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
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STAND-UP, FOR GOODNESS SAKE (Kathy’s “Stand-Up” Routine, Dedicated to Aunt Bea)

WE – SAVE – THE – BEST – FOR – LAST

WHO does?

Nobody I know.

I’m at the meat counter at my local supermarket. “Sure. Why don’t you just wrap up that scrawny little chop there, the one next to the perfect cut that’s thick and gorgeous.” “Yea, That’s right. That little one that’s skinny on one side and is jagged from bad knife work and looks a little brown from oxidation.” “Gee, whoever cut that sucker must have been Tweeting or something –  What a mess!” “Yea, sure. Let’s just leave that gorgeous one for the last shopper in here so they can get the best chop after a hard day’s work. You know, cuz we’re supposed to save the best for last.” “Hey, you got any scraggy chicken legs back there?” “I’ve got some company coming but I don’t want to take your best. There are people in line behind me.”

IT’S – THE – LEAST – I – CAN – DO!

Oh, really? That’s it? Really?

“Okay, then. Thanks. Yea, I’ll keep you posted. Thank you again. Appreciate it so much!”

Oh. My. God! Did this woman, my friend and mother of the best friends of my twins, just say to me on the phone, “It’s the LEAST I can do?

She sounded so concerned and willing to help me out at first. I mean, I thought I could really trust her, especially in a situation like this! But then she said, “It’s the LEAST I can do, emphasizing the “least” part.  “It’s the LEAST I can do.” What does that MEAN? Only seconds before she had agreed to help out with the kids because Mom was just rushed to the hospital by ambulance and they are going to operate within the hour and she is having open heart surgery and Dad is beside himself with worry and said Mom insisted on doing dishes before he could even call the ambulance and I have to go RIGHT NOW and also get a hold of my sister, and what was that thing Dad said about a new roller brush? and Oh my Goodness, which part of taking my twins to their a.m. kindergarten class and then bringing them to her house after school and feeding them a little lunch and maybe putting them down for a nap or just letting them watch a movie and bringing them over later is “the LEAST” part? I know it’s a lot, but this is an emergency! Couldn’t she just do a BIT MORE than the least? Oh my God! Maybe I should make them a couple of sandwiches because the kids may have to forage for their lunch! Or maybe this woman will only drive the kids HALF-way home later tonight. Heck, she’ll probably drop them off at the Seven-Eleven a mile away! I need to know; exactly which part is “The LEAST?” Maybe I should give the twins cab fare just in case? Or maybe just some money for a Slurpee? Why did she have to SAY that?! “It’s the LEAST I could do! Couldn’t it be the MOST at a time like this? I would certainly do more than the least!

As I take the mandatory sip from my Crystal Geyser (product placement) bottle of water perched on the high stool next to me, some moron from the audience yells something out.

I have no idea what he just said. They really need to mic the audience. My first heckler! I can barely see the audience with all these lights and now I have to struggle to hear them, too. Shoot. I forgot what comes next!

I respond, “Sir.” “May I help you?” “This isn’t the part of the show where I ask the audience if they have any questions. That comes later.”

“And just for your edification, folks, there are these pale blue comment cards in the lobby so perhaps after the set you can jot down your questions or thoughts there.”

“Now Sir,” “You could have taken a card or two with you when you entered and brought them to your seat and written them out there and handed them to a server. Oh, and everybody, PLEASE remember to tip your servers!”

“So try to remember the comment cards for next time. Or, you can go to the Club’s Web site from your idiot phone (To the audience: “Get it? Smart phone? Idiot phone?”) to submit your comments online.” “Wait a minute. It’s RUDE to type when you’re at the table so… I guess you don’t want to do THAT!” (Chuckle. Drink another sip.)

(Looking in the area of the heckler) “And say, do you live in a barn?” “I’m serious now. Do you live in a barn?”

“Now I KNOW you don’t live in a barn. I know this because I do! I live in a barn, and in a barn, there is a pecking order. And you, sir, having yelled out of order, would be low on the pecking order. Among ALL the animals in the barn, you’d be a lowly Clucker! And I can tell you right now, from experience, that in a barn, the animals do NOT save the best for last. My barn mates would only leave the scrappiest of scraps for the nastiest and lowliest little Cluckers. They wouldn’t even leave the scraps from a lousy cut of fatty chop for the hound! And another thing about barnyard life – Barn animals’ mothers do not let their young ones stray. I’m afraid that your mother would be ashamed of you, speaking out of turn like that. Your mother was no Mother Clucker.”

Sip water. (Into the mic but under my breath) “Little Clucker.” (Smile.)

And ah, yes,

SHE – WAS –  RUSHED – TO – THE – HOSPITAL

Of course she was rushed to the hospital.

“Honey, I think I’m having a heart attack.” “Uh-huh. Right!” “No, I’m not rolling on the floor laughing.” “Yea, Look, Dear, Can you get the elephant stomping on my chest to hop off please?” “I know! I don’t like calling 9-1-1 either. Ambulances are so darned expensive.” “No, I’m not rolling on the floor to pick up dust bunnies with my sweater, Honey.” “Okay. Let’s call 9-1-1. Just don’t let them cut my sweater, okay? This is one of those Cashmere sweaters that the girls gave me for Christmas. I know it cost them a BOODLE, even on sale. They really shouldn’t be so extravagant. I’ll have to talk to them about it.”

“Okay, so we’re going to save the sweater, right, Honey? You know how those ambulance people are on TV, always cutting things with those fancy scissors of theirs? I think it gives them a sense of power.” “They should be working at Jo-Ann Fabric, for Goodness sakes.” “No, Dear, Please don’t feel like you have to roll on the floor, too.” Yea, well look, they’ll probably stop for a coffee on the way and you can get one of those latte drinks you like so much. Maybe a bite to eat. They have those nice croissants.” “No. I’m good. I’m kinda warm though. I’m actually sweating a little. Okay. Maybe an iced drink then.”

“All Right. When this pain subsides a bit, I’ll get off the floor and do a few dishes and call the neighbor’s kids to see if they can bring the trash out later. I’d hate to miss a pick-up!” “Okay, Dear, now why don’t you just give them a jingle at 9-1-1.” “It’s really nothing. I can barely feel it. Look! I can almost stand up now!” “And honey, can you get the lint brush? I can’t go with all this dust on my good sweater!”

“No. Let’s not trouble the girls right now. That just seems silly to bother them. You know how busy they are, and the twins are always up so EARLY!”

Goodnight! Thank you.

All original material by Kathleen M. Galgano, copyright August 10, 2013, San Jose, CA