The slow walk home…

We lived in the Euclid house. The elementary school was Lincoln. It was on Prospect Street. The school was about five blocks from home, almost all uphill. Up Central, up to the fountain on Broadway, and the weird connection of streets to the fountain, up to Oak, up to Euclid, up to home. That was my route. Every day. To school and back home.

That five blocks felt like a million. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make it. Why didn’t I just do it at school? Why didn’t I? My hands were full of stuff. I don’t know what stuff, but stuff. We didn’t have backpacks then, so whatever we brought home from school, we had to carry. As in our hands and arms, or in a brown paper grocery bag. More than likely it was books. I loved to read.

It was chilly out. I was wearing a hat. One of those odd, fuzzy ones that had long strings and pom poms on the ends of the strings. What the hell? Who would have made something like that, and why would I have worn it? That is totally not me. Not my style. Not my style even then. It must have been a hand-me-down. Had to be.

I think it was second grade. My favorite teacher, Mrs. Eklund’s class.

Maybe I was talking and messing around and had to hurry to get home. But why didn’t I just do it at school? Why didn’t I?

I left the school and was on my way home. Up the hill from Klein’s house. I crossed over to the other side, the top of the hill before taking a right up to the fountain, Broadway. I couldn’t stand it. It was getting painful. It was hard to even walk. I was struggling. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to cry.

I stood there. I stood there for what felt like forever. In reality, it was maybe about 30 seconds, to a minute at most. There were kids still around. What could I do? There was no place to go. There was nothing I could do.

I stood there. I stood there and widened my feet. Everything hurt. I just couldn’t do it anymore, but still I tried not to. Time was up. My body was not cooperating. It was done. There was nothing else I could do to stop it. So, it happened. I wet my pants. I couldn’t hold it any longer. I couldn’t. I watched the pee run down the sidewalk. I was embarrassed. I felt like an idiot. I felt ashamed. I felt better. I felt way better. The pain was gone. Why didn’t I go at school? Why didn’t I?

I wondered if I was going to get in trouble. I couldn’t help it though. It was an accident. There was nothing I could do. Except there was. I could have been more responsible and gone before I started the five block trek home. But I didn’t.

The walk home seemed like forever with wet pants and embarrassment. As much embarrassment as a second grader can have. The memory is strong. The embarrassment is deep.

The Sooper Dooper Chronicles – chapter 5 – the co-workers

Chapter 5 – the co-workers

I started working at Sooper Dooper when I was a sophomore in high school.

The paths of our lives are interesting don’t you think? I believe it is not in our hands, but up above. The life changers happen because they are supposed to happen. You meet people because you are supposed to meet people. You have good times and bad times because you are supposed to have good times and bad times. Life is challenging and life is rewarding and life is hard and life is beautiful. I don’t think life is ever easy.

The people at Sooper Dooper were amazing. Mr. Palmer and Billy Palmer – the owners. Kurt Dixon, Marvin Engelhaupt, Frank Denton, Charlotte Hiller, Pat Palmer,  Lorraine Ebach, Randy Vermundson and Deb Sorenson – the day people. Dale Smith, Jessie Hall, Marlys Nellermoe (love her!!), Andy Deis, Irene Henrichson and Don Cleland – the night people. Art – the baker.

Chet Murray, John Pohlman, Sam Gilkerson, Sarah Gilkerson, Angela Schweigert, Brad Powell, Thane Badger, my sisters Wendy and Sherry, Tim Cleland, John Bren, Sheldon Suiter, Steve Oliva – the high schoolers.

When we got to work we punched in on the clock and punched out when we were done. The carry out guys grabbed the white apron and wore it during their shift. They also had to sweep and mop the whole store before closing time. The checkers had it pretty easy. We restocked the smokes and rearranged the candy boxes. The carry out guys also had to make sure the pop and beer coolers were full too.

