It's funny how the simplest of things can bring up a mountain of memories. After I put the twins to bed, I started wrapping some Christmas gifts that need to make their way to a friend across the country. It was then that a flood of memories came to me.
I had my first job at the age of 14, wrapping Christmas gifts at a store back in my hometown. My cousin, who was a bit older than me, was working there for the holidays, and got me the job. I was so excited because I had the chance to make my own money and spend it in whatever I wanted.
At the time, there was not a mall in my hometown. The majority of the stores were on one street, lined up on both sides. The stores would all have big speakers right outside, playing Christmas music and trying to lure people into their stores. The stores are not air conditioned, not that it would matter because, in order to deal with the crowd, the doors remain open.
December is the beginning of the hot season in Panama, very little rain, and lots of sun. The gift wrapping area was outside, in front of the store, right on the sidewalk. There was no shade to cover us when the hot afternoon sun was in full force.
I worked the entire month in the heat, and never even noticed. Since the gift wrapping was free, almost everyone took advantage of it, and as the day got nearer, the crowd of people got larger and larger. I wrapped gifts until 11 PM on Christmas Eve that day, and walked home with my cousin (I lived about 5 minutes walk from the store) shortly after.
I remember how proud I was when I received my paycheck. I can't remember the exact amount but it couldn't have been much. Back in those days, minimum wage was $5.60 per day.
It was hard work, but I was happy I was able to do for myself.
A lot has changed since then, I've had many other jobs too. I still remember that job with fondness. It taught me the value of hardwork, no matter what job you are doing. It also taught me how valuable an education would be.
Now I wrap gifts for those that I love, and thank the heavens for the lessons I learned back then.