Backup Plan

Leave a place cleaner than you found it – that’s the Boy Scout motto.* However, since I was never a boy scout, I never adopted their motto as my own. Instead, as a diligent girl scout, I embraced their motto instead: Be Prepared.

When I was a girl scout, I carried a medical kit with me everywhere. I still do.

When I started college, I carried writing supplies with me everywhere. I still do.

When I started working, I came up with a backup plan in case my career fell apart. Rather, Special Correspondent Ellen came with a plan for the two of us: we could work at Trader Joe’s and wear the Hawaiian shirt uniform. The job would keep us in health insurance, food, and cheery clothing. Moreover, we’d live longer thanks to the constant core  workout of lifting heavy boxes. Unfortunately, Trader Joe’s switched out their hawaiian shirts for crew-team tshirts a few years ago. Ever since, I’ve been searching for a new backup career.

Last week my search ended in an unexpected way. My professor, for a class in which I’ve done little work, and spoken even less, declared I had a future his field: speech-writing. Actually, it took some time and my badge to convince him that I wasn’t already a speech-writer. Apparently, this line from my essay was the tip-off,

…From the ivy leagues of the east coast, to the state colleges of the prairies, from those delving into tax to those fascinated by bankruptcy…

I took the teacher’s compliment with good grace and thanks. I did not point out that the eloquence of my essay had more to do with realizing I needed to produce 500 words 35 minutes before it was a due – an occurrence which encourages repeated phrases, lyrical descriptions, and – for me at least – cribbing the writings of civil and labor activists from the last 100 years. Because when you’re going for wordy bombast, the best people are those who have nothing other than words between them and despair.

So, words at the ready, I typed out 489 words in 30 minutes. My teacher was pleased enough to suggest an alternative career for me. Unfortunately, while he liked my prose, he took issue with my lack of detail. The grade: B. Though, as he pointed out, many of my classmates didn’t deserve any grade. I don’t mind the grade. What I do mind is that he undermined my message. He cut my last line,

Yours in unity and fortitude,

I’d like to think that that line would have made the girl scouts proud. Now, I guess we’ll never know. But as a consolation prize, an alternative career isn’t half bad.

 

 

*According to Dad. Not independently verified.

Just Like Mommy

Paper quality and font size were my Zaidy’s criteria when buying books for his grandchildren. Given that he only bought books from Goodwill, and had no interest in reading them, that was an excellent criteria. This resulted in classics such as Pigs in the House and Socks for Supper being mainstays of my childhood. His selections definitely broadened my horizons. Perhaps the most enlightening book – and absolutely the most controversial one – he brought home was the seminal Just Like Mommy, Just Like Daddy.

The book – or books, as the front of the book opens to a story about a little girl and her mother while the back flips over to a separate story about a little boy and his father – portrays the 1950s in bright illustrations. In the book, the girl pushes the pram, sweeps the floor, and gets lunch ready for Daddy – just like Mommy. On the flip side, the little boy fishes, shovels, and thanks Mommy for lunch – just like Daddy.

My mom, who generally appreciated my Zaidy’s gifts for her young readers, hated this book. Actually, she still hates this book. The feminist in her is horrified by the gender stereotyping and fixation on demarcating roles for children. My dad think its message is awful too, but he enjoys its comedic value. Not so my mom. Every single time we mention it, she suggests throwing it away. She’s tried to get rid of it multiple times. So I hide my copy, with its bright illustrations and snappy text.

The irony is that my mom actually lived this book with me. When she had my sister, she bought me a baby sling identical to the one she used for my sister so that I could carry my baby doll in it – just like Mommy. She gave me old spools and yarn so that I could sew – just like Mommy. She gave me a set of plastic food and grocery cart so that I could set up a commercial grocery store and turn it into a profitable empire – just for fun. Despite the book’s influence I don’t turn into a child who enjoyed dusting shelves, putting on makeup, or waiting for Daddy to come home. So, I figured that the book was just another fun story that could be enjoyed by children of all genders.

Recently, Special Correspondent Perel’s daughter began to enjoy longer pictures books so I sent her a copy of Just Like Mommy, Just Like Daddy. Like generations of children before her, the little girl loves the book. I was pleased with the reception of my gift. My friend, less so. It might have something to do with the fact that now, whenever her daughter sees a broom, she points at it and says, “Me sweep! Just like Mommy!” On second thought, maybe I should have gotten rid of the book – just like Mommy.