As a teenager, I was about 38 percent worth saving and the rest should have been tossed out with the trash on Thursday. Hormones raging, boys suddenly more interesting than school, or for that matter, anything else. I was a hot mess. In spite of my shortcomings, I was surprisingly entrepreneurial for my age. In retrospect, this should have gleaned me an extra percentage point or two.
At thirteen I began babysitting, dog walking, even spending most of that summer taking in ironing. As a side job, I kept score for leagues at the bowling alleys on the weekends. Scores weren’t computerized back in the day so had to manually written in for those of you not old as dirt, such as myself. On my sixteenth birthday I applied for work permit. Shortly thereafter, I was hired at a local bakery to work several shifts after school and one day on the weekend. During the summers in high school I worked at a camp in the mountains as a kitchen aide. Combined, these jobs afforded me a little extra clothing money and a dollar or two logged in my savings account passbook.
Christmas was always an exciting time for me. As a little girl somebody always took me shopping for my mother and grandparents, and paid for what I picked out. As I got older, the first Christmas my parents slipped me a twenty, gave me explicit instructions on what to get them, and acted surprised when they opened their gifts, I knew I wanted to earn my own Christmas money and choose my own gifts.
In my senior year, with the holidays approaching, I needed a job. Weighing my strengths, which took about two minutes including a bathroom break, I decided to try marketing my artistic abilities, more specifically, paint holiday windows. In my freshman year my best friend and I won $50.00 and landed our pictures in the paper for taking the blue ribbon at a local contest involving painting Halloween themes on store windows. That, plus being in my fourth year of art, provided me some knowledge of which paints to use, and how to get started.
After canvasing retailers in the area, I found no one more surprised than myself when I had more jobs than I could handle. The rush of clients was probably due to the fact that I undercut everybody doing windows that year with the exception of myself. Looking at the calendar and seeing what was expected of me, I decided to outsource help. Three friends also looking for some Santa bucks signed on for a piece of the already wafer thin crust of the pie that was marked “profit” and came on board on as my assistants. We were to equally contribute to paints, brushes, and whatever equipment necessary to make this happen. All of us had some talent, or at the very least could recreate somebody else’s concept. In essence, we organized a small business without even being aware we had done it.
In the end I contracted with fourteen stores to do their windows. We split up into teams of two. It was chaotic, as each store owner was vying to get their decorations up before the start of the holiday season. Pulling supplies from our families garages we confiscated (or stole if you’re a literal sort) ladders, pans, jars, brushes, rollers and turpentine. Our proud parents would embarrassingly showing up to take pictures as the windows were completed. At that age you’d rather get arrested then be seen with them in public, so for us it was getting ugly.
Towards the end, I must admit I was growing tired of windows. It’s one thing to draw or paint on a flat or adjustable surface but painting on a huge piece of glass vertically presented is a far bigger challenge. Couple this with our ages and lack of focus I’m amazed one window went up. Each vendor shared their vision with us. We then provided a preliminary drawing with our depiction of this vision. On approval, we pulled the paints and went to work.
Between homework, and boys (did I mention boys) somehow we fulfilled the commissioned artwork and just before Thanksgiving found ourselves on the downhill stretch. On the final job, also the biggest, all four of us were to participate. The building was located in the heart of the downtown area on a main thoroughfare. It involved three large windows located at the front of archery lanes.
One window was to depict three reindeer standing erect, bows drawn, quivers slung over their shoulders and arrows pointed at targets with pictures of hunters in the bullseyes. Santa and his bag containing a bow and arrows with a name tag attached was to go on the center pane, and on the third “Merry Christmas” in ornate cursive with some holly. (As a note: I guess in a few years cursive will be listed as obsolete in the dictionary. How are we signing our names if we all print? I digress.)
We availed ourself of their faucet out front to clean our brushes, hands, etc. To do this we were given the head of the faucet and had to screw it on. I guess this was to prevent people from stealing water, although I hadn’t realized that water theft had reached epic proportions back in the day. On the last day, while cleaning up and admiring our work I once again screwed on the faucet head, this time not correctly, and turned it on. It stayed there for a moment, then began to bobble like a pressure cooker valve. Fortunately, I had the foresight to stand back because it blew off at the speed of light piercing a hole through a large gaudy plastic Christmas bell strung above the street then bouncing wildly across the asphalt. A waterfall, and I do mean waterfall, immediately erupted from the now open valve, projecting gallons of water on passing cars. Everyone turned to look at me. What?
We couldn’t stop the onrush due to the intense pressure pulsing out of the pipes, nor could the owners of the lanes. Shortly thereafter, the water company and the fire department arrived at the scene, as well as police for traffic control and the local news media. Our pictures appeared once again in the paper, but this time not for our artwork. The owners had to pay for the water, the bell, and the broken faucet and we were not asked to return the following year, but the windows looked great.
I serve these on Thanksgiving every year, sometimes just the onions and sometimes just the peas, and sometimes both. No matter what, they’re excellent.
Creamed Onions and Sweet Peas
1 14 oz. bag petit whole onions
2 15 oz. cans sweet peas, drained
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. dried mustard
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 pinch nutmeg
1/4 tsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. dry sherry
1 cup whole milk
Cook onions according to package directions, drain well and set aside.
Melt butter large deep skillet. Whisk in flour and stir constantly until golden but not brown. Whisk in all dry seasonings. Cook 1-2 mins. until well absorbed.
Whisk in sherry, stirring constantly. Add milk whisking constantly. Stir and cook over med. heat until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Add peas, and onions to mixture. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking until vegetables are warm, about 5 mins.