Lessons from Long Ago

Events can indelibly etch themselves in our hearts and memories. Here are three of many unforgettable incidents that remain as clear as when they occurred decades ago. Each taught me valuable life lessons. 

“This Can’t be Happening”

I was sixteen the first month I began my first job: school secretary in the small logging town of Darrington, Washington. A highlight of each year was the Junior-Senior Spring Banquet, to which I was invited. I saved enough money out of my $60 a month salary (minus social security and retirement) to purchase material for the perfect dress. i described it to one of the senior girls, a special friend. “It’s pale pink nylon with a darker pink lining. A full skirt, and–”

A student who drove everyone crazy by constantly interrupting other people’s conversations sidled up to us. “Did you get the material at Jake’s?” Duh. Jake’s was the only dry goods store in town. I nodded, glad when the bell rang for the beginning of the next class.

It seemed like the banquet date would never come. At last, I stepped into the beautifully decorated school cafeteria wearing my dream dress. No! my brain screamed. This cannot be happening. Wrong. Miss Nosey Pest stood there wearing my dress. The dress I had scrimped, saved for, and slaved making. Pale pink nylon over deeper pink. Full skirt. I couldn’t move.

“I see you girls made twin dresses,” a teacher said. “How nice!” Nice? Inexcusable! The copycat must have sent her mother scurrying to Jake’s, armed with a full description of my dress. I gritted my teeth, somehow made it through the nightmare banquet and held back anger and tears until I got home. Mom wisely waited until the storm ended, then said, “I understand your feelings, but remember, Colleen, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The girl obviously admires you and felt that whatever you chose would be appropriate.” Mom was right. Lesson learned: Looking at situations from another perspective can make a difference.

“The Importance of Being Me”

While visiting an out-of-town girlfriend I met a cute guy who paid attention to me. A short time later, I learned he had been inquiring about me. The next time, I saw him, he asked me for a date. although it meant a hundred-mile round trip to my home. I was thrilled but apprehensive. I eyed my closet with distaste.  As a teen in the 1950s, I wore fluffy skirts and frilly blouses, a far cry from what I felt the young man was probably accustomed to when dating more sophisticated girls.

Well,” I decided. “Nothing says I can’t change my style.” I purchased dark blue material, made a sheath dress, topped it with chunky beads, cut my curly hair super short, and was all set to make an impression.

 I did. He was polite but didn’t show his former interest. When my girlfriend asked how the date went, he shook his head. “I liked her the way she was. Simple clothes and curly hair. Now she’s just like everyone else.” Lesson learned: Be who you are, not who you think will appeal to others.

“A Not-so- Soft Answer”

I sat at my desk glaring at the clock on the office wall. Less than a half-hour until quitting time. My hands, that should have been typing a mountain of purchase orders, remained idle, as they had for several hours spent waiting for my sub-boss to approve the orders.  I had repeatedly asked him to sign them. Instead, he spent the afternoon staring out the window. It wasn’t the first time. Why he dragged his heels at simply initialing the requisitions was beyond me.

Fifteen minutes later he came to my desk, smirked, and held out a gigantic stack of papers. “Here you go.”

Frustration at my unnecessarily wasted time culminated in a scene unlike anything my co-workers ever dreamed would come from “Little Miss Sunshine,'” the girl who got along with everyone.  I stared at my sub-boss and let him have it with both barrels. “Of all the inconsiderate people I have ever met, you take the cake! I have asked you for hours to initial these. Now there is no way I can get them done before quitting time.” Paralyzing silence followed. Suddenly my irrepressible sense of humor kicked in. I stuck my hands on my hips and said, “I sure told you–and boy, do I feel good!

He looked stunned. Then the smirk changed to a chuckle. “You sure did.” Laughter swept through the room. My sub-boss dropped the orders on my desk and went back into his office. I cringed. In spite of the chuckle, would I have a job when I came in the next day? Or be reprimanded?

Shortly after I arrived the next morning, the sub-boss brought a new stack of initialized orders to my desk. His eyes twinkled. “Here you go.” I hid my shock and managed to thank him. Incredible as it seems, my dressing him down proved a catalyst for change. No longer did I have to sit idle while orders piled up. The man also began to relax and relate better to the rest of us. Lesson learned: A soft answer can turn away wrath, but sometimes laughter will diffuse explosive situations and clear the air.

Some of our most important lessons are learned from the most trying circumstances.

11 thoughts on “Lessons from Long Ago

  1. I enjoy your stories. They are so relatable to this girl who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s in a small Washington railroad town. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Judy and Patti. Just when I think I have exhausted the memory possibilities, things comes to mind. Hope you are right, Judy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Colleen, thank you for these darling life lessons! I love reading what you have to say! We are considering having the old family car refurbish to sell or taking it to the junkman. I would certainly enjoy making it safe for someone who can afford a little Jitney to get to work! These are good lessons on relaxing and listening to what God has put on your heart and getting on with the day. Take care, darling Colleen😃 God be with you! Katherine

    On Mon, Jan 17, 2022, 12:00 PM Colleen’s Creations wrote:

    > Colleen Reece Author posted: ” Events can indelibly etch themselves in > our hearts and memories. Here are three of many unforgettable incidents > that remain as clear as when they occurred decades ago. Each taught me > valuable life lessons. “This Can’t be Happening” I was ” >

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good life lessons, Colleen. We’re flying home from dropping Ella off in Montana. It was a beautiful (long!) drive. We decorated her dorm room so cute! She was really pleased with it. She’ll be so missed at home. Love you, Kelly [Image.jpeg] [Image.jpeg]

    Get Outlook for iOS ________________________________

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks, Sandy.
    Kelly, I am so happy for Ella! She is embarking on a new era. It will take some time to get used to being empty nesters. SMILE.


  6. I forgot that you worked there. So many dresses, blouses, skirts, etc. came from his fabric department!


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