There is a little town called Irvine. It has a post office. It has a small stone church that is a couple of hundred years old. Right now it has a huge factory. That same factory stood when I was a child. My dad worked at the National Forge. That company was sold, and is now Ellwood National Forge. My dad had already retired due to health reasons. Son Mike has worked there. He has left to join an oil crew. It's a bit of a relief to me. There have been some serious accidents there. The other downfall to working for this company is that they don't give raises to the people on the floor. Now the workers are trying to establish a union, everyone working in secret, fearful of losing jobs in an area where jobs are in pretty short supply.
We lived outside of Irvine when I was a kid, and I remembered walking in every other week to visit the bookmobile which in those days, the library sent out to service people who could not get into the big city of Warren. We'd walk the couple of miles, crossing a rail road bridge, which always scared the mess out of me. We'd stand in front of the post office with the books that we were returning. We were always early, and we were also afraid of the post master. My mother always made us pick up the mail while we were there, but felt we could not be trusted with the little key. The post master made no secret of what nuisances we were, and always had an angry message to be relayed to my mother. My mother would always point out that it was a small post office, and that he certainly was not overworked, so he could just shut up and get the mail from our box and hand it to us. (Gosh, it was a big relief when we got rural delivery!)
I wonder what I looked like to outsiders in those days. Scrawny, dark haired, nervous, quiet around adults. The librarian on the bookmobile always set aside books just for me. I loved that about her, and I coveted her job. I imagined what it would be like to be her: the travelling seemed glamorous, and I marvelled at her easy grace with people. I figured that she must have about the most glamorous job of anyone in the county.
I now have a county job, and I drive my little red truck from one end of the county to the other. I meet a lot of people, and get a kick out of all of them. I laugh sometimes, thinking about how that-child-that-I-once-was thought it was such a big deal to have a job that took you all over the county. Our county is pretty small, but when you are a kid with a mother who did not drive, a father who worked long hours at the Forge, and your world consisted of the area you were allowed to travel on your bike, and the places you could get on foot, well, most of the county was out of reach. I remember sitting at the top of a power-line rightofway. It was bare, and you could see for some distance, and I dreamed of some day living in the big city of Warren, where things happened. It makes me laugh a little now.
Anyways, I stopped in Irvine the other day for work purposes. A couple of girls watched me warily from across the field as I dipped for larva. A boy on a bike joined them. One of the girls finally got up the nerve to ask what I was doing, and so I showed them, and before you know it, I had eight kids following me around, listening to an impromptu lecture of mosquitoes. They were fascinated by the larva. I pointed out other bugs to observe. I gave them each a pipette, and a sample bottle and told them that they could catch these and watch them develop. A couple of girls wanted to know if there were any jobs where I worked, because their dad needed one. They hung around (at a safe distance) to watch me treat the areas, and then they dispersed one by one, as I put my sprayer back in the truck.
I was taken by the boy on the bike. He was thin and quiet, and he had this look on his face that you recognize when you yourself are also product of an upbringing that very often just simply did not make sense. I guess that's what caught my eye about him. He listened to my little talk, and although the others chattered and asked questions, he listened, and he looked and he said nothing at all. The next day, when I was driving back to my office, I saw him again in Irvine. He was still on his bike and he was scanning a field with a bottle and a pipette in his hand.
We all have a chance to be part of a kid's childhood memories.
I think of the postmaster who figures in mine.
I think of that boy with his bottle and his bike.
I made a different memory.
That's cool, isn't it?