I remember one summer while stocking shelves. It was a wicked one. First we unloaded the boxes from the truck and then separated them into piles according to the aisles. I stocked the baby food aisle. I had my cart and my boxes and box cutter in hand. I was stocking baby food. I got to one box and sliced open the short end with my trusty box cutter and then the long end. As I picked up the cardboard and opened the box fully, I couldn’t believe what I saw. There were a few broken jars of baby food in the box. No big deal. Except it was a big deal, because the broken jars had obviously been there a while. The whole box was full of maggots. I about died. I was so disgusted. I can’t even remember what I did next. I wanted to die. I have this thing about maggots. See, my cousin chased me with a stick covered with maggots. She got the maggots from a dead cow on the farm. I think that is where I learned to run fast. EWWWWWWW!!!!

Each and every one of the people I worked with impacted my life. Each and every one of those people taught me something about life. They taught me something. I’m sure I am forgetting some people and that makes me sad. But, it has been a long, long time ago.

One of the life changers in store for me was meeting my first husband, Steve. I met him at Sooper Dooper. We dated for many years and then married. The marriage didn’t last, but I wouldn’t change anything. I have three beautiful children. I can’t imagine not having them. The three are life changers for sure. Challenging and rewarding and hard and beautiful. Never easy!

Sooper Dooper had a huge impact on my life. Sooper Dooper changed my life in so many ways. Sooper Dooper allowed me to work with and meet the most amazing people. Sooper Dooper will always be a part of my life. I will always, always, always remember my years there.

Listening for the significance

I’m sitting here alone. The noise is the wind and a cardboard box unfolding ever so slowly. I’m not playing any music. I’m alone with my thoughts. I’m alone listening. I have so many things to do, yet I sit here in my silence. The silence of doing nothing. The silence of sounds.

Outside, the wind is howling. I wonder how bad the roads are going to be on the ten mile drive home. I wonder. I dismiss it. I keep listening.

The sound of the mechanical pencil on the paper is an interesting sound. I like it. It reminds me of ice skaters when the blades make that similar kind of noise. It’s hard to describe. It’s beautiful.

Listening. The quieter it gets, the louder I hear things in my head. The thoughts. The ideas. The words. The pictures. I see and hear.

I keep listening. The furnace has kicked in and drowned out the silence. I want it to stop. It didn’t drown out the noise of the wind. It is still howling. I continue to listen.

Winter. The roads are icy and slippery. I dread the drive. It takes so much longer. I just want to be home. We still have to go to parent teacher conferences. The last parent teacher conference we will ever go to. She a senior. We are done.

The cardboard box is still making noise and the wind is still howling. I always wonder. I wonder about the significance of things and what they mean. When I slow down and listen, I begin to hear. I begin to feel. I find the significance.


The Sooper Dooper Chronicles – chapter 4, the customers

Chapter 4 of the Sooper Dooper Chronicles is about the customers.

There were many, many customers who came into the store. There were semi-regular, once in a while, rarely and super regular customers. The super regular-scour the on sale ad-would come Wednesdays. That was the day the sales went into effect. The ad came out in The Reminder on Wednesdays. Every single week. The sales. Canned goods almost every single week. Green Giant vegetables, 4 for a buck. That was a really good sale. TV dinner sales was another hot item. Some customers came in just for the canned goods sales and the TV dinners. Soup was also a big seller. If we ran out, they didn’t like it one bit. But, they got a raincheck so that would make them happy.

The customers at Sooper Dooper were amazing. It got to the point that I had their home address and phone numbers ingrained in my brain. I couldn’t help it. I was good with numbers and addresses. I’m sure this early training helped that immensely.

I remember the Gors family lived on Capitol. The Kleins lived on Prospect. I usually had the phone numbers memorized too.

I knew the names of peoples’ kids. The Newmans, Rick and Barb, came in a lot. Mostly Barb. I could never call her Barb though. She would always be Mrs. Newman. She was my music teacher when I was in grade school. So never could I call her anything but Mrs. Newman. She always brought their daughter, Jocelyn. Jocelyn was one of those kids that pestered her mom until she got candy. There were a lot of kids like that. It’s funny to think back. The parents would be embarrassed and I wouldn’t think anything of it. Kids always did that.

The Riters were regulars as well. Carolyn shopped with Matthew. Matthew was another one who was relentless until he got a treat. You really can’t blame the kids. Blame the store setup. How was a kid supposed to get through the line when there was candy everywhere?

I can picture so many of these people coming in the door. Mrs. Swanson. Her husband was Doc Swanson. She was the nicest lady. So very friendly and willing to talk to anyone. I can see her getting her cart. In the winter she always had a long coat that looked like fur. Her smile was always inviting.

