From Chicken Soup for the Working Mom's Soul

Weaving a Web of Wise Words at Work

I was very excited when I was hired as an advertising support clerk at the local newspaper two years after my son was born. I had enjoyed my tenure as a stay-at-home mom, but I was now ready for a change, ready to get back to work.

Not only was I thrilled to have my lifelong dream of working at a newspaper come true, but also I welcomed the challenge of learning new skills. These were both great incentives for going back to work, not to mention earning a paycheck again. But what I was most excited about was having a chance to engage in stimulating, informative, grown-up conversation.

For too long, my conversations had been decidedly one-sided and thoroughly nonintellectual. You just can’t discuss the national news or theology or Shakespeare with a two-year-old child. My brain felt stymied by my drought. So, as I dressed for my first day on my new job, I was filled with anticipation. Surely the atmosphere at a news paper was continually permeated with news. Surely opinions and orations, discussions and debates were standard fare, and I would have more than my share of intense, thought-provoking dialogues with my coworkers. I could hardly wait.

I sat at my computer, typing in real estate copy, but I had my ears pricked the whole time. All around me the phone reps discussed ads they had taken. I squirmed impatiently. When was the adult conversation going to start? I still felt shy, so I wasn’t planning to put in my two cents right away; it would be fun to listen at first. Later I would dazzle my coworkers with my insightful observations.

It took a couple of days before it happened. One morning I came into the office and heard Carrie saying, “Of course, a lot depends on a person’s upbringing, like where they were born, what part of the country, and so forth.”

Debbie, resting her arms on the top of her cubicle, shook her head. “Yes, but some things are universal. Inherent.”

“She’s right,” Jo put in. “Some things are just part of the human psyche.”

I sat at my desk, listening happily. I had almost minored in philosophy at college. I remembered reading about the tabula rasa and a priori knowledge in my intro to philosophy class. And I’d also taken a cultural anthropology class. Finally! This was the kind of conversation I had looked forward to.

“People are taught in different ways around the world,” Carrie argued. “Even here in the United States, there’s a profound difference between how you’re taught up North versus down South.”

Chris chimed in. “Culture is a big part of it,” she said. “Different cultures teach the same things in different ways. There’s even differences between urban and suburban.”

“You just know some things,” Carrie said. “Like all children call their mothers ‘Mama’ or something equivalent to that.”

“At first, sure. Then languages diversify,” Chris said.

This was like being at an intellectual Wimbledon. I swiveled my head from one speaker to another, relishing the debate. My brain was kicking into gear, agreeing, disagreeing, disassembling, formulating arguments and rebuttals. I decided not to wait any longer. I got ready to jump into the exchange.

Then Carrie said, “But everybody knows the song is not ‘The Eensy Weensy Spider.’ It’s ‘The Itsy Bitsy Spider.’”

“Yeah, so tell your husband to get it right when he sings it to your little girl,” Debbie said.

“He’ll corrupt her,” added Chris. “She’ll go to kindergarten, and all the other kids will laugh at her because she sings the song wrong.”

And we all began to sing ‘The Itsy Bitsy Spider’ with the hand motions, too, of course, as we’d done countless times with our children.

When we were finished, I turned back with a sigh to my computer. I knew for sure I was going to love working here.

Tanya Tyler

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