Sitting down at teatime is always a great break in the day. You can set aside your tasks and cares to replenish body and soul. For me, this is also a time of reflection. As tea flows from the pot to the cup, so memories flow from the past to the present in my mind.
The other day I was remembering a job I had in that Summer after my first year in university. Many of us get such Summer jobs to earn some extra money and get a bit of hands-on experience. Where I grew up, most of those jobs were in the surrounding corn fields where seed corn was grown. Every Summer, swarms of Summer hires (usually high school and college students) would go through the fields pulling pollen-laden tassels off of every other row or so. This kept down the amount of cross-pollination.
Needing some funds to supplement my college scholarship, I had every intention of being one of the workers in those fields. But that year the seed corn growers had switched from hiring local short-term workers and used migrant workers instead. So, my father had me fill out an application at the factory where he’d worked for years, supporting us all. I got the job (was actually one of a bunch of Summer hires) and was required to join the union there. This was one of the best experiences of my life (but not because I was paying union dues).
Working in the factory was hard work. There was no air conditioning, so temps got up to the 90s. The pace on the assembly line was brisk (to put it mildly). We had a quota to meet. I had something more: my father’s reputation to uphold, being his daughter. If I didn’t work hard, it would reflect badly on Dad, or so I thought. Did I succeed? The assembly line I was on never failed to meet its quota and often exceeded it, so “Yes.”
The job lasted five weeks. We had met the production goals, so the Summer hires were let go. It didn’t bother me since I had saved my earnings and had enough to carry me through another year at university. However, the biggest thing I had gained was getting to know a side of my father I had not seen growing up. As much as my mother, my siblings, and I loved him and as wonderful as he was to us, we didn’t very often see how he interacted with others, especially not at work. He would usually come home exhausted, eat dinner, watch the news on TV, and fall asleep. The revelation I got while working at the factory was astounding: my father was beloved by his co-workers.
At that time, my father was Chief Electrician and so bounced all over the factory making sure everything was humming along. Yet, every day he took time to come by and see how I was doing. Every time he arrived, all the workers around me, men and women, young and old, would cheer up. Their faces would break into big smiles. My father took his responsibility for supporting his family very seriously but never lost his humor and warmth. It’s one thing for family to see this. It’s even better when others see it, too.
That Summer I shared a part of my father that my siblings never had a chance to see. It left an indelible impression. As I pour another cup of Oolong, the memory comes back as warm and comforting as each sip of that wonderful tea. I raise my cup in a toast. Here’s to you, Dad!
For more great writing, check out A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill!