#NABLOPOMO 4 Childhood career dreams


I have now come to Day 4 of my daily blogging in November committment.  I’ve decided to give the Quintella memories a break but might return there later.   In the meantime I am using the NABLOPOMO prompt for today’s writing – “When you were a kid, did you want to have the same job or a different job than your parents when you grew up?”

Immediately “SHOES” come to mind.  My father was a shoe man – he sold them as a travelling rep, then as a store manager until he opened his own stores in Fish Hoek where I grew up.   My feet were always shod in the best quality shoes that he could afford.  He cared about feet and what was place upon them.  You have a healthy foot, he told me – a good instep but they’re too broad across the toes and two narrow at the heel.  This made it difficult for me to find a good fit – but luckily Dad made sure I did so that my feet grew properly.  But I diverse – did I want to follow a similar career?   No I didn’t – but Big Brother worked in one of the shops he managed and so did Little Sister – from very tender ages too!  Neither of them went into retail but I’m sure the work experience made them wealthier than me who shunned the idea of touching the feet of all and sundry.

Not for me thank you

Not for me thank you

No secretarial work sounded more attractive.  Mom had been one before giving it up to raise a family of four lively kids.   But it was not that which influence my dream. It was more the idea of it – dressing up in smart clothes and wearing high-heeled shoes while taking dictation seemed to be a very glamorous calling when I was about 9 years old.  And Dad encouraged it – If you’re good at typing and shorthand, you’ll be in high demand and can command your salary were his words.

I fancied myself as a smart, efficient secretary

I fancied myself as a smart, efficient secretary

Dad brought an ancient Typewriter home and Little Sister and I had hours of fun playing office-office, banging away on its resistant keys, talking on a discarded telephone and busying ourselves with writing out accounts.

But then in my teens the “higher calling” ideas started to set in.  I should do something worthy – becoming a missionary or a nurse or perhaps work in an home for orphaned children became my desire. I fancied myself as saviour of the underdog. Yes, I would be the Perfect Florence Nightingale, ministering to the sick and making a difference in their lives. So when I was sixteen, Mom encouraged me to first try it out during the Christmas Holidays. And that is how I landed up working as a nurse’s aid at the local hospital.  How I loved the white nurse’s uniform complete with red cape – it made me feel very grown up and oh so worthy.   But it was hard and dirty work. I learned to make a perfect hospital bed, to dust and clean the metal beds and side cabinets and to empty bedpans!

Not very glamorous work!

Not very glamorous work!

One of my patients was a young mother, terminally ill with cancer.   The first time I held a bowl for her to vomit into, I almost vomited myself!   I won’t even describe the things I had to do for her but the emotional attachment was the worst.  To me the staff nurses seemed indifferent and callous – but was probably a professional barrier they’d learned to develop.  I, on the other hand, ran immediately to answer the bell when the young mother rang. She complained bitterly about the nurses and if one of them did come to her she would ask for me and they were only too happy to let me deal with her as she could be ‘difficult’  Well wouldn’t you be if you were suffering like that, I asked them but they shrugged their shoulders.

She was skeletal and her pallor was yellow but before visiting hour she’d call me to help her put on her makeup and brush what little hair she had.  “It doesn’t matter how ill or old you are,” she told me “You must always make an effort to look your best for your husband.”  I’d do my best to make sure she was fresh and presentable, prop her up on her pillows and stay and chat till her family arrived. Her hubby was always smiley and pleased to see her and the children were adorable – quiet and well-behaved bringing cards and pictures they had drawn for her.

My heart ached for them and for her as I knew she was going to die.  The pastor from the Methodist Church visited her every day and told me that at first she’d raged against God for what was happening to her but that now she was beginning to accept her fate.

I was not there when she died.  It was in the middle of the night before I came on duty.   The pastor was there when I arrived and it was he who broke the news to me – “She went peacefully, believing that Jesus had come for her.” he said.  I never saw her family again, but still think about them and wonder how they dealt with their loss and whether her husband married again.  I am pretty convinced that he did as he was still young and very good looking!  I, myself, married a widower with two young daughters and having had this experience in my teens helped me to understand what they had gone through losing a wife and mother to cancer.

But I also had a joyful experience while working at the hospital.  I was going about my duties when the sister called me – “One of the mommies in the maternity section is about to give birth – would you like to watch?”  Would I – Oh yes please!

I had no idea what to expect – I certainly did not expect the emotions that welled up inside me when that beautiful little boy popped into the world.  I experienced a miracle and  the tears flowed – tears of wonder, joy and excitement and I didn’t even know them!   It was a lady doctor who delivered the little boy and the mother was her daughter-in-law.  She said she was delighted and honoured to be allowed to deliver her own grandchild. When she put the baby into her daughter-in-law’s arms, she said,  “Ugh he’s so ugly.”  And there I was blubbing and thinking he’s the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen!   But then I hadn’t been through the pain of childbirth!

It was a shock to discover that this is now how they're delivered!

It was a shock to discover that this is now how they’re delivered!

So after all that, did I become a nurse?  Not a chance!   I rethought all that and decided that all this worthy stuff was over-rated and that Teaching would be more appropriate to my skills.  After all I could still wear the smart clothes, wear heels and pour out my love to the youngsters I taught and  school-school was my favourite game!

That's more my style!

That’s more my style!


One thought on “#NABLOPOMO 4 Childhood career dreams

  1. Oh you are so amazing Helen…I did not know you did nursing and I take my hat off to you. I would never be able to do that. What a wonderful story, cannot wait for tomorrow to read what you did next.


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