I had my first job when I was 10 years old. I used to buy large plants, break them up into much smaller plants in smaller pots, nurture them until they were thriving, and then sell them at the flea market. 25 cents here, 50 cents there…I wasn’t exactly on a path to riches, but it allowed me to buy school clothes, and it helped me fulfill a dream. I wanted to go to Disney World like it was killing me.
We had just moved to Central Florida, and we were in dire straits financially. Getting enough money for food was the priority, but I was still a kid. I wanted some fun, and I knew we’d never get to Disney if I didn’t take matters into my own hands. Back then, the admission for three people was 20 dollars. (That tells you how old I am, right there.) 20 dollars seemed like an all but unreachable goal.
I enjoyed working with plants. I took pride in offering a wide variety, and I knew all their names and could give advice on their care. But my biggest sellers, by far, were the Chicken Gizzards. They were very colorful, with their green and white stripes with the occasional quirky splash of red, and they were not very common at all. People would laugh out loud when they heard what they were called. I always sold out of Chicken Gizzards.
I haven’t seen one since, or I’d have bought it right away. I loved those plants. I almost thought it was a misremembered dream until I googled them, and sure enough, here’s a picture. Aren’t they cool?
As much as I loved working with the plants, I hated the sales part. It was torture. I was painfully shy. As often as I could, I would bury myself inside a book until a customer approached. I remember the senior citizens that frequented the flea market telling me that I needed to smile more. Sage advice, I’m sure, but I had very little to smile about back then. Poverty is a lot more stressful on children than most people realize. It’s scary, feeling like you have no stability at all.
My profit margin was thin to begin with, what with plants, pots, and potting soil, and then a lot of those profits had to go for clothes. So it took me about a year, but finally, I was able to scrape together that 20 dollars, and my mother, my sister and I piled into the car and off we went to Disney World. My mother must have paid for the gas, the parking, and for lunch, too, because I don’t recall including those things in my calculations. But there we were! I was so excited!
I’m willing to bet that I’m the only person on earth who has Chicken Gizzards to thank for a trip to Disney World. It was a wonderful, hard-won adventure. Somewhere I have dusty old pictures of me with Pluto, me in front of the Country Bear Jamboree, and one of Cinderella’s Castle.
It was so exciting that about halfway through the day I worked myself into a major migraine and didn’t want to tell anyone for fear that we’d leave early. After it took so much for me to get there, I didn’t want to cut the day short. I had reached the promised land, and no amount of excruciating pain would keep me from it.
I managed to keep it together until we got back to the parking lot that evening. I then proceeded to throw up all over the place. Much to my chagrin, I drew a crowd. I was relived when we were finally able to leave the (by then almost empty) parking lot.
Come to think of it, the fetid pool I left behind kind of looked like Chicken Gizzards. Things do have a way of coming full circle.
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