My Mother’s Advice

I have to get this off my chest. I have a strong memory from when I was a kid, probably the 2nd or 3rd grade, standing around in our big kitchen talking with my mother. Somehow, we were discussing jobs. I have no idea why this topic had come up, but I do remember talking about one of my favorite places in town, the Post Office. My Uncle Al worked there. He had been a police officer but then switched careers to work for the Post Office. Everything about the Post Office was great — I loved the building and the large WPA murals, especially the one of John Brown who had lived in my town. I loved looking at the “wanted posters,” and the high counters, and how much like a bank it felt. I loved banks, too.
When talking about my Uncle, my mother used the phrase, “Civil Servant,” and I didn’t know what she meant. It’s funny that I remember her saying that phrase. She then told me that if, when I grew up, I took a test and got a job with “The Government,” it would be a “good job.” From what I knew then, a “good job” was one that paid you well and gave you “security.” I thought that meant you didn’t get fired.
A “good job” was nice, but “I remember wondering if I could get a “big job.” Important people had “big jobs.” My Aunt Bea always talked about people with “big jobs.” But the part of the conversation that impressed me most was when my mother said, “If you get a job with “The Government,” “The Government” will take care of you.”
“The Government” will take care of me? I figured it must be a big deal to become one of these Civil Servants, because you have to take and pass a test. I knew Uncle Al was a smart man. The test part scared me. But my mother assured me I would get a “good paycheck and have insurance.” I remember feeling happy that my mother thought that I could pass this test. I had no idea where one took the test, but I figured she would tell me when I was older.  
I remember, too, wondering about the insurance part. The only insurance I knew about was the [life] insurance payments my parents made to the man from “The Insurance Company” every month. He drove to our house in a nice car wearing a suit and a smile. My parents had a little payment book and he would fill in a page every time they paid him. They would sit around the kitchen table. I liked him. He gave me and my brother a shiny new penny every time he came. When my mother talked about insurance with “The Government” job, I didn’t know if she was referring to another Insurance Man, but I figured it must be important. I also especially remember thinking it would be nice to work for the Post Office in that fabulous building, just like my Uncle Al.
As I reflect on this, I find myself thinking something sad. There have been a few moments during some very difficult times over the years that I have thought, “I’m glad my father/ mother isn’t here now to see this.” I especially thought this after 9/11; my dad, a World War II veteran, died in 1996. I remember feeling strongly that the horrors of that awful day and the ramifications of what happened would have been so overwhelming, so upsetting for him, that I would have had to shield him from them somehow.
My mother died several years ago. And today I find myself thinking, with profound sadness, “I am glad my mother isn’t here right now to witness this shutdown.” Many people, including a close family member, work for “The Government.” Someone I know not only has a “good job,” he has a “big job.”  But he can neither work nor be paid.  My mother’s trust, her faith, her knowledge that “The Government” will take care of you, has been proven false. This shutdown would have rocked my mother to the core.
I know it’s rocking me to my core.
Kathy Galgano
January 15, 2019

I Woke Up Wanting to Write Again

I woke up wanting to write again. It has been a long time, and I dearly missed my old friend, that part of me that on earlier occasions had multiple pieces all whirling around my head at the same time, taking shape with each spin.  As themes and descriptions and story lines brightened with each mind lap, the hardest part was choosing what not to write. Some pieces would just have to swirl a little longer.

It didn’t happen overnight. It took a matter of weeks and the ideas slowed and I felt tired. I jotted several things down, but didn’t publish. Then I just stopped writing. I even stopped looking at my blog’s Stats page where I follow how many readers look at my site, and from which country they hail. I didn’t have interest in knowing which themes my readers preferred. Yes, I still had a few ideas swirling, but they weren’t taking form.

