Sunday, April 10, 2016

All Dressed Up

I looked at myself in the mirror, adjusted my tie, and fell straight through time.

This was the first day of my new job and I was all nerves and crazy. That’s only natural, of course, but I was really winding myself up into a higher state of lunacy.

I was wearing my best suit and a brand new pair of shoes, which I had bought just for this occasion, and then my mind decided to slide out the back door.

You’re going to be 59 years old next month, I told myself. And what have you done with your life? Shouldn’t you be more successful by now?

Yes, now that was exactly what I didn’t need to hear on this particular morning. And as I looked at my reflection I had this lightning flashback to my grammar school days.

I was suddenly standing in the kitchen of our family’s house, some 40-odd years ago, all done up in my Cub Scout uniform and my mother was giving me the once over before sending me off to Catholic school hell. (Just kidding...well, no, actually, I'm not.)

“All right, Captain. Parmenter,” she said, brushing away some lint. “You’re ready.”

For those of you who don’t know your Sixties sitcoms, Captain Wilton Parmenter was the commander in F Troop, which was one of my favorite shows at the time. Please remember I was a child back then and I suspect this program has not aged well at all.

Portrayed by Ken Berry, the captain was an affable klutz who was chronically clueless about women, corruption in the ranks, and the laws of gravity, apparently, given all the pratfalls he experienced in the course of each episode.

But he did look great in a uniform.


My mother wasn’t actually comparing me with this dimwit—far from it. When I was struggling in school, a far too often occurrence, she’d buck me up by saying “You’re a smart boy!”

More importantly, though, I was her smart boy. She was just being affectionate and loving, which came quite easily to her. And I think that’s why I recalled this memory at that moment.

I was feeling stressed, frightened, and isolated, and my mind, hearing a subconscious call of “I want my mommy!”, promptly delivered the goods.

Naturally I started crying, which happens often when I think of my mother, but I had enough sanity left to remind myself that I really didn’t have time for yet another breakdown and that I had to get my ass to work.

Fond memories like this are priceless, but they can also be traps if you use them as an excuse to avoid reality. These recollections work best as emotional support—not as an escape hatch.

My auntie, my mother’s sister, called me at the office late one afternoon and she instantly heard the tension in my voice.

It is absolutely impossible for me to hide my emotional state from this woman and I swear that if she worked for Homeland Security she’d have terrorists babbling out their plans in record time.

She told me to calm down and work hard, and then finished off with another one of her priceless bits of advice.

“Cheer up and go catch your bus,” she said.

Yes, exactly. Do what’s required of you, be grateful for everything you have, and then go the hell home. I’m sure Captain Parmenter would agree.


Bijoux said...

Ken Berry......I remember him fondly from Disney movies and Mayberry RFD. I'm glad your memory of your Mom and hearing from your aunt got you through your first week!

Rob K said...

Oh, thanks, Bijoux! The mind certainly moves in mysterious ways--or at least mine does!

Ron said...

OMG Rob, the way in which you expressed your first day at work and recalling moments from your childhood with your mother made me all teary-eyed because it's almost as if she was there with you once again in spirit, giving you her love and support.

And she was right, you ARE a smart boy. You're also am AWESOME human being who I'm proud and happy to know!

Hope your first week on the new job went faaaaaaaabulously! As I'm sure it did!

Have a super week, buddy!

Rob K said...

Hey, Ron, thanks so much, buddy! I was so nervous that I guess it was only natural for her to show up in my mind.

And thank you so much for the kind things you say--not just today, but for every post I've been putting up all these years. You are truly excellent friend and all around great guy!

Take care, buddy!

valerie said...

i forgot to mention previously, congrats on your new job. you're a great writer so i know you will succeed!

this is basically me every day

"Do what’s required of you, be grateful for everything you have, and then go the hell home."

i guess this IS success to me, tho'so many people define it by the amount of money they make or the things they have. none of that matters much, not saying it's not important, but tho' i'm not materially rich, i matter to other people.when i'm not around, they truly miss what i have to offer, what i bring to the table. that my friend is success to me.i succeed as a human, a mother, a friend, etc.

Rob K said...

Oh, Val, thank you so much! And what a lovely and very true sentiment. Yes, you succeed on every level and I'm so glad to say you're my friend!

Great to from you!