First impressions are important, and we all would admit that we would want to present ourselves at our very best when meeting someone for the first time. This isn't always possible. None of us are at our best 100% of the time. Myself included.
When we started this adventure called owning a campground we were naive in thinking that we could present the best of ourselves every time we stuck the open sign in the door. We tried, we really tried. We listened to every suggestion offered. We listened to horror stories of owners past. We worked 14 to 16 hours a day tirelessly with a smile upon our face. We dumped all of our resources into this park, so sure that our clientele would appreciate our efforts to make everything nicer for their benefit.
I rose each morning and showered, put on make-up and did my hair.........like all good southern girls are taught to do. From there I ventured out into the park to greet my campers....and clean the toilets and pick up the candy wrappers off the ground. I plotted out gardens to make the entrance more inviting. I kept the store open 12 hours a day and spent many hours painting and remodeling, all with my campers in mind. Instead of banning dripping wet swimmers from the store, I painted the floor with a non-slip additive. We disregarded the rules of the previous owners and allowed folks to enjoy a snack poolside.
Five years later and I rarely put make-up on. I spend some days with a baseball cap attached to my head in lieu of shampooing. I am no longer open 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. The smile on my face is slower to arrive. I am tired. There are days when I would love nothing more than to sell it and be on my way. Our current economy has insured that this will not be happening.
And yet......... there are still those moments when it is all worthwhile. A simple thank you from a weary traveler. A return visit from someone who will go out of their way just to stay with us. A hug from a regular just because. The excited squeal of a toddler whose mom brings him here to swim.
Today, it was the confession of a child..... I was folding laundry on this cloudy day and trying to get my living quarters in order when I heard the buzzer announce a customer. I yelled my usual "be right there" as I headed to the door that connects our home with the store. I came through the door to see one of the children currently living here in our park. His mom was with him. He has that awful distressed look of a little boy about to do something he dreads. He is only 8 years old and he is looking at me with his soulful eyes, his pudgy fists on the counter in front of me.
"Tell her." "Tell her what you did." says mom. His eyes are begging me to dismiss him. I can't, it is not my call. His mom has brought him to tell me something that he must own up to and I can't override this job of parenting. She has to prod him again and he confesses to carving the picnic table on his site. Tears fill his eyes as he tells me and I put my hands on his and give them a gentle squeeze. I listen to the whole confession and wait a moment before I thank him for being so honest with me. Then I lay down his sentence. He will have to help me paint and fix the table he defaced. He bravely wipes his eyes before one tear can fall and looks at me hopefully as I tell him that he has done one of the hardest things anyone can do....own up to what you have done.
My title is "First Impressions". The mom in question here is the one who made a dismal first impression with me by picking my not ripe yet apples. I am just as certain that my reaction made her first impression of me equally as dismal. She presented me with an apple pie last week and we started over with a hug and genuine apology on both sides. Her little girl still drives me bonkers, but I am certain the same was said years ago about my youngest child (she can still drive me bonkers, too).
I suppose we all make awful first impressions from time to time. It is okay....as long as it is not a lasting impression. I will be seeing those soulful eyes in my dreams tonight. I will make his "punishment" of painting be as fun as I can. Maybe I will even make a new friend....