Growing up, I lived next to Woodsy’s, a corner store and deli. The owner of the store, Dixie, was an elderly man who suffered from severe arthritis, so much so that the kids in the neighborhood referred to his hands as claws (fortunately, not to his face).
Dixie gave me my first job at the age of 9. He had an ice machine in his store, and he would bag the ice to sell it.
With the toll the arthritis had taken on his hands, he needed some help bagging because he couldn’t maneuver the twist tie. I was thrilled when he offered me the job – for a whole 50 cents an hour.
On my first day, Dixie taught me the secret of the twist tie.
“Pinch and twist, Kerri. Pinch and twist. That’ll get you the best seal.”
I remember wanting to do a really good job, and as I closed each bag, I’d repeat the mantra to myself – “Pinch and twist. Pinch and twist.”
I had finished about 10 bags when he first came to check on me.
“Wow!” he exclaimed. “You’re doing a great job! You’ve gotten a lot done. Now, let’s check out the tying job.”
I remember feeling a moment of trepidation. “Oh, I hope I did it right,” I thought.
“Kerri, I must say, “ Dixie continued, “this is some of the best pinching and twisting I’ve seen in a long time! I’m sure lucky to have you helping me.”
Now, was it really the best pinching and twisting he had seen? Surely not, as I saw him re-securing some bags as he put them in the ice chest for sale, but his appreciation and reassurance made me want to do an even better job for him. It warmed my heart to help him, and he made me feel significant and seen every time I was with him.
At the end of my “shift,” which was as long or as short as I liked, he’d offer me my pay right from the register or I had the option of taking home some sweets for payment.
I remember almost always opting for the sweet reward, and without fail, I’d choose a soda (often either Mountain Dew, orange soda, or grape soda) and Suzy Q’s; he’d sometimes throw in a candy bar, too.
Come to think of it, I’ve read that we often crave certain foods in an attempt to relive a fond memory or time from our past where we ate that food. A-ha! So, it’s not the Suzy Q’s I’m craving as an adult; it’s the special time with Dixie.
I love to think about the people who came into my life as a child and made a lasting impression, whether it was my 8th grade English teacher (aptly named Mr. Devine) who helped me fall in love with the power of words through his Parts of Speech songs, or my best friend from grammar school, Amy Consigli, who you could always count on for a warm greeting and a friendly smile.
And dear, sweet Dixie – one of the kindest men I’ve ever met. Although he traveled quite a difficult road in his life, he still managed to make this little girl feel pretty special.