I'm standing at the hostess stand on my second shift at "The Barrel". It was kind of a slow night and I was staring off into space looking towards the outside windows that lined the walls. I always loved the store. It was festive and bright, especially during Christmas time. So much different from the throne of Jack in the Box bags that awaited me back home. I fumbled with the crayons we kept at the stand for the kids menus. We weren't allowed to color or anything, time was better spent cleaning or the like but as an artist I still loved to see the colors between my fingers. I had done all the cleaning duties already so, stand there and "smile joyfully" it was. I remember reflecting on my life, but I did that a lot, especially when I was bored . Worries over bills and which job was scheduled next was likely on my mind that day, or maybe it was dreams of something bigger, I rarely allowed those thoughts as they seemed unrealistic to me but there is the possibility of that. My thoughts don't really matter, what matters is what happened next.
I catch a glimpse of him before he hits the door. He was walking with a purpose, not his usual jaunty stroll. He came through the door in a haste and caught my eyes. My stomach got tight, I knew if he was here it wasn't to just say ‘hi’. No, not with that pace. He was all business that day. Every thought about what could be wrong at RedJacket came to my mind. What paper was filed wrong, what tax wolf was at the door, had the ATF found a problem?
A change in energy came with his hello, "Hey Pumpkin" he said as if he hadn't been rushed just before. My reply the usual, “what are you doing here?” I'm sure, he was eager to answer.
"You tired of slingin' grits yet?"
He took the stab with the same ‘matter of fact’ type swagger in his voice that his fans came to love later in the years. The same one I hated because it always felt like an insult to my intelligence when he used it.
" Well, yea, I guess" a pause, I was waiting for more information that wasn't coming. He motioned like he wanted me to walk right out the door, " ‘slingin' grits’ is paying the bills though." I stood up straight. I may not have been proud of my title when in a room of doctors , lawyers and agents, but I was making my own way and I wasn't going to be insulted, purposely or not.
I wish I could say there was as much power in my voice as that implies, but there wasn't, it was weak, silently hoping for him to push a bit harder. Deep down, no matter how much I liked my job, I wanted to be more and I'm sure he knew it. I was his daughter after all.
He did, as predicted. "Yea well I got a better idea;"
A smile, like he knew the next part of the script ."How would you like to take over the shop?” it felt like a trap. If I can give you one lesson, it's listen to your gut. “Pays a little better and the hours are a terrible, but it's definitely gotta be better than this shit."
He looked over his shoulder, disgusted, like it was the most pathetic thing I could be doing in the whole world. I assure you it wasn't. I worked my butt off and got all the hours possible. I had made sure to get trained in every department I could so that I'd always be able to pick up shifts. The more you know, the more you can make. So, surprisingly enough, I made pretty good money doing it. Unfortunately it just wasn't enough to support a home, a man and a child on my own. Due to my complaints, he knew this as well. I tried to remember that I was respected and loved at my current job. I was moving up the chain well, I had even been pulled into the office to discuss moving up to management, which required a good bit for Cracker Barrel, as the training program for its staff is among the most thorough I've ever seen.
None the less as he spoke my pride in my job was diminishing,I had always had the thought in the back of my mind that no matter how well I did in the food industry, if I was wearing an apron I was “Just a waitress” in anyone's mind who saw me. It was a thought that cut deep because I actually loved the food industry. I loved seeing new people all the time and “working tables” gave me the opportunity to make people smile. I was really good at it too. It was never going to be a job title I could say with pride and a feeling of accomplishment though, and my father reminded me of that regularly.
He kept talking, spinning tales of how he wanted to "Restructure the business". He had new buyers and needed me. He was excited, and holding back so that he didn't seem to eager. As always looking back it looks so different. I was being drawn in like a bass, and why not? When I look back as much as he did wrong he also did a lot right. At least in a way. He was the only one offering to help, the only one who could. Without this day so many amazing things in my life wouldn't have happened. So I won’t say I regret a moment of it.
I was hungry for a "Real job" Something I could be proud of, and something that would let me eat a real meal. One that did not consist of dollar burgers and scraps of daily specials that the managers at CB let me and my best friend take home. He had sold his dream to me for years, this just seemed like a natural next step by the time he was done talking. I’ll never say I didn't want to be a part of that company, or that dream. I still hate that it was all ruined by a monstrous desire of the flesh.
I hugged him, told him I was not the type to just walk out of a job with my finger in the air as he had suggested, so I'd be finishing my next few weeks. I'd be coming on full time soon after. It seemed like a blink in time and I found myself sitting opposite a lawyer and some very important documents. My life was about to make a major change once again.
A note to add....
Don't get me wrong, life didn't actually up and magically get better after that into some grand picture full of prosperity, I didn't really expect it to either. I knew it was going to take a lot of work. So many things happened and changed over that 2 year span. It makes me realize over and over in life how fast everything can change.
We make decisions many times based on three things; a problem, a fear or a hope. I'd like to think I've grown over time and begun to look at my "problems" a little differently, that I've begun to attack them differently. I don't tend to 'jump the gun' as much anymore. I look at things as logically as I can before I give any reaction. I have noticed that this method upsets some people when you are trying to work out a situation together, but those people are those who still let emotions lead them. I can't change how people react to me or my methods, but I can change how I react to them. That was my hidden power. I say 'hidden' because for a long time I failed to realize it was even a choice. I think many of us are guilty of this. I learned I can chose to NOT be hurt, to not let others wants be the rule. I can choose where my life goes, and who I choose to live it next to. Not only in relationship terms, but in daily life as well. I no longer put up with friends who don't support me, or who take small jabs at my expense to build themselves up, I do take notice of those things however. A person who needs to hurt another to feel better usually has something bigger going on in their world. They may not tell you, but it will always matter to them that you took the time to ask if they were ok.
I would love to see people be better to each other in general of course, but I believe that's going to take a huge energy shift in our world. For now, I'll settle with my world being just a bit kinder. I think if we all did the same those who are abusive may, just may, one day run out of victims to prey on. They could turn to find nothing left but strong women and children who know who they are, what they want in life and how to get it. I know it feels like a dream world but in the days of #METOO, I think we are finally making steps towards it. You are the next step. Your voice, demanding the life you deserve. Working for it, and not being willing to settle. Talking to our children about the dangers of not only strangers but of friends and family. Letting them know that there are predators in the world, and that they don't look like the boogie men on the cartoons, they look like everyone. This isn't to say I want our children to grow up in fear, but I do want them to be equipped with a healthy knowledge of the issue. My children have been told of the dangers in the world since they could talk, doesn't mean that they will never face a monster, just that when they do, I pray they will recognize them faster than I did. That they won't make excuses for them, won't write it off as okay because it was a family member. They will know, and have proven that they do know, they can tell someone. They will be helped. They can get away. They are not trapped in a life that requires them to feel pain. They are loved. So are you.