The young man asked for an old map of Chicago which I don’t have. He was tall, handsome, and looked a mess. He wanted a map of Chicago because his mother and father grew up in Chicago. He grew up in Georgia.
I said, “You don’t sound like Georgia.” “That’s because my parents grew up in Chicago,” he said again. I told him, “Kids grow up speaking like the neighborhood,” thinking of children with foreign born parents who sound like Chicago. The only thing South about his voice was the quiet, soft tone.
“So what are you doing here now?” He tells me his grandfather is giving him a job before he starts school next fall. “You’re going to work for your grandfather? You’d better comb your hair. Even if you are trying for a casual look your hair is a mess. What kind if job will you be doing?” “Nursery,” he tells me. I ask, “Nursery with children, or with plants?” “Plants,” he says. “OK,” I say, “Maybe you don’t have to comb your hair.”
“My grandma is getting married Saturday, that’s why I’m here now. She’s 71 and she’s getting married again.” “God bless her,” I say, “You’d better comb your hair. What are you going to wear?” I ask accusingly, looking at his ratty clothes. He says, “I have a clean pair of jeans and a shirt?” “OK,” I assure him, “but the shirt has to be fresh looking, crisp.” He nods. I look at his vari-colored scuffed running shoes and decide they will have to do.
“Where will you be going to school?” He mentions two schools he is trying for, both in Georgia. Exasperated, I say, “Get out of Georgia! Find another school somewhere else! There’s lots to see outside of Georgia. Explore!” He says, “I have no money for another school. I’m thinking of starting in Georgia and then transferring out.” “Good plan,” I agree. He admits, “I worked for a year to make money for college, and spent it all by the time the year was up. This is my new idea. I will put away half of everything my grandfather pays me to save for college.” “Good, that’s good,” I assure him, “and watch out for the girls. It’s easy to use up the second half on girls.” “I know,” he admits, “that’s what happened to my money last year.”
So here I am, berating this stranger, when two ladies who frequent the shop come in. I wasn’t finished with him, “And never mind the credit card. If you can’t afford it at the moment, you can’t have it!” He nods, obediently. I turn to greet the ladies.
One asks, “Is that your grandson?” “Nope, I never saw him before,” I say, “but I’ve been telling him how to live his life from the moment he walked through the door.” I turned to him, and we both said Goodbye cheerfully, and he assured me he would come back to visit, just as if he had, indeed, been a grandson.
Actually, I have never said a word of admonition to my grandsons, ever. Well, yes, my mantra has always been e-nun-ciate! Other than that they have always been perfect.