Sweeping the Sidewalk

Jan 27, 2016 by

Sweeping the Sidewalk

I was a dumb kid, and things haven’t changed much. Good example: in chatting with a friend the other day, we got talking about ‘personality traits’… what we’d been like as children, and if the same traits held true today. Long after we’d said our good-byes, I was still thinking about our conversation. Am I the same person as that chubby little girl with the dimples and sparkling eyes staring back at me? Yes, the dimples are still there, but my eyes don’t sparkle as much as they once did. I’m no longer a carefree little girl intent on having fun. I’m more serious, more disciplined, more focused than in years past. But there’s one thing about me I know will never change.

 

I hate discussing money. I make a lousy salesman, and I’ve always known it. I don’t like selling anything – including myself – and I’ve got the story to prove it.

 

Back in the early 60s, when I was a kid, I loved eating candy. My favorites? Those little wax candy bottles, the kind all the kids bought at the Wax 10 cents candy bottlescorner candy shop. Filled with a sweet syrupy flavor, I craved them. I also loved Necco Wafers… plus the little wax strips of candy dots. The only problem? My paltry 5 cents allowance didn’t cover the cost of all the candy I wanted. But how to get that extra cash? My mother, who probably already recognized I was a sugar addict, refused to increase my allowance. So I decided to put myself to work. After all, I was 7 yrs. old. I could do it!Nekko Wafers

 

Grabbing a broom, I headed next door to our neighbor’s house. The retired couple who lived there were very nice people, and always good for a cookie or two whenever I stopped by to visit. Bonus! They had a big sidewalk in front of their house, plus an extra wide front porch. Surely I could make some money working for them. Marching up their
front walk, I knocked on the door. Our neighbor opened it, drying her hands on her apron. “Hello, Kathleen.” She eyed the broom. “And what are you up to today?”

 

Candy Buttons“I was wondering if you’d like me to sweep your sidewalk,” I boldly asked.

 

Looking rather surprised, she smiled and nodded. “That would be fine.”

 

Greed got the better of me. “I can do your front porch too,” I added.

 

“That sounds wonderful,” she said. “Let me know when you’re finished.”

 

SidewalkBroomEagerly I got to work, sweeping hard and fast as I could while mentally adding up the money I would make. Just thinking about all that candy I could buy made me work even harder. Yes, it was a hot and sweaty job, and the broom was bigger than I was. It took me awhile before I finished attacking the sidewalk, then the wide front porch. But time didn’t matter. I had a goal, and I was determined. I would finish the job, collect my money, and head for the candy store. And once I ate up that candy, I could sweep another neighbor’s sidewalk. Ahh, the money I could make! Ahh, the candy I could buy! Life was good!

 

Finished, I knocked on the front door, eager to collect my money. Opening the door, our neighbor glanced down the sidewalk, then around her front porch. “You did a fine job, Kathleen. You are such an industrious little girl.”

 

“Thank you,” I said with a modest blush. This was going to work out better than I thought.

 

“You can sweep my sidewalk and front porch anytime you want,” she added.

 

“I’ll be happy to do it,” I said, dreaming of windy days, falling leaves, and dirty sidewalks. Talk about a windfall! I could make a fortune! I could buy all the candy I wanted!

 

closing the saleAnd then came the words of doom: “How much do I owe you?”

 

I sputtered, and looked up at our neighbor, who continued smiling down at me. “How much money do I owe you?”
How much? How was I supposed to know? I hadn’t thought this part through. What would be fair? Did I dare ask her for a nickel? A dime? Or was my work worth only a penny? How much did a kid make by sweeping a sidewalk?

 

“It’s okay,” I heard myself suddenly mumbling. “I did it for free.”

 

“Are you sure?” she asked. “I’m glad to pay you.”

 

FREE? FREE? What was I thinking?

 

“It’s free,” I insisted, mentally kicking myself as the words slipped from my mouth. “I just thought you might like having your sidewalk swept.”

 

“That’s very kind of you, Kathleen,” she said, rewarding me with a smile. “You’re such a sweet little girl.”

 

“Thank you,” I muttered. “Have a nice day.”

Tired and discouraged

 

Grabbing my broom, I headed down the porch. Sweet little girl? What a dope! I’d done the work, she’d offered me money, and I’d turned her down. When it came to ‘asking for the sale’, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Stupid, stupid, stupid, I thought, lamenting the loss of all that candy I’d been dreaming of. And all because I didn’t have the courage to ask for the sale. I couldn’t bring myself to put a price tag on my work.

 

Tired and discouraged, deeply disappointed in myself, I headed home, rather than to the corner candy store.

 

News Flash: Not much has changed about me since that day long ago. I still hate discussing money, and I still hate asking for the sale. But that poses a particular conundrum. When you’re an author, one thing that’s expected is that you market yourself. There are different ways to do this. Some authors are heavy into blatant marketing. They’re all over Twitter and other social media sites, constantly promoting, cross-marketing, tweeting, begging people to ‘Buy my book! Buy my book!’ I’m sure these authors are lots smarter than me. They’ve got the merchandise and they’re closing the deal. They’re asking for the sale.

 

And then there’s me. Yes, I’m an author. Yes, I have six published women’s fiction novels. Yes, the books are all available for sale. But do I constantly push them? No. Will I shout to the world ‘Buy my books! Buy my books!’ No. Will I make enough money from writing to buy all the candy I can eat? I don’t know.

 

gratitude-1But I’ve come to making peace with myself. I’m content to follow my own path, and do things my way. Rather than try to be someone I’m not, I guess I’ll keep doing what I’ve always been doing: writing my books, sharing my blog posts, and connecting with all of you. Meanwhile, if you’d like to buy my books, or tell all your friends about them, you’ll have my eternal gratitude… but I’m not going to push you to do so. Instead, let’s all just enjoy our passion for reading, and have fun together, shall we?

 

Oh! And one last thing: I quit eating candy long ago.

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2 Comments

  1. Janine K

    Lovely post Kathleen! Just shows what a genuine person you are. You know the old saying “If you enjoy what you do you will never have to work a day in your life”! I think that writing because you enjoy it produces a better quality of work rather than being a James Patterson who churns out books prolifically with 5 page chapters, and co writing with other authors – ugh I gave up on him years ago because of that. Keep doing what you are doing, your heart is in the right place

    • Kathleen Irene Paterka

      Janine, thanks so much for dropping by my blog to chat, and for your encouraging words. I totally agree re: the ‘if you enjoy what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life’ quote. That being said, I’m both terrified and ecstatic each time I sit down at my computer. What if the words won’t come? What if I come up blank? What if… what if… what if… But what I NEED to do is turn those ‘what ifs’ into ‘what happened’… moving the story forward. PS – I do wonder about authors such as James Patterson, if he perhaps ‘sold’ the use of his name to other authors. The books don’t seem to be as tight and well written as his earlier works. ~ Kathleen