Jan 11, 2021
Guests from Season 3 of the podcast share memories of their grandparent's work and careers--tagging along to work with them, and being shaped by their jobs and their work ethic. Emily also interviews a grandmother who's a business-executive-turned-filmmaker.
EPISODE SHOW NOTES
Emily's guest has produced Beyond Sixty Project, a new documentary film. Learn more here.
THE STRETCH IT TAKES (essay)
We have a black and white picture of my grandfather’s business prominently displayed in our front hallway. He owned a car dealership and auto body shop with two gas pumps in front of it. In the photo, I can see my grandfather’s name proudly displayed in large block letters - the names Oldsmobile, Cadillac, and GMC Trucks surrounding it. By the time I remember visiting, he had moved into a much larger facility with huge plate glass windows and a big large showroom with shiny new cars parked inside. It was an awesome place to visit as a kid.
When we visited my grandparents, he would often take us into his office and generously hand us plastic replicas of cars. I wish I had saved those. I remember the doors of the model cars would open and close. Sometimes the trunks would even open. I loved running my hand across the glossy paint of the toy car and imagining myself driving it off the lot.
My grandfather’s office opened up into a larger space where my Uncle Paul and Great Uncle Stanley had desks. My second cousin Jean Elsie worked there, too. I knew that my Dad had worked there as a young man as well. It was definitely an old-fashioned family business. My Uncle Stanley always had dimes in his pocket to dole out to us, and as soon as I got my hands on that dime, I ran into the service area to spend it on a cold Orange Crush that I pulled out of one side of the bright red and white Coke Machine. Air ratchets chattered through the service bays as I pushed the lever, opened the slim door on the left, and grabbed the cold bottle by the neck and pulled. The machine released the goods with some resistance. Happily, I’d pop the top off the bottle with the can opener that was tucked into the front panel of the machine. Cold Orange Crush never tasted so good.
Once refreshed, I would head out to the gas pumps to “help” the customers. When a car would drive over the black rubber hose outside, a bell would ring inside to alert the staff of a new customer. I would run out ahead and try my best to offer to pump the gas. I remember the staff and customers being kind and generous with my attempts. I also remember a slight reprimand for crawling on the hood of a car, squeegee in hand, to wash the front windshield. My eagerness had met my limits. I was way too short to try that again. And I’m sure the customers didn’t appreciate my hand and footprints on the hood of their car.
It was such a different time, where people would ask if I was Gerald’s granddaughter and pat me on the head when they realized I was. I was part of a legacy, and I sensed that in my grandfather’s workplace. When I pump gas now and smell the fumes, I often think about my grandfather. I can’t go into a service bay of our local Chevy Dealer without wishing I could have a bottle of Orange Crush. This is the thing. We are programmed for connection, and our memories are linked strongly to our senses.
So what memories am I building with my grandchildren that they will someday recall? Our workplaces are often our homes. Will they connect the two? Will they reminisce about our workplaces the way I do with my grandparents’ place of business? It’s definitely going to be a stretch, since work and home are now so intertwined. It’s hard not to look back and wish for the old days...but instead, I am going to look forward and think about how I can help my grands understand what I do, and how it gives me so much more freedom to see them because I don’t walk through a big glass door into a physical workplace.
I, instead, live in a virtual world of writing, editing, and creating content for this podcast, which gives me the flexibility to stop by for visits, or have the grands over for lunch or an afternoon of book reading and playing. Yes, the workplace has changed, but what hasn’t is that I am building memories with my grands that will last a lifetime.
© 2021 Emily Morgan