Then there was Mrs. Tieszen. Her husband was a doctor too. She was also very nice. I think she had Parkinson’s or some other medical condition because her head would always move around. I felt bad for her. She didn’t let it stop her though.

The Ambachs always came in, ad in hand, making sure we had the sale items readily available. They would go through everything with a fine tooth comb. I think they got a lot of rain checks.

Jamie Damon was a super regular customer. At that time she had a catering business. I wish I could have tasted some of her recipes. I bet they were amazing.

The Porters used to come in regularly too, along with the Whitneys and the Adam family. The Cunninghams, Mel and Elaine and Charlene Shepherd as well. So many customers.

Then there were the cute guys. We always hoped they would come to our check out line. High school girls crushing on older guys. John Gilkerson, Roger Inman and Ivan Venner were the top shelf crushes of the high school girls.

Along with the good there was always bad. There were some customers who were not the best smelling or the ones who were really mean. There were customers with addictions. The Vanilla Lady as we called her. She came in every other day to buy the biggest bottle of vanilla. The story was that she was an alcoholic and this was her alcohol. There were also customers who were addicted to nasal spray. They would come in every other day and buy the nasal spray. Oh and you can’t forget all the cigs that were sold. As I look back now I wonder what was going on in their lives. I always tried to be as friendly as possible. You just never knew what people were going through. Maybe they were really sad. Maybe they didn’t have a way to have a shower every day. Maybe they couldn’t conquer their demons. Just maybe.

Every day was something different. Every day was a new adventure. Every day was a learning experience. Every day was about people. Every day was about life. Every day was about the customers.

The Sooper Dooper Chronicles – chapter 3 – the morning ladies

The Sooper Dooper chronicles – the morning ladies

If you were lucky enough to work any mornings at Soooer Dooper, you got to work with Pat, Charlotte or Lorraine. If you were really lucky, you got to work with all three at the same time. As high school employees, we were lucky to be exposed to such good people at such a vulnerable time in our lives. They were like moms to us and they treated us like their own kids.

The morning crew. The morning ladies. The faces of Sooper Dooper. They came at 7 or 8 and worked until 2 or 3. A few times I worked in the morning when one was on vacation, a fill in. I also worked during the summer, pretty much full time.

Going in to work in the mornings was amazing. The smell coming from the bakery was unbelieveable! The smell. The hugs of comfort from baking bread. Sooper Dooper had a full service bakery. They had the best long john’s, cinnamon rolls, breads, and pullaparts to die for. They also had delicious cookies. One particular cookie was kind of a sugar cookie with apricot and then folded over. I can’t remember the name of them, but they were delicious!

Pat was tall. Her real name was Pearl, Pearl Palmer. Pat was in charge of ordering the candy and the cigs. The candy was all up front. So were the cigs. The cigarette rack was up above one of the big candy shelves. A person had to reach up to find the kind they wanted. When we were working, we had to make sure the cigs were stocked. There were a lot of smokers back then.

Pat was such a nice lady. She passed away in 2013. I can still see here with her paper and pen, writing down the candy order…

Next up we have Charlotte. Charlotte Hiller. Charlotte was short. She was feisty though. Nobody got away with anything when Charlotte was working. She loved all of us kids though. We had some really good talks. Any of these ladies would have done anything for any of us.

Next up was Lorraine Ebach. Another lady with a big heart. Such hard workers, all three. They taught us all how to work hard and not complain. Who wanted to listen to a bunch of teenagers complain? You’re right, nobody!

They all took care of the front of the store and greeted customers as they came through the door. It was their job. They did it well. They were all friendly and made everyone feel at ease. Even when they had to train new kids.

The front of the store had three checkout lanes and one emergency lane. The emergency lane had an antique till that was manual. You even had to add the tax separately to the order. No automatic adding there. There were only a few of us who knew how to use the antique. It was really cool looking, but man were customers stacked up when the power went out and that was the only till to use.

I see Charlotte and Lorraine once in a while. They always remember me and are just as nice as they were 30 plus years ago. I appreciate the Sooper Dooper years. The Sooper Dooper years were good to me.