While out walking this morning I had to chuckle at the artwork in front of a house on Pagel Street. There were bright blue, child-sized handprints which looked like those above, all over the sidewalk. I’ll just bet the parents of the kid (or kids plural) saw the handiwork and were about as horrified as the Lincoln Memorial caretakers were yesterday when they saw the green paint defacing that national monument. I never got into poster paints or finger paints when I was growing up, nor did I ever dare to leave a handprint anywhere, especially on the wall. My parents were pretty strict – not that I am complaining; they did a good job “rearing” me and they did not spare the rod doing so. As to mischief, I did however watch my mom applying foundation and lipstick, and one day I decided to mimic her activity. I got into her makeup bag and squirted beige liquid foundation from the tube all over the sink and bathroom counter. I also had more lipstick on my lips and cheeks, then was left in the tube. For my actions I got a lickin’ – a swift swat on the butt and I never did it again.
In seeing the painted handprints on the sidewalk, I cannot help but recall what happened the first Summer I worked at the diner. The “City guys” – the collective group of maintenance workers for the water department, parks and recreation and miscellaneous services for the City of Lincoln Park, came into the diner twice a day on their breaks. It was a flurry of activity because they had a fifteen-minute break then had to be back on the job. Like clockwork, twice daily, after simultaneously surrounding the perimeter of Carters with huge dump trucks, sweepers or maintenance vehicles, they converged into the diner, and within minutes every available stool was occupied. Occasionally it was standing room only as they could still have their drink and enjoy the A/C. My boss bemoaned the loss of “regular business” as we all scurried around to provide lots of ice water, one coffee or cold drink and perhaps an occasional donut. The guys would joke and kid with us, and one another, and as soon as their cups and glasses were drained, they’d be on their way after the allotted fifteen-minute break. One day the Parks and Rec guys came in, with tar specks on their respective hands. It was a wicked hot day and they were stirring up hot tar, and then patching it onto bare spots of the City’s trees after pruning them. As one of the guys walked out the front door, he turned back and winked and said “X marks the spot Linda – we left you a present at your house” … I had no idea what that meant. Alot of the guys knew where I lived, since my day off was always a weekday, and I’d often be working out in the yard and they’d drive by and honk or stop to chat.
I finished work at my usual time, 3:00 p.m., and walked the five blocks to my home. When I approached the house, I saw a huge tar “X” glistening in the hot sun. I was horrified and knew in advance my father would have a conniption fit when he saw it. I went into the house, and suggested to my mom and grandmother, who was visiting from Toronto, to look out the front door. My mom looked at me in horror, and with hands on her hips, admonished me for encouraging them to pull such a stunt and warned that my father would not like it at all. My grandmother offered to mediate the situation at the appropriate time. When my father got home from work that night, he was very angry and insisted the huge tar “X” brought down the property value. I visibly cringed at that statement, but pled my case that I neither asked for, nor encouraged the City guys to place it there. However, being the irascible person that my father often was, he kept the subject a hot potato for several days. Finally, my mother intervened stating “enough was enough” which finally tabled the subject.
The tar “X” brought much consternation that Summer of ’73, and every so often the subject returned and was hashed out once again throughout the years. Four decades later, the “X” has faded and now is barely discernible and just a reminder of foolish youth and a long-ago, somewhat childish, prank.