my generation’s take-me-back music, but I wasn’t always experiencing the same things at the same time frame as my peers.
“It was 1982 and I tagged along with my 16 year old brother on his Chicago Tribune routes one morning. We stopped at White Hen when we finished and he gave me some change to buy candy for helping him. Maybe I was caught up in the novelty or maybe just in thinking about all that potential money for candy. I wanted in.
“I was hired over the phone shortly after the school year ended and I got a little less than a nickel per delivery, so that was close to $30 every 2 weeks. For that large sum I just needed to have a paper on the last porch no later than 6:30 am. Now I have no memory of ever having a formal bedtime, so once school started and I knew I could no longer go home and take a nap after deliveries I found it harder and harder to get out of bed and come even close to delivering on time. No matter how much later I got out of bed I still frequently remembering hearing ‘Slit Skirts’, ‘Athena’ or ‘Waiting on a Friend’ play on my mom’s clock radio while I rolled or bagged my papers in our front hallway. They had become some of my favorite songs that summer.
“A few times I ducked behind a car in a driveway or in someone’s back yard when I saw my bosses Ford Bronco driving my route to confirm my papers weren’t on the porches they should’ve been on. Then for two or three days I had the flu and couldn’t deliver my papers. By this time my brother had been living with my dad a few towns away, so he couldn’t help me, but my mom and sister prepared my papers and my sister made my deliveries. She told me one of the people on the route said to her, “oh, you’re early today”, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when shortly after I got fired. Still, I was devastated.
“My route started the block I lived on and it stretched the five blocks adjacent. I was only at the end of my own block and it might have been 7:00 am already when a Ford Bronco screeched to a halt 10 feet in front of me. There was no running and hiding this time. My boss sprang out of his truck and quickly walked toward me looking pissed off, but not saying a word. He tried to grab my paper delivery bag swiftly, but I had the straps wound all around a grass trimmings bag frame, because it was the only thing on wheels I found to hold all that weight. He struggled and grunted while untangling that mess for what seemed like an eternity even though it was probably no more than a minute. Once free he threw the bag in the back of his truck and said over his shoulder, “you can pick up your last paycheck on Saturday”.
“I was sobbing before I even got home and my mom was somewhat trying to comfort me while pointing out how I was consistently late at the same time. It was a Saturday and my aunt stopped by not long after my first session of crying ceased only to start up again while telling her the story. She was even less comforting than my mom pointing out how frequently she’d waive to me while driving by on her way to the train and those papers should’ve been delivered long before that.
“Even though I hadn’t been saving much for it yet I had plans to buy my family Atari for Christmas. That dream was now shattered and over the next 6 weeks I often beat myself up over not being able to keep my job or save my money better. As it turned out my aunt that was so hard on me bought my family Atari that Christmas. I couldn’t have been more excited or surprised! That said, the lesions weren’t lost on me. Saving money and budgeting have since become some of my best quality’s.
“Whenever I hear one of those songs it brings me right back to 1982. The smell of the newsprint, the crisp, pre-dawn summer mornings and cashing my paycheck every other Saturday immediately followed by candy shopping that I’d spread out like a buffet and share with my sister. Those songs also remind me that I should give every job my best effort, because I never want to be fired from a job again even though I still struggle with getting out of bed in the morning.
“Some people could question who would give a job with that much responsibility to a 10 year old? I would agree and also question how many 10 year olds in 1982 considered Pete Townshend and The Rolling Stones to be some of their favorite artists? Like I said, growing up I wasn’t always experiencing the same things at the same time frame as my peers.”
Thank you for sharing this with me and allowing me to post this meaningful story here, Heidi.