Thursday, January 10, 2013

Lessons Learned (or Not)

“Instructions for living a life.   
Pay attention.  Be astonished.  Tell about it."
~Mary Oliver

The other day, I drove a dear friend to San Jose International Airport. She was returning home, to the great state of Texas, after spending 4 days in California doing what us Californians do best:
Drink wine, talk, laugh, drink more California wine.  My friend doesn't drink much and for some
absurd reason, known only to herself, she always comes to Monterey and orders a Blue Hawaii.
Just like a damn tourist.  Only God and the bartender know what's in those.
3 sips later, she snockered.
I tell her, "Sip the grape, not the volcano" but she never listens to me.
We have to practically carry her home from The Wharf.
There's a lesson to be learned I suppose.
Anyway, after I dropped her at the Southwest curbside check-in and we said our good-byes, which are never easy because we both have these humongous heartstrings that pull and twist and tug at the thought of good-bye.
How are y'all at "good-bye's?"  "Good-bye's" aren't my strong-suit.
So in order to lighten things up, as I drove away from my friend, I laid on my horn and scared the shit out of the entire line of passengers, the baggage dude and a traffic controller.

Upon entering the on-ramp to the 101 South, I looked to my right and saw the San Jose Airport Holiday Inn; the very location of all our quarterly trailer park management meetings.
Suddenly, a shitload of memories (and hideous paisley carpet) filled my head and I was quickly taken back to the conference room where I spent many a day during my 7 1/2-year career as a trailer park manager.
Instantly, I'm filled with visions of dudes wearing camouflage caps and denim shirts with embroidered elk, knitting bags made of red and navy bandannas and extra-large folk selling extra-large bars of See's during the potty breaks.

I always sat in the very back row; the seat closest to the door.  So did this Samoan couple from Campbell, who always had matching shirts.  They sat there, not for the "exit benefits", but rather for its convenient location to the snack table.
The snacks were nothing to write home about: individually packaged muffins with fake blueberries, either really ripe or really green bananas and "brown water" with packets of non-dairy powdered creamer.

The meetings went on and on and on. They lingered like a bad head-cold. "Park Safety","Rules and Regulations of the New Year", "Maintenance Budgets".  And thrown in the mix was this head admin dude, who I'll call Roger, who thought he was a stand-up comedian.  There were at least 250 managers there each time, representing trailer parks from King City to Sacramento. Out of the 250, I'd guess 249 took their job seriously.
I just couldn't.
I'd arrive wearing one of my peace shirts and weird skirts, sit in the back like I mentioned, and take out my notebook.  I'd scan the crowd for the perfect person to write about:  Mr. Sanchez who once stopped a drive-through drug deal at space 320 without having to call the poe-leese, Candy whose husband trapped a wild hog with his own bare hands, Mr. and Mrs. Vandy who tried not to discriminate because "it's the law" but they had a problem with "those kind"...
Such a potpourri of characters.
I miss those characters, those meetings, those days.  No joke.

My resume looks a lot like that potpourri of characters.  Actually, more like Campbell's
Alphabet Soup.  From trailer park manager to hotel concierge to nanny and a dozen
other professions in between.
It's incredible that any prospective employer would take me seriously.
But from the trailer park to the front desk to the changing table, there have always been lessons.
Lessons that have taught me, given me, tools for life.
Lessons such as determination, fortitude, patience and humility;  Instructions for living a life.

The Cousin has some lessons to learn. Like many of us, she needs practice and positive reinforcement in order to "get it".  She was very used to, very comfortable with, being the one and only kid in her family's life. That special grandchild.  The princess on the block.
Then along comes Sweet Pea.

Jealousy is a vicious green serpent. It yields its poisonous head at the most unexpected times and can be the source of many regrettable situations.

The parentals try and tell her.  They say, "Give Sweet Pea hugs. Be Gentle. Love your cousin." 
I can see right through it.  I "get" The Cousin's jealousy and I understand her journey; a path that will certainly have some bumpy rocks.
Oh, how she tries to please the grown-ups.
She tries to do the right thing, but sometimes the devil just gets the best of her.

"Love Hugs"

And after she's done with "the lovin",  she always has this look.  I kid you not, it's a look of total satisfaction. And I'm beside myself in thought. 
"Was I like this with my poor little brother?" 
I know the answer. 
My bro is 2 years younger than me and of course growing up in a household of "traditional gender roles" I was the sweet, innocent, little girl. Therefore, 
I definitely didn't start anything in the area of trouble. 
I'd taunt, tease and torment my brother until he couldn't take it anymore and he'd haul off and hit me. 
I'd then go running down the hallway, crying to mommy and he'd get sent to his room.  
The Cousin gets put on a "time-out".  At least her mom uses this method.  I tried once, but the truth is, 
I have this kinda look on my face that tells The Cousin, 
"No need to take the nanny too seriously." 

Satisfaction Cheer
We all know that lessons don't always come easy.
I particularly like the ones in which you receive the learning right then and there and you don't have to do it wrong, over and over again, for the next 10 years.

The cutest thing of it is, Sweet Pea adores her.  And she's so forgiving, even after a choke-hold.

Sweet Pea in her "I Love My Forest Friends" onesy with way too many snaps for the nanny.

"Thank God she's not eating my puzzle."
In fact, Sweet Pea is totally oblivious to The Cousin's jealousy.  She's astonished with life and lives it to the fullest, with very few cares in the world.  No huge lessons for her to learn these days. Well, except don't eat the toaster plug.  No barricade too strong to stop her.  No book that can't be torn to shreds.
She's one happy camper and all her needs are being met.

All kids should have that, ya know... All their needs met.
It's a beautiful thing.

1 comment:

  1. Blue Hawaiian checking in! Enjoyed every word, from our always-sad good-byes to TPG Holiday Inn seminar-wit to nanny-truisms, which you seem to readily acquire. It's freezing here in Texas, the sky a dishwater-grey, so your blog really warmed things up with a good laugh. Thanks!
    Ah, Mary Oliver...Love that quote. I need to get back to reading her and writing a few poems. Glad to see your creative juices are still flowing, big time!