My husband found this picture lying on my desk after I’d gone on a rampage ruffling through drawers. “I throw you this for Thursday,” he said. It was Tuesday. He doesn’t do Twitter or Facebook or blog so I won’t send you out looking for him, but I’ll say this, he’s my first and strongest supporter. I’m proud to fuse my forever with his.
This is me at twenty-one. Fifteen years later I still don’t know a thing. That little bat-eared kitten is gone, left us just this last August in a mid-morning sleep. She’s found her purchase on a tiny plot of land. The kids sang her inappropriate songs that show how little small children understand of death.
At twenty-one I was doing the things American girls tend to do at that age, namely trying to make sense of the wide world we’ve plunked ourselves in. That summer I worked a temp job at the General Motors plant that ran our town and our family for so many years. For three months I followed in Dad’s work boots, punched the clock at 7 am and bruised up my arms so bad union reps would stop and ask questions. I had a lot of time to read on the heavy duty line. Every hour I got an ergonomic reset, sat on a pile of tires and shot the shit with the guys. I was reading Tom Robbins and Allen Ginsberg. I left odd quotes on neighboring work stations.
The only thing I know, is that I know nothing.
The guy who worked across from me was allergic to every animal except human beings, though with his less than stellar disposition, I was half allergic to him. But Zacko loved cats. He’d tie catnip mice to ends of fishing line and string circuitous routes along his living room walls ending at the couch where he could raise a beer and a cat simultaneously.
Those are times not easily forgotten. Back home GM was the golden ticket, you were “in like Flynn”, if you get my drift–3 day weekends, union pay, health insurance, pension, affordable cars with great trade-in value. The thing is, most of the people I met working there spent their time bitching and moaning about everything from the top down to the dirt between their toes. I don’t know if they worked to buy their boats or bought their boats to forget about work, but neither seemed like it did much good. Money or no, pig roasts in the parking lot, the lunch time bar, it was all working to get and what they got was more debt, more beer.
Now, I’m going to tell you right here, I’m not being fair. I’ve always been one of those annoying people who wax long and hard about the possibilities in life, how if you have a dream you gotta work, work, work to see it through. You can do it if you want to, you can go, go, go. But most of us can’t keep going like that. Not everyone feels that burning potential rising out of them like a steam vent in January. Life is immediate, families need. Some choices don’t look like choices at all.
I didn’t stick around after that summer. I’m not a factory girl, I’m too…impatient. I took off and got an earful from a brother-in-law who would have killed for that chance. “What were you thinking?” he said berating me for being idealistic, “You could have made real money there. You’re stupid to quit that.”
“That’s not my kind of living,” I said. “That’s not what I want for my life.”