This was the year of my first real job, Waffle House waitress. For those not familiar with the Waffle House franchise, it is a twenty four hour breakfast and light meal restaurant set up in the form of an old diner, with a row of single bar stool seats and two sets of booths on either side. I found the work fascinating, as I learned all manner of archaic breakfast order terminology and the whole set up was almost theater to customers. I made $1.00 an hour to start, and tips. This may not sound like much, but with efficient, quick service and turn over I could easily make $60.00 during a four hour shift. I worked a couple of evenings a week, and usually a full day shift on Saturday or Sunday. Within months I had worked myself into actually driving between the different regional Waffle House restaurants to train other waitresses for the company. Life was good.
My fondest memory of this job (for the 14 months I was employed there) is what I did with my most of my earnings. Every week I would set aside 50 percent of what I made in a savings account, because I had a plan. At this point my mother was a single parent of six children, and she never really wore jewelry at all. She was not really the jewelry type, but I became determined to design and have made a mothers ring for her. This was before they were actually in fashion, and I worked with a jeweler at Linz to design the perfect ring, white gold band, with seven precious stones representing my mother and her six children. Several of my family members thought I was crazy to do this...save for college yada, yada...but it was like preaching to a wall. (Not unlike it is now when I am focused.) It was astronomically expensive for the time, nearly $2,800.00 when completed, but I was determined. It took me 8 months of work to accomplish this, and my mother was thrilled with it, wore it immediately, and never took it off from the moment she got it.
Just before my mother died last year, she wanted to talk to me about the ring, and while speaking took it off to give it back to me. I tried my best to talk her out of this, saying it should go to one of my sisters, since it was special to us all, and they have children to leave it to, etc. There had already been arguments within my family over who was to have it, and it was clear I would not be a popular choice. But mom said this to me, and I will never forget it. "Of all the jewelry I was ever given in my life, this piece of jewelry is the only piece I ever loved. I would never take it off, it would never leave me in life, because every time I saw it I remember that 17 year old girl serving countless waffles in a diner to pay for it because she really loved me. Take it now, so I die knowing it came back to you as it should."
Well, the ring is now mine, but what she said to me that day is more valuable to me than having it could ever be.