At 12 years old,
there's not much you're qualified for if you want to
get a summer job. While classmates of mine were going
to camp or the beach, I decided it was time to set about
building my solo enterprise.
The nuns at my
school were familiar with my work — I had already
built a letterbox for the school office. So when the
principal, Sister Joseph Patrick, approached me about
the poor condition of the library tables, I heard opportunity
knocking. I detailed how I would approach the refinishing
project and before I knew it, she asked me to strip
a small section of a table to prove I knew what I was
doing. This sampling of my work was all she needed —
the job was mine. Next, I put together a "crew"
of four friends and our long, hard work began.
We spent that whole
summer behind the school stripping the white paint and
antiquing glaze off the seven enormous oak tables. We
sanded them down with a Rockwell Orbital sander —
the only power tool I was allowed to use at that age
— and applied several coats of varnish to each
one. At the end of the summer, we put the tables back
in the library and gladly lined up to collect our hard-earned
pay. When the smiling nun gently placed five sets of
Rosary Beads and a $25 U.S. Savings Bond (purchased
by the school for $12.50) in my cupped hands, it was
all I could do not to swear in front of her.
Not only had I
paid for the materials myself — varnish, paint
brushes, sandpaper — now I had to figure out how
to distribute a savings bond among my boyhood crew.
In the end, I was forced to break open my piggy bank
and dole out $4 of my own money to each of my friends.
Yes, it was official. I actually took a loss on my very
first job. But, to this day, I still have those rosary