Tuesday 12.20.11

I was listening to the radio this afternoon. It was mentioned that today is the 35th anniversary of the death of Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago. That would have been 1976. Suddenly, I recalled a bunch of things. I had heard the news on the radio that day, 35 years ago, in my car on the way back from the local community college. I was a senior in high school. They did not offer art programs at my school so they allowed me to commute 30 miles away to the community college to take art classes. As long as I passed them, I would also receive credit at the high school. This was before consolidation of the schools was happening – at least there – so this was the other option.

The car was a 1967 Ford Custom 500. Pretty sure it was a four door. It was light robin’s egg blue with a white top. Not a vinyl top… it was painted. The seats were kind of silvery blue vinyl. Bench seats. When I heard the news of the Mayor’s passing, I was at the corner of Stagecoach Trail road and Cedarville road. It was all very clear in my mind. I was on my way back to work at the local meat plant where I worked after school. It was a big deal… the guys who owned the plant were from the Chicago area originally.

I thought it was odd that as I heard this news of the 35th anniversary, all of this information just suddenly popped into my head. I can hardly remember what I had for breakfast or for that matter, if I even had breakfast recently but I could remember that like it just happened.

Then, as I was recalling things, I looked out the window and saw that it had started to snow. This reminded me of snow shoveling, which I reluctantly do. I also remembered a couple of things from when I was a kid.

To tell it right, or as right as I remember… or as right as I figure it should be to tell a story I have to start without the snow and mention my mother. My mom was someone who cooked and baked and sewed and crafted and probably stuck her nose into things she should not have. She was an involved kind of person. During the holidays she would bake things and pass them out to neighbors. One year some lady rang our doorbell. I answered it. It was the Fuller Brush Lady. She would come over to sell crap to my mom. I went to get my mom to tell her that Mrs. Gayle was here. Well, it seems Mrs. Gayle was somehow overlooked or had not yet received any holiday baked goods. She was there to collect.

Mom scurried around and threw something together… wrapped it up and hustled Mrs. Gayle out the door with a Merry Christmas and I’m pretty sure somewhere in her mind was also a “now, get the fuck out.” She did not say that though.

May first is May Day. One year, Mom decided that we should make May baskets and deliver them to the neighbors. We did and we did. One of the neighbors lived two houses towards downtown… which from our house was actually “uptown” but we always said downtown. Her name was Mrs. Carson. She was a thin older woman. She lived in a kind of fancy looking brick house with a round column looking thing on one of the front corners. She had a driveway that started at the street, went through the side yard and then made a right hand curve into her garage behind the house. She had a front door and another entry door off the driveway on the side of her house. We went to deliver the May basket. We rang the doorbell at the side door. After no response, we left the basket hanging from the door handle and went on about our delivering.

Later, back at home, the phone rang. Mom was talking to someone. It was Mrs. Carson. She was super pissed that we were “running around the neighborhood, ringing door bells and then running away.” Mom explained that we were out delivering May baskets. She asked if she had found one hanging from the door handle. I never ever heard whether or not she found the basket. Maybe next time he would answer the door faster.

Which brings me to the snow.

One winter after a significant snow, someone had the brilliant idea that we (I think my brother and me or maybe a neighbor kid) should go out and shovel snow for people. I don’t know if doing it out of the goodness of our hearts was the plan or doing it to make some quick bucks was the plan but once we were out, bucks was the only plan I can remember. I also don’t remember if this was something we came up with on our own or if it was a clever ploy by my Dad to get us out of the house for a while.

Mrs. Carson’s humongous cement driveway was just one big pile of cash waiting to be collected… by us. So, we knocked on her door (pretty sure the side door again) and she did answer. We offered to shovel her driveway. She accepted. Since we were stupid kids, our sense of negotiating a contract for payment was somewhat diminished. We began to shovel. Thirty two seconds into this we realized that this was probably going to be a bitch. We were going to earn every dollar.

I don’t know how long it took. Every once in a while, Mrs. Carson would come out and point out something we missed or that we were not putting the shoveled snow in the right area. Finally, after a ton of back-breaking work we went to the door to announce completion and collect a pile of cash like no other. I would retire. I would never have to shovel again.

She looked over the work (which was good and complete) and grabbed her purse. She took her wallet out of the purse and opened it. Into our hands she place the treasure: Two bucks. Two fucking dollars. Maybe that was okay for sometime in the mid to late 60’s… I thought it was a little light. I wanted at that moment to do something drastic – like shove a May basket up her skinny ass. I did not. We took the loot and split it. And, as all my stories like this now end… she’s probably dead by now.

Later tonight as I was recalling this during supper, I suggested that our APP developer kid in the house come up with one called “Mrs. Carson’s Driveway.” You have the opportunity to collect cool things by shoveling them out from under the snow… you have to make sure you don’t lose points by allowing the city snowplow guy to bury you in at the street entrance. In the end, you could collect two fucking dollars. All I ask for in return for this great idea is one check for exactly One gazillion dollars. My negotiating skills are much better now.

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