Monday, June 9, 2008

Learning to look


from a prompt at
Two Writing Teachers

I was nine years old when my grandpa gave me my first paying job. I was to come to the family department store every Monday at closing time and sweep the floors in the Basement.

In about an hour, I could vacuum my way through aisles of dishes, pans, knick-knacks and, at one time, toys. I learned to sweep with one hand and examine goods with the other. It was a wonderful job.

While I was busy in the Basement, my grandpa and aunt worked in the little mezzanine office space that overlooked First Floor. They worked silently, adding the day’s receipts, counting the money, and preparing the night deposit.

I often finished before they did, so while waiting for my ride home, I wandered through the darkened First Floor, quietly honing my shopping skills. One night, I decided to smell every perfume bottle in the cosmetic department.

I worked my way across the long counter, careful not to clink any of the glass bottles. (My single aunt was not particularly patient with the activity of any child.) Halfway down, I picked up a beautiful cut glass bottle. It was fairly heavy, smaller than the rest of the perfume bottles, and filled with chunks that looked like salt in a golden liquid. The other perfumes were all beginning to smell alike, so I couldn’t wait to see what was different about this bottle with its chunky contents.

I took a big sniff.

Lightning struck. There may have been angels singing in the distance. I’m sure my eyes did a cartoon-like popping in and out of my head. I can’t believe I didn’t yelp, but there was no reaction in the office, so I must have maintained my composure.

When the store stopped whirling, I looked at the label. Smelling salts.

“Let’s go home,” grandpa said. I followed him out the back door of the store a wiser 9 year-old.

I read labels now.

… For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. I Samuel 16:7

3 comments:

Marcie said...

My question is, why did they have smelling salts mixed in with the perfumes? Perhaps the aunt knew you were coming to the perfume counter? :)

Stacey at Two Writing Teachers said...

This is great. T.Y for sharing.

BK said...

Barb,
I was moving right along with you through your journey. What a playland! I wonder what would have caught my attention?
Bonnie