Note: COVID has made me pensive. This is part one in a retrospective series, featuring a person who made a positive and lasting imprint on my life and identity.
Aside from an inexplicable blip when I made my choice of where to attend undergrad, I’ve never been averse to risk.
In my very early 20s, freshly graduated from the aforementioned super-safe college choice, I was working a dead-end job in food service, idealistically looking for a way to get paid to write stuff.
It appeared in the form of a news reporter position in a picturesque little town (even further) up north.
I didn’t know a soul, but flying solo has never stopped me from doing anything. I found inexpensive housing in a weathered fourplex on a lake just outside of town. The other three units in the building were occupied by truck driving, similarly-aged male students, studying things like forestry at the nearby technical college. My little unit featured pegboard cabinets and a narrow, cement-floor stall shower, reminiscent of summer camp. There wasn’t even room for a couch, and I had no TV, choosing instead to here begin my longstanding love affair with public radio.
But my writing desk overlooked the lake, and I was filled with the uneasy excitement that often pairs with the unknown.
I met Cindy my very first day on the job. She was 42 (the same age I am now; which feels crazy), a twice-divorced single mom of two boys, ages 9ish and 16ish. She had short blonde hair, a great body, and an even greater attitude. Though her life hadn’t been easy, she maintained her infectious energy and positivity, and I was drawn to her immediately.
Due to the age difference, our relationship was part mom-daughter, and part goofy girlfriends. Cindy checked in on me and tried to ensure I was adjusting to my new job and environment. She insisted I skip the laundromat, and offered up her washer and dryer to me anytime I needed it.She helped me pick out bikinis at the clothing shop next to our office. I was a frequent dinner guest at her home, and she even tried to set me up with a few of the local young studs. I became particularly attached to her smiley youngest son (who was, at the time, about Nate’s age), even taking him out trick-or-treating with a handful of other little guys.
One particularly memorable day at the office, Cindy decided I (or maybe she) needed a sugary pick-me-up, and she brought an entire Boston Cream Pie (which is really a cake, but whatever) in for us to share. We laughed as we both dug right in with forks: no slices, no plates, and no shame.
A few years after we had both moved on, Cindy married a truly fantastic, musically gifted gentleman I once had the pleasure of doing community theater with (in fact, his character murdered mine on stage).
I’m thankful I had Cindy in my life to show me an example of perseverance, and to show me that if you just keep giving and keep caring, even in the face of difficulties, great things happen.