This lapse, something like a little death, came after a dear friend of mine passed. She had been ill for years, but referred to her illness as “an inconvenience” and stated numerous times, “I don’t do ‘sick’ well.” We saw a lot of each other, including spending a good deal of time in the car driving to and from the hospital. We hung out in clinic rooms together when she received treatments. We laughed a lot, and once in a while grew testy at each other, as good friends sometimes do. We shared stories of our families, our kids, and her grandbabies. How she adored her grandchildren.  After settling into a treatment room, and after a tech had taken vitals and a nurse had visited, my friend would pull out her iPad and we’d watch a new entertaining video of her grandkids. Boy did this make her smile!

At treatments, she and I caught up on TV shows about fashion, and usually we provided our own commentary, verbally ripping apart the garments on the runway and laughing a lot. One time we elected to stay in the clinic an extra ten minutes, after a grueling seven hour treatment day, just so we could see exactly which “whadding dress” (we used to emulate Martin Short’s character, Franck Eggelhoffer, in “Father of the Bride”) the bride-to-be finally chose. We talked about new recipes we cooked up or wanted to try. She brought me up to speed on who is working where and who just moved and who is doing what; it is no surprise that she had more, true, good friends than anyone I have ever known.

We enjoyed the tastiest chocolate chip cookies the hospital bistro served, and in true form, my dainty petite friend savored hers I while I wolfed down mine. We listened to Bill Cosby CDs in the car, and “Noah” and “Ice Cream” and “The Buck Buck Championship of the World” really had us roaring. The nurses and staff looked forward to her appointments and her smile and banter and quick wit. I knew she was well liked; the nurses even hugged me for bringing her.

Recently she had expressed sadness that she couldn’t see some long-time high school friends who were getting together; she had to receive a transfusion that day. She was annoyed. Yet she still acknowledged that while plans for that day weren’t going to gel, she did appreciate that we had become closer friends as a result of all our time in the car and treatment rooms. That was a gift.

And now she has passed and so I grieve. Some days are better than others. That’s normal. Death is a part of life, and what a life! Even on my toughest days I can still smile when I picture my friend laughing, or playing with her grandkids. Her petite frame and giant spirit celebrated life to the fullest. It has been several weeks now since she has passed, and of course, life goes on, although I admit I haven’t felt like participating fully.

But today I woke up wanting to write again. And in so doing, I welcome back a piece of myself that I have sorely missed and truly hoped I would find again soon. In finding this spark, this impulse that I had lost, with the beginnings of a few potential topics starting to swirl in my mind, I hope to bring to my writing the energy, creativity and zest for life my friend brought to her life. I hope to connect with my readers in the way she connected with those in her large circle of family and friends who held her dear. I dedicate this piece to her memory, her spirit, and am grateful for this renewal and connection with my readers again.

Kathy Galgano

February 15, 2014

My New Career

Eureka! At long last, I have selected, definitively, and finally, a career for myself. More than a career – it is an avocation, a way of life, a vocation.  It has been a long-time coming and it feels great! Woo Hoo!

With purpose, gusto and aplomb I have stylishly angled, but sometimes hurriedly plopped on many a scarfed-brim over the years. Like everyone else, I have planned some jobs and career choices, and stepped into others because I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right moment, or because somebody knew me and took pity on me, figuring I wouldn’t do too much damage if they gave me a break. I had no idea I would be a legal secretary, but that was the temp job I scored when trying to put myself through grad school, studying for another professional field. When I moved out of state, I landed a position not in the area for which I had matriculated and amassed debt, but in a law office.

When the kids were in grade school and I spent a lot of time volunteering there, I figured that at some point I would be offered a job. A library aide position opened up; I read a book on the Dewey Decimal System to prepare for the interview. The principal called me the week before and told me about the job. “What qualifications do you have for this position?” she asked. I could have said, “I own a library card.” I could have said, “I’m an English major; I know my way around a library.” But I had the flu, so I responded, “I don’t have any.” There was a pause of about a second, and then I heard, “I encourage you to apply.” The school hired me; I found out why at the end of the interview. “We know you,” they said. They also knew my kids and where I lived, so I tried hard not to get too much hair on the heavy clear tape I used to cover the periodicals to give the dog-eared magazines a longer shelf life.

