I believe in working.
Every Saturday morning of my childhood was spent waking up early to the smell of floury pancakes on the griddle and dad’s cheery wakeup call, “Work will win when wishy-washy Whittles won’t!” There was absolutely no way of avoiding that day’s work. Dad’s motto was always, “Work first, play later.”
The early days of summer were the worst. It was planting time. Our family had a colossal garden that required weekly maintenance. The garden was sixty by forty feet surrounded by a rickety, rusty ten foot high fence topped with barbed wire; the garden was a big deal: serious work.
After pancakes I would run out the door before Max, Emily or Zack, racing in the brisk morning chill to the shed where the most coveted tools were stored; the chic new blue shovel with the sturdy oak handle or the razor sharp red hoe. These were the tools of choice, reserved only for the best worker. The day consisted of peeling off layer after layer of clothing while working as the sun rose higher in the sky. While the temperature was rising, the list of things to do grew: weeding, moving rocks, hedging prickly raspberry vines, and shoveling in steaming chicken manure my dad called “fertilizer.” These were just a few of the tasks that were completed in the garden; and all done in rhythm to the sound of dad’s monster rototiller and Emily trying to drown it out with her belting voice singing Disney tunes and theme songs operatically.
Two o’clock came, the hottest hour of the day. I had stripped almost to my nothings due to the heat. My face was drenched in sweat, flushed red with sunburn and caked mud was in my hair. I had the unappetizing after taste of manure in my mouth. I had worked my tail off. Two o’clock was the finish line. The prize: leaping into the frigid, glacial pool- with stinky clothes on and all.
Jumping in the pool right after working seemed to be a glorious reward because I had worked for it. I was scorched by the sun and exhausted, but my energy was renewed as the refreshing cool water seeped through my rags and onto my skin. That sensation felt better than if I had taken a leisurely dip. In retrospect, the best thing about each Saturday alongside my dad was not the swim, but the work that led up to that reward has taught me the principle of hard work and the benefits that come from it.
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