The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project # 21



List the best opportunities that others have given you throughout your life:

  • When I was in the first grade, my teacher, Mrs. Daly, walked me down the hall to the fourth grade room. There, I was made to stand in the front of the classroom, filled with all of those big kids, and read to them. The fourth grade teacher, a Dominican nun, introduced me. I can’t remember her exact words, but it was something like, “This is what a good reader sounds like. This is what you should be aiming for. Pay attention!” I was a shy child, and it was a terrifying experience. Still, I was given, that day, an identity that I would treasure:  “I am a reader.” Not only that, “I am a very good reader.” That self-knowledge, instilled in me at six-years-old, has been a strong foundation through my whole life.
  • My parents gave each of their children the opportunity to become an integral part of the family. We were not “accessories” or “bonuses,” but absolutely necessary to the smooth running of the whole operation. From basic housekeeping, helping with the babies, taking care of the lawn, planting and harvesting, to caring for the livestock, there was work for everyone. It wasn’t always fair (there is a story I tell about walking through the living room with a giant pile of clothes to be put away. My brother, lounging on the couch watching The Three Stooges, threw out a leg to try to trip me. When I yelled, he said, “Oh, come on, Cindy…make me a grilled cheese sandwich.” All of which was perfectly acceptable behavior in our house…for a boy), and it didn’t always work as well as it should have. We had arguments constantly about who was working harder, or who’s turn it was to dry dishes. There were charts and lists and allowances to try to smooth out the rough edges. It seemed like some kids managed to avoid all the worst jobs anyway.  But it was still a good opportunity. Though I was a lazy child, and one of the biggest “shirkers,” by the time I left home, I knew these things: I could take care of mountains of laundry from start to finish; I was great at folding clothes; the babies loved me, and I could get them to settle down and go to sleep when no one else could; I was a master at picking peas and beans; I was good at cleaning out and organizing drawers; I could  plan meals, shop for groceries and put a dinner together, plus dessert. Beyond that, there were many jobs I hated, but still knew how to do. Though I didn’t appreciate it at the time, the chance to be a part of a large working family was one of the best opportunities I’ve had!
  • When I was thirteen, I was given a full-time babysitting job for the Leschuk family that lived across the road from us. I worked five days a week, from 7:45 AM until 5:30 PM, taking care of two young school-age children. I fed them breakfast and lunch, entertained them with books and games, and kept them safe. I was expected to do a little light housekeeping, too. The job paid fifteen dollars a week, which seems, today, like a shockingly small amount, but was a good wage for a thirteen-year-old in 1966. I raided their cupboards and refrigerator for tasty treats and unusual foods never found at home. I scoured their bookshelves for literature that wouldn’t make it through the censors in the Catholic bulletin. Peyton Place and Valley of the Dolls were each bonuses of that summer job. I bought all of my own school clothes that year, and gained pride in my own self-sufficiency.

There have been a thousand other opportunities in my long life that I am thankful for, and far too many people to credit for them in this one list. They range from the good fortune of having my own family to the ability to go to college (thanks to my sister, Brenda, for encouraging me, and the Pell Grant and various student loans for helping to finance it!) to the chance to work as a waitress though I had no experience and was known as a klutz (thank you, Barb Beckers!) Most of the benefits, though, are variations on the knowledge and experience I gained from just these three first, early opportunities.





About cindyricksgers

I am an artist. I live on an island in northern Lake Michigan, USA. I have two grown daughters, four strong, smart and handsome grandsons and one beautiful, intelligent and charming granddaughter. I live with two spoiled dogs. I love walking in the woods around my home, reading, writing and playing in my studio.

5 responses »

  1. My upbringing was not so very different from your own, as an ’89 baby. I was an only child, but did not fail to notice that mum and I slaved away, while her husband/my biological father put his feet up and watch TV. We would clean the bathroom only to have him come in and wash his greasy hands in the sink after working on the car. Talk about a man who takes everything for granted.

    Mum was also keen on teaching me self-sufficiency, so much so, that it irritated me. I wore white uniforms to Catholic school, and though we had not one, but TWO washing machines, she insisted I wash them by hand, because, “What if we didn’t have machines? What would you use?” At 14, I knew the utility bills, grocery bills, how much my parents made, and why we could or could not afford certain things. Cooking, however, I mostly learned on my own, as while I was cleaning, mum did the cooking, and by 5th grade, we never lived in the same house again for more than a few months as she moved abroad.

    By 16, I was out on my own, and that was when I was extremely grateful for all those hard and boring lessons my mum insisted I learn. Talk about a payoff! 🙂

    • Oh, yes, Alexis, it does sound similar. Looking back, I would say my parents crippled their sons, by sparing them the basic knowledge that anyone needs to get by on their own. The boys were raised to NEED wives. Likewise, we girls were spared the mechanical and household repairs, and things like mowing lawn and burning trash. We have all picked up a working knowledge of those things, though. I wonder if my brother ever learned to fold his own clothes! Thanks for reading, Alexis, and for your comments.

      • I’ve met a lot of these crippled sons in adulthood who then presume to sit at the head of our tables. I wish them luck in life, because they will always come second to the men who did learn to fend for themselves, whether by good parenting or on their own.

        Thanks for chatting with me. 😊

  2. Cindy, how brave you were to read in front of that “older kids” class. I would have been petrified! I remember that an “older kid” came into my kindergarten room and asked a question about whether I was riding the bus and I was so scared and shy and embarrassed that it felt excruciating. Saluting your courage, dear reader!

    • It sounds like you know well about the experience of being painfully shy! I have dozens of anecdotes about when I was paralyzed by fear…and a few rare instances when i overcame it. Thanks for your comments, Kathy!

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