Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Word (or Five) from Willoughby!

My good friend, Willoughby, from This Stop Willoughby, who always has an interesting challenge for us, has given me five words. My mission? To explain what those five words mean to me. Here goes!


Why do I think of laundry when I think of the word delicate? Because I'm weird, and I get great joy out of sorting my laundry and coming across those rare articles of clothing in my wardrobe (of mostly jeans, t-shirts and sweatshirts) that give me the opportunity to say...."These things must be done DELicately!" in my best Wicked Witch of The West voice! "Or else you HURT the spell..."

Actually despite my love of hockey, I do have a fondness for things of a delicate nature - I love lilacs, and one of my favorites are the Korean lilacs in my back yard. They bloom later than the typical ones - just as the common and French hybrids on our property are losing their color and scent, the Korean ones open up. The clusters of flowers are tiny, each one less than 1/4 inch in diameter, each cluster a mere two inches long. But the aroma from these delicate little flowers is proof that big things come in small packages.


There was a time where the mention of this word meant music - loud, raunchy, shrieking music. And that's all it meant! My first favorite band was Led Zeppelin, their first four albums handed down to me by my sister. After that, it was KISS (I STILL haven't explained the Gene Simmons/Ebenzer Scrooge connection, have I?!?! At this point, you'd be disappointed...It's been so built up!) Then Van Halen, and when David Lee Roth started losing his hair and getting all weird, it was Motley Crue. I listened to pretty much anything else, and the highlight of my Saturday nights was always Headbanger's Ball on MTV.

Now? I think of how funny it is when my co-worker brought her 4 week-old baby to the office for a visit and we all took turns holding him. Even if it wasn't your turn, you still found yourself rocking back and forth. Or I look at one of the rocks on my kitchen windowsill, a keepsake from a long ago trip to Prince Edward Island, where the rocks are worn into smooth ovals by the pounding of the Atlantic. The rocks I find in my daughter's coat pocket when I'm getting ready to throw it in the wash - the results of her many "treasure hunts". Or I think of how here in New England, you can't stick a spoon in the soil without hitting a rock. And how we'd find pieces of shale when we were kids, squinting and staring until we convinced ourselves we had found an arrowhead. Climbing that huge rock at the end of Fairhaven Town Beach on West Island, and wondering if it's really as big as I remember it to be. And how along the highway as I drive home from work the road has been cut through bedrock, and these fast-growing birch trees have sprouted out of seemingly nowhere out of the rock. Or how I used to love watching the Flintstones.

Then I start thinking about rock n roll again.


Bobby Orr...flying through the air, parallel to the ice at Boston Garden after scoring the goal that won the Stanley Cup. My Dad, the way he throws his arms up and yells "HEY!" anytime his team scores a goal, hits a home run or gets a touchdown. Wedding receptions, although I hate to say I find them usually incredibly boring (the product of being a bridesmaid too many times, I suppose!), but I love watching the first introduction as husband and wife, the first kiss, the first dance. Pregnancy and the miracle of birth. First smiles, first words, first teeth, first steps...each will be repeated thousands and thousands of times, but the firsts are always a cause for celebration. Thanksgiving and Christmas, for many reasons ranging from the true meaning to the commercial side of each holiday. Every pound I lose, every blog I write, every recipe I make that turns out right. Every tax return that ends in a refund...but not TOO big a refund, because the IRS doesn't pay interest on the money they so kindly hang on to for you! Every day on borrowed time with my Mom and Dad. Family reunions. Every friend I've ever had. Every friend I've ever lost. Yes, even when you "celebrate" the life of someone who has died - whether it was our friends' 20 month old-daughter or a 99 year-old great aunt - I try to make myself celebrate the fact that they lived, they were a part of this world and a part of my life.


I love that first spring day when I open up all the windows, even if it means putting on a sweatshirt so I won't freeze, and counting the seconds it takes for all three cats to each pick a windowsill to perch on as they sniff the smells that I can't detect floating in on the breeze. I love being able to open a jar of pickles or applesauce all by myself...and I also love having to ask my husband to do it. I love when a stubborn, afraid of change person like myself decided to be open-minded and it pays off! I love when a friend opens up and confides in me, because I know better than they do that I never share a secret - like being the first to know she's pregnant, or that he just scratched a lottery ticket worth...a lot! I love when I took horseback riding lessons, many years ago, that one summer night when the indoor arena was too stuffy and Joe took us out into the big field where we felt like we were free, like we understood what the term "wide open spaces" meant. I love diners that are open all night, so after a concert or a formal event or a late movie, we can go in and have breakfast at 2:00 A.M. I love watching someone open "THE" gift. Especially when it's from me!


