|The lettuce fields up the road that supply local restaurants and private customers all summer long.|
The lettuce pickers are out early today. The men with their bare backs already browned by the sun, and the young women in tank tops, their long hair tied up on top of their heads, stoop over the rows as they harvest the young leaves. I wave, feeling mildly guilty that they are so hard at work while I ride by on my bicycle in such leisurely fashion.
Seeing them puts me in mind of all the jobs I've held since I was eleven years old; the housecleaning and babysitting I did to earn money for school clothes and 45 records and candy at the Five and Dime. I remember the crewel kit shop I worked in as a young mother, designing flowers and cutesy animals that were printed on cloth and packaged by a cadre of young women for a pittance, and the horrible job behind the lunch counter at a drugstore or the equally horrible stint as a hardware store clerk. I never could agree that the customer was always right.
I thought of how I worked my way from a teacher's aide to the secretary of the Vermont graded school my children attended, how the principal arranged for me to take typing classes before school started so I could better my salary. When I moved back to the flatlands, I was offered a job in the computer lab of a Connecticut school because I was the only applicant willing to work for the salary they offered. That I didn't know much about operating computers was less important. The classroom teacher arranged for me to monitor the before school computer program, saying prophetically, "The kids will teach you what you need to know." She was right, and I went on to take over the adult education classes in computer a year later. After I earned a Masters degree in writing, I taught writing classes through the community college. At the same time, I worked as a publicist for a non-profit organization and wrote a weekly column as well as news and feature stories for the local newspaper. When I retired this past June from the public education system, I had 55 years of working for pay under my belt.
Now I'm pedaling my bicycle as the sun rises, knowing that I have the whole day ahead of me to fill with chosen activities. My mile-long bucket list stretches out before me like a blue highway on a map. I wonder if the young people bent over the lettuce rows contemplate the day they will be retired, or if the long days of field work seem as endless as the years now behind me.