My first job

I have some spotty memories of my very early youth. It was a long time ago.

I can remember a few special moments from when I was very young. I remember a moment on my dad’s shoulders. Young enough to be in diapers, probably, I sat on his shoulders as he walked through the burned-out shell of his restaurant. It was the first time I heard him cry.

From all accounts, it was a fabulous restaurant with a great and very popular bar where my uncle George was the bartender. I grew up riding the barrier between the two that had a pirate ship’s wheel that turned. I don’t remember that, but I have seen the pictures. I only remember the smell of smoke and my dad’s shoulders under me. It was a delivery chicken place that predated “Chicken Delight.” That’s what my folks did. They were restaurant people. 

They also owned a little donut shop and it was there that I got my first job. I must have been 2. The donut shop was amazing. It was a tiny shack on the Boston Post Road with a counter, a couple of tables and these insane, antique Rube-Goldberg-looking machines that made donuts. These old machines folded and molded and twisted and dipped and sprinkled with all these gears and wheels and clanky chains. They grabbed and flipped and slid them down to the tray all in a row. It was mesmerizing to watch them work. There was a stool behind the line and that is where I sat. You see, it was my job to test the chocolate every so often and make sure it still tasted good.

I’m sure it began as a way to keep me busy when I was acting up. However, as families do, it became my real job. Customers would come in and ask “How’s the chocolate today?” I would take my thumb out of my mouth, dip it in the chocolate that was swirling in the machine, stick it back in my mouth and go “Mmmmmm!” Then the thumb came out for a thumbs-up. Adorable, right? We sold a lot of sort of snotty donuts. Don’t judge me.

I can remember it like it was yesterday: the red and chrome stool, the black and white tiles on the floor, the sound, the smell, so vivid in my mind. The community of regulars, faceless in my memories, winter coats and hats, “Is the chocolate good today?” in many silly voices. I can’t remember the back room or the ride there or what the outside looked like. I’m sure as I grew I had other jobs there - perhaps not as important as chocolate tester - but I don’t remember those.

I see it now in the curriculum of my upbringing as how I began to learn how important responsibilities are and that you should take your commitments seriously. Looking back, you can see how your parents orchestrated your growth. Funny how you remember things and how the little things in life contribute to the person you become as you grow older. As a parent you realize a lot of things about your youth. I applied the same principles with my kids. Although we didn’t have any donut machines they all had jobs to do. Mostly to keep them busy when they were acting up and they all turned out great.

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