"How's it going? I anxiously asked my son, excited to have finally heard from my newly minted cowboy at last.
Case had been home ALL of one week from his sophomore year at the University of Arizona before heading off to a summer job at a Dude Ranch in Wyoming that he had secured via a phone interview (in short, he'd never been there). The summer contract offered him room and board and a small stipend, but the real payoff would be in the TIPS the students divide at the end of the summer. Leave early and he will undoubtedly be working for peanuts. Stay the course, and Case might find himself handsomely rewarded for his time.
Saddle up pardner!
"It sucks," he replied. "It snowed all day yesterday. I don't have any of the right clothes, didn't bring boots or a winter coat, and don't have gloves." (SNOW! What? They don't have summer in Wyoming? It's practically June already.)
"So what's good about it? I asked, quickly redirecting the conversation and tamping down my own growing doubts and motherly concerns (Case doesn't like horses, or fishing, or camping . . .).
"The other kids are cool and I'm learning a lot of stuff. I'm happy I'm on the grounds crew and not inside like I thought, but it's cold. (Compared to Arizona and sunny California, I imagine it is. Perhaps we should have checked the weather report). "I'm mowing lawns all day."
"You know honey, learning to mow lawns and patch fences are great skills to have in life." I replied. "Frankly, I wish your dad had learned them along the way."
Finally, a half-hearted chuckle from the other end of the phone. I'm the one who takes care of the yard at our house. Case's dad grew up in New York City. Evidently they don't mow lawns there.
"Yeah, I suppose, he conceded,"but I'm tired. I worked nine hours yesterday," (Gee, join the club.) "Could you get me some jeans? "
"Sure," I said, before signing off. "Are you gonna make it for the next three months?" I was almost afraid to ask.
"Oh yeah," he said, "I'm good. I'm gonna make it." (Relief . . .)
Sigh, I don't know what I would have done had Case asked for a ticket home after only one week of being away. The truth is, I believe that a strong work ethic, coupled with PERSEVERANCE, serve us better than almost any other talents we possess (add a sense of humor to the mix and you've got the trifecta in your corner) AND I am pleased that Case is learning this skill set relatively early in life. (I'm even more pleased that someone else is teaching it to him.)
Hang in there son, I know you've got it in you.
I'm not kidding when I say that mowing a lawn and fixing fences are great skills to have in life. I don't mean that as a metaphor (as I often do in these columns) I mean they ARE great skills to have (period, exclamation point)! Ditto for painting, plumbing, and roofing, as homes have a tendency to require these repairs time and time again.
Welcome to home ownership.
Whatever you think about it - it sure ain't for "lilly-livered polecats." And given that your home is likely your single largest asset, you will want to take care of it in good measure, if only to protect this important and significant investment. (BTW- if you're in need of resources, please call me. I have references far and wide.) My dad regularly bought "fixers" when I was growing up and his crew of five girls were all expected to pitch in, paint, clean, strip wallpaper, and mow lawns as needed (and we all did). And while I don't count these strenuous weekends among the highlights of my life (and I'm certain we didn't do it without a fair amount of complaining) I have to say that I'm not adverse to picking up a broom or a hammer and filling in a need.
In the end, my dad gave us all a gift. We all know how to WORK and what's more, he taught us that there is a tremendous amount of self-esteem that comes from doing a job, and doing it well. The bonus of course, comes in earning a paycheck too - yes? (Yes!) So work hard, Case, learn everything there is to learn, gain as many skills as you can, and know that each new challenge lays the groundwork for your future self.
Believe me, the rewards - both personal and financial - are well worth the effort. PLUS, your dad and I are really, very proud of you - Dude! See you soon. (We're scheduled for a visit in July.) Yee Haw!
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.