I used to work for a company that printed business forms. By the time I got there, the need for certain forms were beginning to dwindle. Why would you need carbon paper when there was carbonless? Then why would you need carbonless when these days everyone had a photocopier? Why do you need to print up forms to use as sales receipts when those little machines now print out detailed receipts? Why do you need a customized form when you have a computer and can design and print them as needed? Then came the internet....and sales of printed checks decreased. Eventually the big presses and collators, while not totally obsolete, were vaguely beginning to resemble dinosaurs. Now the money was in barcodes and labels, and we only needed a couple guys sitting at a computer to handle most of that work.

But back in the day, the guys in our plant were not only highly skilled workers, they were at a level in their careers that took years of learning to attain. You didn't just walk in and land a job running a press, you had to apprentice. Not only could one little mistake cost the company a fortune and waste a lot of resources, it was so easy to lose a finger, a hand or worse. There was a precise technical side to the job as well as a bit of an artistic side. They could see subtle difference in color that my eyes could not pick up. And when there was a market, there was money to be made.

When I read that I had been assigned the word "Form", the first thought that came into my mind was a story that had been passed around often when I worked for this company. It happened long before I entered the working world, although the pressman and the president of the company were still there when I came to work for them ten years later. It was early 1978, and anyone who lived in New England at the time can probably guess where I'm going with this one - we got hit with a blizzard in early February.

I was 12 going on 13, and the night it hit my mother, sister and I were out there every hour on the hour trying to keep the end of the driveway reasonably clear. My dad drove a truck for a living, and while he usually made it home by 8:30 or so, here it was 10:00 P.M. and he was still out there. We didn't worry about clearing the driveway, just the huge snowbank that kept appearing at the end where the plows were piling up the snow. Shortly after 10:00, my dad called - he was stuck at a school in Southborough, normally a twenty-minute ride from here, but tonight, inaccessible. His tractor-trailer was stuck on Route 9 and the State police had rounded up him and every other stranded motorist and brought them to various shelters. Two days later, he pulled into our driveway! By then, school had already been canceled and the following week was February vacation, so us kids were ecstatic! In our neck of the woods as well as many others, roads were closed unless it was an emergency. Friends across town owned a horse and took him out on deserted streets that were usually crowded with cars. We built forts made out of snow that were ten feet high, until a little boy a few towns over was killed when his fort collapsed and he suffocated. Then we built snowmen, had snowball fights, we made snow ice cream and by Thursday we had finally found my sister's Camaro. It was buried so deep, we started thinking it was just another snowbank! In fact, I'm sure we climbed it at one point!

Ten miles away, in the building where I would one day work, a pressman named Dan was extremely busy. He had stayed late the day the storm hit to finish up a job, but by the time he decided to go home, it was impossible to do so, so he slept on the couch in the office and ate and drank his way through the vending machines. The next day, a friend or relative came and got him in his massive truck and brought him home. He no sooner got home when the phone rang. Could he go back to the plant? The company got the contract to print all the forms the state needed to deal with the emergency, forms needed for claimants to request the federal money that was pouring in to deal with what had become a natural disaster. Dan not only lived closer than any of the other experienced workers, but over the years Dan knew how to run virtually every piece of equipment in the plant - from burning negatives in the composition room, to running a press to collating to packaging and printing labels for the boxes. Dan was willing, but said it took him six hours to travel the nine miles to his house. No problem, the State Police said they'd get you there safely and back again. And they did. Via snowmobile. And Dan worked the whole week, eating, sleeping, showering as needed, being joined a couple days later by some other brave souls...or guys who were sick of being cooped up with their wives and kids! And in the end, the forms were printed, and reprinted as needed, and claims were filed and reports were made.

The following week, when roads started to open and people slowly started returning to their jobs, a very important form was printed in the accounting office, where I would some day work. It was one of the 85 paychecks that got printed, and it had Dan's name on it. The president of the company laughed when he signed it. Dan had dutifully punched in and out for every break, every meal, every nap, but in the end he had still earned not only overtime, but double-overtime, and his check was even bigger than the president's. It was one of his favorite stories to tell. And my favorite one to hear!

So, apparently, when I think of the word "Form" I think of childhood and blizzards and printing presses and paychecks.

Makes perfect sense to me!


5thsister said...

Wonderful. You have a wonderful way with words. I so enjoy reading you!

5thsister said...

I have an award for you, too! Come by to check it out!

Willoughby said...

I loved what you had to say for each of the words, but "Form" was my favorite. I thought I was throwing you a bit of a curve ball with that one, but you really delivered.

I have an award waiting for you at my blog. Come on by and pick it up!

Tattoos and Teething Rings said...

So interesting what different reactions people will have to the same words, thanks for sharing :)

Lissaloo said...

Great Job! I loved your reference for delicate, lol made me chuckle :) I do need some help figuring out how to make pumpkin puree from scratch, any tips would be great.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Just stopped by from Willoughby's. Great post over there and great post here!
It's nice to meet you. I'll be back again soon.