I could not wait to turn sixteen. Sixteen was the magic number for getting a driver’s license and a real job. I was so ready to leave my babysitting days behind! The pay wasn’t great, the working conditions were sketchy, and I did not like the hours.
Fifty years ago, a new mall was built and it was the perfect place to find a job. My friend had a job at Orange Julius, so as soon as I was sixteen, I put in my application. I spent several years blending up Orange Julius drinks.
I was getting tired of the food industry so I scoured the job ads in the paper and found one that had me curious. I had to go to a motel for the interview, I thought nothing of that because I had just graduated from high school. My parents were out of town for the weekend, and when they returned they learned I had a new job. I was going to work at a kiosk outside of J. C. Penney in the mall making keys and engraving on metal. The kiosk was called Can-Do (it changed to Things Remembered after I left). I spent a couple of weeks going to the motel room with another girl, which was set up with the engraving machine. I worked there for a couple of years as I attended college, but then I thought I needed to do something closer to my field of study.
The Little Red Schoolhouse preschool gave me the opportunity to read books and do crafts with preschool kids. In the summer I worked with the school-aged kids and we had a lot of fun on multiple field trips.
I graduated a semester early because I had taken classes in the summer. Luckily for me a school district near me had a teacher going on maternity leave in February. I said good-bye to preschoolers and began corralling a wild class of fifth graders. It was a brutal semester, but I survived (and they did too). I spent another year in that school before I changed districts.
I spent the next twenty years teaching fourth grade, third grade, then Title I Reading to all the elementary grades. The last eleven years were in my third and final district. I taught Reading Recovery and small groups until I decided to retire. However, that retirement only lasted a month (because the state required it). I began working part-time for Missouri Reading Initiative as a trainer to bring professional development on balanced literacy into schools. It was a fun job. I could create my calendar of days in schools and schedule trips in-between. I wasn’t ready to leave the educational world, yet.
Then COVID-19 hit. Schools were not the safest place anymore. I didn’t want to be the one who brought the virus into our home. I took a leave-of-absence this past year. This year has given me a taste of what full-time retirement would be like.
I decided to continue this life. This is the first time in fifty years I have not had a job. I am not sure how I will spend my days, but I do know I will be reading, a lot. Perhaps I will even be writing a blog post or two. I’m excited to see where this retirement takes me.