Last week I started writing a column in the Kodiak Daily Mirror. The main theme is going to be about parenting, but I imagine I'll deviate now and then to other topics as well. 10 years of blog writing and a memoir style writing class last summer have helped me get to this point of feeling comfortable with my writing being published. My first piece from last Fridays paper is below:
The Paper Route
"Mom, can I do a paper route?" Nora asked. I was laying on the bed reading the paper and Nora was peering over my shoulder reading along. Our eyes had landed on the "carrier wanted" ad on almost the exact same moment. A paper carrier was needed on our street.
"Oh really. Hmmm." I pause and ponder. My eyes focus on the ad and the phone number to call for details.
These types of kid requests are ones which a parent semi rejoices in yet recognizes the possible added commitment on our behalf as parents. There are mixed feelings. Such undertaking are good for our kids. But it is a checks and balances of commitment on the family-what can be sustained? What will be required of us longterm as parents?
"Maybe. I'll call and see. I don't know if you're old enough." I reply, trying to sound positive. My mind flashes to visions of an ice coated road, sideways slush in the wind, with Nora and I slipping up and down driveways. Or the "I don't want to do my route" moments where I may have to begrudgingly do the route on her behalf. Would it, could it ever be truly her route? Or would this be one more thing for me to be oversee. Or would it be a wonderful first job, just the right amount of responsibility and a little something to encourage outside time.
When I was a teenager, I delivered the Anchorage Daily News one summer in the 1990's in East Anchorage. The papers had to be on the door steps by 6 AM and they were dropped on our door step somewhere around 4:30 AM to bag up. At 5:15 isn my alarm clock would go off and my sister and I would numbly bag the papers into the orange bags. Somedays there were so many supplements the orange bags nearly exploded.
It was a lucrative job, a big route, perfect level of commitment. The worst weather that could happen was hard rain during that summer. No ice or cold weather to contend with. I think back in awe of my 13 or 14 year old self that was agreeable to getting up that early 5 days a week without prompting! Wow. Not sure I could commit to those hours now as an adult.
I kept coming back to a visceral satisfaction I couldn't explain about the paper route. Even with the early, brief hours-I enjoyed the walk around the neighborhood. Then I started getting excited at the prospect of Nora having the same opportunity.
One phone call later, I had the details about Nora's possible route. 21 houses. She was old enough to do it and we would start right away. And the pay seemed great to Nora, as well as the possibility of tips.
Less than a week and one interview later, Nora dove in. It was the first day of spring and a sunny one. With the route address sheet in hand, we learned the houses together and planned her route. Customers along the way greeted us with waves and hellos. And Nora even got a tip on her first day from a customer welcoming her as the new carrier. This was perfect intermittent reinforcement right from the start.
Now Nora comes home from school, drops her bag, grabs a snack and heads out the door. "Mom, do you want to come?" she asks. On most days, I'm able to and I love joining her. We walk, sometimes skip. Talk. Watch cars, houses, people. Pay attention to the neighborhood. Listen.
Its been a month now that we've been delivering the papers to our neighbors. "I love your paper route" I tell Nora. And I really do. I enjoy it more than I imagined I would. For the same reason why I love Trick or treating right on our street, I love the paper route. It connects us with the people we live near.
It helps Nora- and I- get outside everyday after school. It helps with tired or grumpy moods. Its quite rewarding slipping the paper into those blue boxes with the knowledge that someone will pull it out to read in a matter of hours.
And I love that I keep getting invited along to deliver them!!