There was money to be made still, even after the flood of cheap goods from overseas; as vac shop owners in the seventies and eighties, we’d just have to be cautious, savvy, and above all, retain the integrity and credibility we had worked so hard to earn in this small college community.
Profit potential would have its limitations sooner than later; margins for error were diminishing as the influx of imports gradually whittled them away. Ma and Pa needed to make some changes well before the economics prevented our turning around such an “antiquated” service like repairing small household appliances. But the concept of change and its unknown effects was unsettling; like other unpleasant topics – finances, alcohol, or depression – changing our circumstances was not an option, even after many months of professional counseling. We had the business debt to clear. If our little family’s lot was to improve, I’d have to affect some type of plan that didn’t destroy the core.
So, I announced that I was going outside our shop to look for employment. I reasoned that I had a better chance working outside the business; this would not only bring in extra income but separate us enough that we might even enjoy some new conversation at home. One of my favorite childhood places had been the card and gift shop down the boulevard, so I decided to apply for work at some of the retailers at the mall north of town. I soon hired on and started my association with a national card shop. Our daughter delighted in the new “stuff” where Mommy worked. My life seemed hopeful again and I was feeling more fulfilled.
Depression had been an on again off again chronic shadow; I didn’t want any more children “under the circumstances” which was short for “marriage with a vac shop underwriter”. My obgyn insisted I would change my mind eventually, but he had no idea the depths to which the responsibility of a second little one to care for would take me. When I realized I was unexpectedly pregnant, my hopeful rationalizing did no good. The painful truth settled in, adding physical problems to the package; I felt like absolute crap. I had experienced such an easy time with my daughter, feeling great and even working up to three days before her birth. Could seven years really make such a difference?
I don’t remember confiding very much with anyone at this time. Mental tapes of old adages kept repeating themselves: “You’ve made your bed, now sleep in it” or “She’s three times seven, old enough to make up her own mind”. Was God really asking me to shoulder another little life amid the overwhelming burden I was already carrying? How I wished I could go to sleep and awaken to what had been a bad dream. No such good fortune, this situation was real. I began to sink more deeply into a depression. I felt discarded and despondent, in utter despair and completely alone; encased by an already-clouded perception and insecure demeanor, my perspective was darkened further: even Life’s Master Planner had now deserted me. I’d been left on the floor like the broken vacuum belts and electrical debris that gathered each week under my husband’s repair bench.
Within a few weeks time, medical tests confirmed the blighted egg would never grow to maturity and I would eventually miscarry. Unfortunately, the “pa” who had wanted another child now took a turn as the depressed one; the “ma” on the other hand, basked in sheer relief, considering the subject of any more children forever closed. She Who Was Three Times Seven (plus a few) would get through this after all. I had a voice in this matter. Choices… Did I wish to go home and let nature take its course? Or would I rather schedule a “d and c” and return to work in a few days?
I chose the latter, as the cards were indeed in my hands. All I wanted to do was retreat to that safe little card shop once again, and shut off any lingering, empty promises that expanding our family unit would make it all better. So, as doctors do, he explained the scheduled procedure, methodically describing the steps that would be taken; assuring me that current medical practices were less invasive now; the procedure incorporated a vacuum-like tool…
Was there no end to this irony?
I awakened in recovery feeling far more safe and rested than I had ever remembered. Jokingly, I asked the nurses if they would consider renting the anesthesia and the recovery room periodically?
When I returned to the card shop, I was deeply grateful that I’d only have to worry about one child’s future. We had agreed our little daughter need never know about her lost sibling; but we grew further apart in our expectations for both shop and home.
My retail and ownership experience eventually provided me with much needed skills and income years later when I made another choice and became a single parent. Eventually, I’d traverse across the economic possibilities into non-profit and for-profit management positions.
But a card shop would always be my happy place wherein therapy came with a paycheck! Let life’s celebrations begin! Need a gift bag? Some tissue? Ribbon? No problem!
Even years later, I can still draw upon my artistic and creative abilities, my people skills and my love to serve in what is a near perfect arena for my talents. Among my specified duties is the vacuuming that must be done at day’s closing. After all the carpet trails through local dirt I have traversed, I still believe in Serving Him, even when it includes vacuuming! God indeed walks with me, invoking His Sense of Irony. On evenings that I drive the brief commute toward home, I enter my Midwest mud room. Shutting the garage door behind me, I turn my eyes toward the little gray kitten still clutching her vacuum.
Like the kitten, I am grateful to have made it through another day of the week…