Tuesday, August 18, 2009

First Impressions

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....

16 comments:

a corgi said...

I'm glad the mom, even though she might have wanted to have it dismissed, brought her son to you to confess and have him do resitution for his vandalism. I am sure you will be loving and kind as he "fixes" what he destroyed. a few years older, was he to do such a thing would involve an arrest and community service....

betty

Nancy said...

What a wonderful story, Kathy, and a beautiful moral lesson. Thanks for sharing.

lovelyprism said...

He'll probably remember repairing and painting the table with you for the rest of his life. I'm sure it will seem more like fun than punishment.

Hit 40 said...

How fabulous that she made you an apple pie!! Too sweet. What a dear and heartfelt apology.

Kathy G said...

Great story.

I'm glad you gave the boy a "penance" instead of just acknowledging his mistake. I'm sure he'll learn a better lesson that way.

ellen abbott said...

So was the apple pie from your apples? hee hee.

Great story Kathy. And it is nice to know that first impressions can be overcome.

The Good Cook said...

Awesome post.
Good for the mom for teaching her son a valuable lesson.
Good for you for helping her parent.
Good for both of you for starting over.

Good for all of to remember, be slow to judge and fast to forgive!

Pat said...

To err is human, to forgive is divine!

This little boy will learn a valuable lesson from you when he repairs the table. Kudos to the mom for calling him on it, Kudos to the kid for confessing, and Kudos to you for following through with a punishment.

Andrea said...

Great story. I'm that little boy will re-tell this story over and over (probably 40 years from now)!

Joy and Phil said...

Kathy,
You are truly a born story teller. How's the book coming?

Harnett-Hargrove said...

You are very brave. -Jayne

ellen abbott said...

Kathy, what happened to your post on Gage? I was going to comment and it wouldn't let me, now, at the library, I see that the whole post is gone.

Jilly said...

Ellen, I asked her to take it down :( Unfortunately her "anonymous" commenter feels free to write garbage on her posts and I'm not sure I could handle it if I saw nasty things said about my kids.

Eddie Bluelights said...

What an interesting career you have amidst the obvious downsides you describe. However I can see the upsides more than compensate.
I get the same mix in my ambulance work - mostly good people but a few bad (not many).
I dearly wish I could visit you more often, Kathy, but regrettably busy at work. Your posts are very interesting. Best wishes ~ Eddie.
Oh and and I am writing a biggy play, The Wizard of Oz - you are there somewhere - a goodie I am pleased to say.

Brian Miller said...

too cool. as an avid camper...thank you. as a lover of children...thank you. many time we don't recognize how hard it is to own up in the early days...with the unknown of how big scary adults will react. you may make a friend, but i know you made an impression on him.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

That's a lovely story.

I can only imagine how exhausting your job must be--it's good that you're picking out the bright spots.