Friday, February 24, 2012

Make Way for the Blonde Toddler in Work Boots

One of the most treasured family snapshots that survives my early years captured a moment when I tried on Daddy’s work boots. My wavy blonde hair goes every-which-way, and although I am facing away from the camera, I suspect that the look on my face would have been one of determination, as I hauled myself across the floor of the shop in that pair of heavy work boots. My little hands hold tight to the tops of the boots, the better to pull myself up by the bootstraps; and the toe of one boot points forward, in my direction of travel, while the toe of the other boot points backwards, trailing behind me. My feet were so small that they couldn’t hold the boot straight.

Although in all honesty, I don’t have any independent memory of wearing my father’s boots, I am told that this was a favorite childhood game of mine. Part of the retelling of this particular idiosyncrasy of my play is that it was common for the adults watching me “walk a mile” in my parents’ shoes to ask me what I was doing.

“Goin’ to work!” I would state. Not proudly, not with any particular passion. Just the facts.

The real fun would begin when the adult asked what I did for work. Again, I really don’t remember this for myself. However, the family stories have been passed down that my responses varied wildly on this point.

At times I said: “I’m a post-secondaaawwwy Engwish teacher!” (Of course. At the time, Mom was teaching English courses for the local business college at the local maximum-security prison, so why not?)

Other times, I declared: “Got to get to the mine for an unannounced safety inspection.” (No surprise here. At the time, Dad was putting his electrical engineering savvy to the test by laying methane detectors in “gassy” mines, interpreting their results, and reporting to mine operators the findings, sort of in-house MSHA equivalent.)

Other times, the answer was: “She’s dropping her calf and it’s forty below!” (Hey, when you live on a farm, you live on a farm.)

Times have changed and now when I choose my shoes for work, they fit my own feet and the toes point the right direction. I put the shoes on the correct feet, every time, and no longer do the toes point behind me. It’s been a long time since I had to pull on the tops of the boots to drag them with both arm power and leg power. On most days, the footwear I choose are usually not boots but shoes. At the moment, not a single pair has steel toes.

As the times have changed, however, two things haven’t.

When I am putting on my shoes, if someone asks what I’m doing, the first answer I’m likely to give is still: “Goin’ to work.” The other thing that still has not changed is that the type of work I do still depends on the day. Most days, I serve as a behavior analyst and as an administrator. Then there are the days that I use the skills I learned as a biology teacher, a special educator, a grip or a gaff. To this day, I remain a Jane-of-All-Trades.


  1. You were also a cruise director. Oh, wait, that was what the ADULTS said :-)

  2. See, this is why I never wear shoes.

  3. My dad always said it’s the smart workers who get the perks, bonuses and the promotions while the rest of us – the hard workers and the slackers, get the brunt and remain disgruntled for life.