Midwife, Mortician, Window Painter

August 18, 2012 | My Jottings

Rub a dub dub,
Three men in a tub,
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker,
The candlestick maker.
Turn them out, knaves all three.   (James Orchard Halliwell)

*        *        *        *        *        *        *        *        *

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I remember wanting to be an astronaut when I was about 10. I think I held onto that aspiration for about a month or so.

By the time I reached my teens I knew I should plan to go to college and get a degree, but deep down inside I really just wanted to be a wife and mother.

(Wait a minute while I go lock my doors before the feminist police hunt me down with their clubs…)

I also remember wanting to be a teacher or a nurse, and after graduating from high school I was enrolled in a local college’s RN program.

When I was in my thirties, aside from being a wife and a homeschooling mother, I sort of wanted to be three other things.

A midwife.

A mortician.

And a window painter.

I’ll talk about my midwife apprenticing another time…it was something I loved but eventually saw that it wasn’t meant to be.

I’ll talk about why I wanted to be a mortician another time too.

When I was in high school I was one of the student sign painters. Every football or basketball game, we always hung long banner-like signs with huge block letters that said inspiring directives like, “Go COLTS!” and “Tromp the Trojans!” and “Hammer the Huskies!” After a couple of years, I could pencil in the 2-foot high letters and have them painted in just a few minutes, and I liked doing it.

When I returned from living in Germany in the early 1980s, I got my first window painting job at a business in Orange County, California, painting a comic-like Christmas scene on their large front windows. I painted a long-nosed and cranky looking Ebenezer Scrooge with a top hat, a scarf wrapped around his neck and blowing in the wind, and he held two bulging bags of money in each hand. Snowflakes fell around him and above his hat in those huge, high-schoolish letters were the words “Merry Christmas.” A word bubble came from his mouth to show he was muttering, “Bah. Humbug.”

After Christmas I washed the paint off the windows as part of the window painting package, and thought about having business cards made up so I could have a little business on the side. I was an office supervisor for a large private investigating company back then. Thirty years ago it was quite common for seasonal themes to be painted on business windows, and some places also painted their sale advertisements on windows too. I don’t see that so much anymore.

Anyway, my window painting days were rather short-lived, because I was swept off my feet by a Minnesota man who asked me to marry him before we ever met. I said yes and moved to American Siberia in 1981, and was thankfully able to be a wife and a mother again for my vocation, having given up private investigating stuff and Southern California altogether.

A few years later when various friends had babies, I picked up my paintbrush again. Sometimes I painted a welcome sign or a birth announcement on their house windows, so something unique and memorable would be waiting for them when they arrived home after giving birth in the hospital.

Here is one example below. My good friend Bob King (who also worked for our local newspaper) took this photo of me as I was standing on a ladder and painting in pink and white, “Howdy Holly! Welcome!” on the front window of friends Sue and Dave’s house. Holly was their third child and first girl, and that was something to celebrate in a big way.

Holly is all grown up now, is married and has a little girl of her own, and I’m too old to climb ladders and paint windows anymore.

I don’t really want to be a midwife or a mortician at this age, either.

I like what I’m doing now, and am so thankful for my job. (Most of you know we are adult foster care providers in our home.)

How about you? When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?


  1. Su lee says:

    This will come as no surprise to you, but I always thought I’d find myself in the wondrous world of “detecting”. After abandoning Nancy Drew and her blue roadster (which I am still coveting) at about 11, I found myself drawn into the worlds of Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Tommy &Tuppence, Inspector Roderick Alleyn, Lord Peter Wimsey and of course, Sherlock Holmes. In my senior yearbook, my friends all wrote jokes about how I had aspired to be a spy one day. Ha! The CIA would have been doomed had they hired someone as gullible and transparent as I was! Now here I am all these years later (45 at least) and guess what? I AM a detective! God has called me into a vocation which requires great detecting skills. It doesn’t matter if this means I am detecting who might be peeing on the bathroom rug, which medication might be causing someone to have vertigo, how the heck to slip a gluten-free diet in under the radar or a thousand other puzzling situations, my long-honed skills are being used! And, when the day is done and I can be a couch potato extrordinaire, Inspectors Morse, Lewis (I love Oxford!), Linley and DCI’s Tom and John Barnaby call me to come with them to the English countryside and do some sleuthing with them. Ah, life is good.

  2. Just Julie says:

    As long as we’ve known each other I didn’t know about your beginning spy days! This explains a lot! And now we’re enjoying some of the “tv spy fruits” of yours. 😉

    One other thing is clear: you can write and should at the very least do a blog.

    I would leave comments continually. xxoo

  3. Su lee says:

    Thank you, Julie – that’s something I can’t imagine doing but just you thinking that makes my day! Love you.

  4. Just Julie says:

    I’ll be over later to help you set it up. :O xxoo

  5. Patty says:

    I am under the illusion that I am still not a grown up. I continue to wonder what I will turn out to be…… 😉

  6. Just Julie says:


  7. Sharon says:

    I forgot about that scene on the business window… I wish you had a picture of it!

    When I grow up, I want to be a museum curator, a wedding photographer, and a diorama maker.

  8. Just Julie says:

    No more dreams of being a marine mammologist specializing in dolphin and whale communication?

  9. Kay says:

    Oh dear, my first ‘ambition’ was to be a bar-maid! My gran was a cleaner in a local pub when I was about seven years old and I sometimes visited her there with my dad in the mornings while she was working. I thought pubs were a secret, forbidden world and imagined working in one would be such a glamourous job! 🙂 Later on, I considered being a journalist (wish I’d followed that one up) and also toyed with the idea of being a policewoman (that would definitely not have suited my wimpish personality). I eventually ended up being one of Her Majesty’s civil servants in the Ministry of Transport (motor taxation). More than anything, I wish I’d trained to be a teacher. I have been a Teaching Assistant in the past, for over ten years and have plenty of tales to tell about my experiences.
    At present I am a volunteer Teaching Assistant in a local primary school and that suits me just fine.

  10. Just Julie says:

    It’s great to keep learning more about you, Kay. I have to admit, picturing you as a police woman brought a giggle. But the journalist and the teacher? Yes, without a doubt! Are you home from Wales yet?

  11. Kay says:

    We arrived home yesterday afternoon. We felt very welcome in South Wales, probably because the Welsh and Cornish are both Celts and the languages have a 65% commonality so place names often look vaguely familiar.
    We stayed in Pontypridd, not far from Cardiff. The day we visited Cardiff, the weather was very hot, humid and sticky (yuk). But as we went further up the valleys, the air cooled.
    BTW, I think that being a wife and mother is the best job in the world and have enjoyed both, though not necessarily at the same time!

  12. Just Julie says:

    Pontypridd. Why don’t we have names like that in America? So unique.

    Okay, I’m getting ready to take an online poll to see how many people would read your blog if you started one…. xxoo

  13. Ember says:

    I wanted to be a poet. xxx Love that photo of you painting the window!

  14. Just Julie says:

    And you are….. xxoo

  15. Kay says:

    Pontypridd – pronounced ‘pontypreethe’.
    (Just so we don’t upset any Welsh readers!) 🙂
    And we have some interesting names down here too!
    E.g. Come-to-Good, Perranarworthal, Indian Queens, Mousehole (pronounced ‘mowzle’),Skinners Bottom, Playing Place, etc. The Lizard. And of course, your favourite: Port Isaac. (Otherwise known in the land of T.V. as Port Wenn.)

  16. Just Julie says:

    I would love to live in a place with a name like those. I wouldn’t like Skinners Bottom, though. 🙂 Port Isaac, someday we shall see you…. xxoo

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