Wednesday was the first day of school for the district I work in. It’s too damned early: too hot (it’s supposed to hit over 100 next week), AC never works properly in the classrooms, and I admit, it’s hard to be in school while the other districts are still on vacation. When I get in the car to drive to work, the kids in my neighborhood are still asleep. Their parents might be up, but the noticeable lack of children outside is evidence that summer vacation is still in force, at least until September 1 when the city district opens its schools.
I can’t decide if this is going to be a difficult school year. The special ed office assigned me to a morning kindergarten class for the fall. They assured me that they’d find an afternoon assignment for me, but so far, I’m working only 18 hours a week, which means the paychecks are going to be tiny wee things for awhile. I can’t help wondering if this is “punishment” for leaving in April to look after Younger Daughter. Not that I regret doing that one bit: but I noticed certain coworkers who got mediocre job reviews last spring received plum assignments, while my job reviews all had been marked “excellent.”
I’m still job hunting, but in the meantime I have to live on something, so I can’t just stomp out in a hissy fit. I’d never do that anyway, but it’s hard not to seethe a bit. I’ve noticed that in institutions that are bureaucracy-heavy, the better employees aren’t necessarily rewarded. Seniority is the primary basis for promotion and pay raises; with the new union rules, it’s virtually impossible for new people to get a permanent job within the district. It’s better for me to get out asap, which is easier said blah blah.
That said, it’s an admitted relief to get out early from work now. Last week also literally made my roots go gray. Tuesday I hired movers to get my stuff out of the haunted house and into a storage unit. I arrived there in the morning to tape up the remaining boxes before they got there (a friend and I had moved a lot of the smaller stuff the previous week) and discovered that someone had filled the locks on the front door with epoxy. I also noticed that the rusty, nonoperating pickup that had been parked in the driveway earlier was gone. I’m guessing Bro was there over the weekend, saw that I’d been there, and went into his usual teenaged boy mode. (He’s 56 now. Apparently the deaths of our parents haven’t matured him at all.)
I whipped out the iPhone and googled “locksmith near me” (thank you again Older Daughter and Son-in-Law for the eternally useful Christmas gift), then called the first person in the search results. After a couple of busy signals I finally got a kindly older male voice who said he would be there in a few minutes. It was more like 20, but I was ready to throw myself at his feet when he showed up. He was a Wilford Brimley sort who had this air of having seen everything. He looked at the keyholes and made “mm-hmm” noises before saying, “I might be able to get it all out so you don’t have to replace the locks. Unless you want to.” I told him I just wanted to get the door open so I could get my stuff out of the house. If anyone wanted to get in after me, they were welcome to take the whole damn place with him. He gave me a side look but said nothing. He opened his toolbox and took out what looked like a cross between an x-acto knife and a hex wrench, then dug into the keyholes and extracted these little dried pegs of gray stuff. “Not crazy glue,” he grunted. “Thank goodness, that stuff’ll destroy locks.”
The locksmith also pulled out some wood splinters. “Looks like whoever did this tried at first to stuff some wooden pegs or toothpicks in them. Maybe some kid?”
Nope, not a kid, I said. Just someone who acts like one. Though most of the kids I know are smarter than him.
“Huh.” I wasn’t sure if he was laughing or grunting, but he seemed sympathetic to my plight. In about five minutes he had the door opened. As he made out the receipt, he said he’d just charge me $85 for a house call. Which was a huge relief, since the movers were charging me $480, and I had already put down a $170 deposit on the storage unit. My credit card already was carrying a balance from my trip to New York, so it’s going to be a loooong time before I get that sucker paid off.
As he was getting ready to leave, the locksmith turned to me. “You know, where I’m from, we believe people who do others wrong reap the whirlwind.” I said I hoped he was right: but frankly, inside I was thinking this karma stuff was taking an awful long time to work. I really don’t care if I don’t get anything out of this except my sanity and my freedom, but jeeze, why was I saddled with such jerks for family? Did I do something in a previous life, or did someone put a hex on me ‘way back when?
The move was uneventful. The movers were three cheerful, muscular young guys who made wisecracks and whistled while carrying my life’s detritus into the sunshine and onto the truck. I was feeling glum at that point, so it was nice to be around happy people: but I began realizing I could have gotten rid of 75 percent of those things back in Minnesota and not have missed them one bit. I’ll have to sort through everything later and give away the things that could be used elsewhere. For instance, one box fell open and revealed my son’s old school supplies from high school. Why we kept them, I can’t recall. Maybe I didn’t want to leave anything behind: I was still feeling the pain of having sold my house back then. I was also feeling very sentimental at that point, since all of the kids had gone their separate ways. Older Daughter was in grad school in Pittsburgh, Younger Daughter was in art school in San Francisco, Son had just departed for college in the Northwest. I felt like all I had left were mementoes of the past, so I clung to them like a castaway clings to broken pieces of her ship.
As they were finishing up, one of the movers asked about the house. I gave them a brief summary of my troubles, and they all offered up stories about their own problems with family disputes over inheritances. So Tolstoy was wrong! Unhappy families really aren’t all that unique; we just feel that way when we each go through our own separate hells. Anyway, they clucked and sympathized as I added details about my siblings and parents; you would’ve thought we were in a support group for dysfunctional families. The lead mover said something similar to the locksmith: “It all comes around, I believe. You do bad to others, it comes back to hit you.”
They waved to me as they left, diesel truck rumbling. “Everything will be okay, HG,” yelled the lead mover. “Don’t worry, it’ll all work out.”
I hope so.