My new career choice is actually the culmination of all my jobs and experiences, including mothering my children and everybody else’s. Years of work have defined the moment. This chosen path is a result of blending, interlocking, sifting, expunging, moving around, retrieving from the trash, and re-mixing a lifetime of experiences, jobs, educational opportunities, mistakes, talents, faux pas, brain deficits, street smarts, chance meetings, gut feelings, opinions, beliefs, hobbies, conversations, laundry, health, meals, friendships, family and life. It’s the synthesis of my life’s work, whatever that may be. Years ago my dear aunt asked me what I did, and I thoughtfully replied, “I don’t know. But I sure do a lot of it.”

So here it is. My career choice is to be a minion. Not just anybody’s minion, you understand. Not the lackey who daily is relegated to trudge through the hailstorms and blistering heat and hurricane winds to fetch all the office coffees, only to have somebody snatch my own cup of joe because she changed her mind at the last second, without an utterance or hint of apology. No. These minions have no self-respect.

Nor do I want to be that toady-lackey kind of minion. You know the stereotype; it’s the kiss-up who follows somebody of importance around, flattering the heck out of the boss and making oneself important by virtue of being in close proximity to The Important One. It’s the sycophant who makes everybody’s stomach turn, even the folks who steal the coffee they didn’t order.

No. These minions are either regrettable or unforgivable. My kind is that self-assured, happy-skippy sort that uses brains and wit to get the job done, all the while enjoying life and loving the experience. They don’t have to stand out in a crowd. They’re better off in a crowd. Yes. I want to be a Despicable Me minion.

These are the industrious, creative, hilarious dudes who come through for their boss. The boss knows that without his minions, the work just wouldn’t get done. Minions are the critical component to every project, and the boss genuinely cares about them. The only downside of this job is the heavy slapstick formula, but like it or not, I must admit that I do share that specific accident-prone attribute. I’ve noticed over the years that my family has had to fight back chuckles when they inquire if I’m all right.

These denim-clad guys work hard, play hard, and really just don’t get bent out of shape when things go awry. You don’t see minions fretting because they are flying into space on balloons or falling into deep pits. They may utter an “Oh, Poop,” and then get on with it. How many times have I worked myself into a tizzy because I wasn’t able to keep to my ridiculous schedule and get everything done?

Well, minions are my role models now, and I’ve been making a concerted effort to relax more. When things get harried, I try to think like a minion. I’m learning! Here’s proof. We invited friends over for Christmas dinner, asking them to arrive at two o’clock. Well, two o’clock came and we were nowhere near ready. Wrapping paper covered the floor and the place was a mess. I hadn’t even thought about dinner. Did I panic? No!

We welcomed our guests and there were hugs and presents and laughter. Somebody poured beverages for them, and I ran through the obstacle course of packages and paper into the kitchen, and cut up some bacon quiche into bite-sized pieces, arranged them on a festive plate, tossed a few toothpicks into a shot glass and shoved the glass in the center of the plate. Voilà! Hors d’oeuvres.

An hour later, as my dear friend joined me in the kitchen with her glass of wine while I began prepping for dinner, I told her about the minions in the movie. How I would love to be like them! Who wouldn’t? They’re cute and yellow and wear these eye things and crack me up. They’re always smiling and having fun. We laughed when I tried to mimic their speech. Then the conversation moved on to our families and mutual friends and life. When I looked at the clock and realized that Christmas dinner was now going to be a full two hours late, I offered a playful non-apology for my tardiness. I told my friend that while I knew I should be at least a bit embarrassed about not being anywhere near ready for dinner guests, that for the first time in my life, I didn’t care! We both laughed. As long as my guests were comfortable and had something to eat and drink while I worked, that was fine. They were not zooming off to another house anytime soon, and I was going to enjoy every minute of my day. After all, I had just ‘fessed up: I want to be a minion.

My dear friend smiled broadly, and exclaimed to me, “You already are!”