By megfiddler

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Every Day Is A Holiday

My father had a favorite saying, “Every day is a holiday.” It was an interesting mantra for a man who was a workaholic. He never took a vacation. A vacation for him was a “Sunday drive”. He would pile my mom and us kids in the car and we would head out to Omaha, Hannibal or St. Louis. We would have lunch and then return home. He was a day tripper for sure. He didn’t have hobbies, well he enjoyed feeding and watching the birds, so perhaps that was his hobby.

My father was born in 1913. His father died when he was about two years old; leaving his mother to raise eight children on her own. This was a time when child labor laws did not exist so my father went to work at a very young age. He helped deliver milk at the age of eight. He dropped out of school in the 8th grade. He was born in Port Huron, Michigan so at about 15 or 16 years old he went to work on the boats that sailed the Great Lakes, as a cook’s assistant. He often told the story of how he once knocked a can of peanuts off a shelve and they landed in that day’s bread dough There was no time to start a new batch and too many to pick out, so the bread was baked with the peanuts. the captain of the ship called the cook to his cabin and complimented him on the bread and requested they serve it more often.  He loved to tell that story.

My father packed up his family and moved to Kansas City in the late 40’s. He built houses for a while, but eventually he settled in Shawnee, Kansas and opened a small open air market called appropriately enough The Apple & Cider Market. He sold fresh fruits, vegetables, cider, honey and eggs raised by local farmers. I guess in some ways he had the first Whole Foods. If you bought a dozen ears of corn he would throw in an extra ear and call it a “baker’s dozen”. If you found a worm on your corn he would either say, “well if the worms like it, it must be good” or “I don’t charge extra for the protein.” But if you were caught squeezing the fruit or tomatoes you met his wrath. He did not tolerate the bruising of his produce. Bruised fruit does not sell. His days often started early,  around 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning.  He would  head down to the city market and wait for the trucks to arrive with produce that was not grown in our region—grapes, citrus fruits and the like. If you were short of cash between paydays he would run you a tab. There was a recipe box behind the counter with index cards that had running tabs. He knew what it felt like for a family struggle to make ends meet. He would hand out penny suckers and bubble gum to the children of customers.

He and my mother worked six days a week; putting in 18 hour days. My sisters and I, from very early ages all worked in the store as well; after school , Saturdays and summer vacations were spent displaying produce, ringing up customer purchases, bagging groceries and carrying out the groceries for our customers. We lived on a bit of acreage and grew green beans to sell at the store and for “you pick”. We planted 500 bell pepper plants by hand and I was paid a nickle a pepper to pick them in the summer.

That was our life and I hated it. Every day was not a holiday. I wanted to live in the suburbs and have a stay at home mom and a dad that put on suit and drove to the office. I wanted to sleep in during the summer and go to the pool with friends. The truth is I never really understood why my father bothered to say every day was a holiday, when in my eyes it obviously was not. In retrospect my father worked hard, but he was proud of his work and for the most part I believe enjoyed it. He taught his children many lessons such as the importance of a strong work ethic and while he didn’t prescribe to the belief that the customer was always right, he did have strong customer service traits.  In the later years my father closed The Apple & Cider Market and opened 50 State Bird feeders.  He loved birds and turned that small hobby into his work.  I guess that old saying is true, if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.

I guess that on some level I learned to enjoy my work because I believe my father to satisfaction in his.  I have been fortunate that even my first job outside of The Apple & Cider Market was one that I enjoyed and stayed at for 22 years, until the office was closed. I have been even more fortunate to find my path in the profession of massage therapy and energy therapy. It gives me great pleasure to be of service to my clients. I also learned the lesson of balance, not so much by what my parents did, but by what they did not do. They rarely made free time for themselves. I find more and more that I need my space to vegetate. I don’t have to travel to get away. I can be content to sit on my deck and read a book or spend the day having a massage and lunch at a new restaurant or a favorite old one. It’s OK to take an afternoon nap, even if the laundry has yet to be washed. I don’t have to be in constant doing mode.

My father was not a saint.  He had many private demons, but he seemed to find contentment in his work, feeding the birds and his Sunday drives.    I guess what it really comes down to is this,  if you can find even small ways to be happy and content in your work, your life and your own skin,  then truly “Every day is a Holiday”, so says the Francis Fiddler mantra.