Of all the trashing I do on Grand, they had their high points. From Grand, it was drilled in my head to never put on credit what you could pay off in a short time. Never take home anything you didn’t own outright, unless it was absolutely unavoidable (a house, for example). If you can’t afford it, you don’t need it. Quality over quantity.
Grand was infamous for spending a great deal of time choosing a particular piece of furniture, it was always good quality, then making several payments over months until they could finally bring it home.
Considering I was also a child who was never on health insurance of any kind, how Grand managed to not only handle my braces, but when it came to needing surgery… as a parent now, I could hyperventilate over the co-pay alone, let alone having to shoulder the whole thing. It galls me now that I cannot provide better for my kid than Grand did on less money. I know it’s thirty and more years, inflation and the economy sucks, but sometimes I still feel like Grand would have just done better than I have.
You could also probably say I wasn’t too well-adjusted since I didn’t go to any kind of daycare or afterschool. I was a bastardized version of a latchkey kid. Grand was in the house, but I saw them little.
The few times I remember going to a daycare, it was a woman’s house way out in the sticks, the entire house was made just for taking care of large amounts of children. I remember mostly there being babies and then this wide age range of children who ran around and screamed like wild banshees. As an only child completely unfamiliar with kids who behaved so wild, I shoved myself in the darkest, quietest corner I could find and I did not sleep, talk, eat, drink or pee until Grand came to get me. It was hell.
Grand often did some jobs in different areas of the state as well. It was boring work involving copious amounts of fast food, walking and driving. It could normally take all day and sometimes the people you had to interact with weren’t so nice to deal with. It would take Grand to a lot of questionable neighborhoods as well, which all contributed to the reasons that Grand wanted to leave me elsewhere.
The last time Grand brought me out to that rabid, dog-fighting pen for infants, I snapped. This is years before automatic locks and Grand’s car was a relic even among that. I locked myself in the car and screamed that I was not ever going in there again. I could not have been more than six years old at the time. Any time Grand managed to get one door unlocked, I took my fist and slammed it down quicker than they could open the door. My face was purple, I sobbed, I yelled, I kicked, I made it clear that if either Grand or the woman who ran the daycare touched me, they’d come back with a stump. I was like a feral animal hell bent on mauling anyone who tried to drag me into that place.
In the same position as a parent, I’m pretty sure I would have given Spawn the worst spanking of their life.
But Grand didn’t.
I had never in my life behaved that way. Not once. All I can think is that, looking back, if I hated something so much to behave that badly now, there had to be a reason. Grand backed off. I could even perceive the slump in the shoulders when they gave up. Grand told the woman to leave and that I wouldn’t be staying. I very cautiously unlocked the door and backed as far away as I could. I knew I was in trouble. I knew I was going to get a lecture, at best. Considering Grand often shared techniques of taking the narrow end of a ruler to the backside of an uncle or two, I was convinced this was how I would die.
Grand didn’t go home though and we didn’t speak for a long time. In fact, when Grand finally did speak, not a word was said about anything I’d done. Grand went on to their locations of that day to do their work. I either sat in the car or made myself scarce while Grand did their job. I was perfectly content. Grand simply took me with instead and I never went back.
Over time, I learned to dress nicely and pack an activity bag, but oftentimes I was entertained just by the amazing (and often off-color) stories from managers, gas station attendants, drugstore shopkeepers and the multitude of people who became permanent fixtures in Grand’s world during these trips. It went on that way until I was old enough to drive and took over doing it for Grand instead.
Grand added an office to the back of the house and closed the shop they had rented. I was taught how to file, run copies, keep the drink station filled for people who came and waited. Hell, I even remember Grand describing how to keep a ledger of incoming and outgoing funds. I was probably the only toddler who could use the word “itemize.”
I still remember being plopped in the floor with a file cabinet drawer open while filing. I sang the alphabet song the entire time over… and over “A,B,C,D…….A,B,C,D,E… A,B,C,D,E,F….” for HOURS!!!! I sucked at alphabetizing even for a kid. I often wonder how in hell Grand managed to listen to that for that long and not lob a shoe at my head.
I was also only allowed to stay in the office either after Grand closed or I was needed bad enough for it to not matter. Otherwise, I was to remain scarce. So when I returned from school, I usually had to make my own meals and spent a great amount of time by myself. I was allowed to use the microwave, but nothing sharper than a butter knife. I had no clue how to cook. I once tried to boil water and almost melted a pot. I didn’t even know this was possible. Of course, I eliminated the evidence as quickly as I could.
My meals consisted of a LOT of canned soup and sandwiches growing up. Oftentimes, I would slip in just long enough to hide a sandwich in Grand’s desk drawer until they could stop and eat something more filling. In the winter, Grand would sometimes make a revolting pot of vegetable mush soup. I found with enough buttered bread wrapped around it like a burrito, I could shove it down without actually being subjected to the mushy texture. No vegetable should disintegrate like that. Grand was old school, and salmonella was a plague on everything.
It was the potato soup and chicken and dumplings that soothed my soul and made up for all the crappy canned soup. Those two were wondrous comfort food that thankfully my Grand could not fuck up. Grand tried their best, and generally tried to make at least one big meal a week, if possible with leftovers. Though it usually ended up on the weekend, it wasn’t always the weekend as Grand worked then too.
I normally got myself up and dressed, fixed some cereal or whatever breakfast items were sequestered off for my consumption and went to school while Grand was still asleep. Grand often worked until three and four in the morning, many weekends, bent over backwards for their clientele and refused for many, many years to increase the prices for their services. When it was glaringly obvious that Grand would not be able to make even basic ends meet, they finally bumped their prices up to meet the market average, and forever felt guilty for it.
These days, I’m not a morning person, Spawn has changed schools, so I have been coming in somewhat later. However, I stay even later and very rarely ever take a lunch. In fact, that was the only complaint on my last review was me not taking enough breaks. I know my boss worries because of burnout, but I’m at least a third generation workaholic. I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember and I doubt I will ever change.
I think the only thing that has changed for me now, is that I’m a little jealous that both my mom and Grand have made it work by working for themselves. I’m tired of reviews. I want the day to start at a time of my choosing. I want to work as long or as little as I want. I want to reap the rewards of my efforts alone. As it is now, I am more or less a hamster doggedly trying to get that wheel to show some progress.
I am grateful for the lessons. Spawn knows how to cook and likes to stay home. They understand when they are home alone, they should either be doing homework or chores, but a little downtime is also important. Spawn has helped me in every office I’ve worked in since they could understand language, often to the amazement of my co-workers. I am often confused by their awe, since my own upbringing was much the same.
It was a shock to the system when I have had to be subjected to the children of others, children older than mine, that were officially hired to work and they have been worthless. I realize and am ok with the fact we might not be ladder-climbers, but we sure as hell know how to be invaluable. When the owner of a company is more impressed with my kid than his own… I learned something right and passed it on well.