I am glad to be your Darlin’

Rose Post retired from the Salisbury Post, after 56 years, on Friday.

Rose will not be an idler. She still plans to work about 8 or 10 hours a week. She intends to write a book, too. Her mother worked at Zimmerman’s until she was 89. By that measure, Rose has a while to go.

She has a lot of stories to tell. The City of Salisbury is going to have a luncheon in her honor tomorrow. Four mayors will recount their favorite Rose Post stories.

I know someone will tell the story about writing a first person narrative about being target practice for a local archer. Someone will talk about her series that led to changes in the state laws that protect children. I think the City Council wants her to discuss covering integration.

There is a great story in the Sunday Post by Emily Ford. Rose is one of her heroes. She remembers that the best lesson Rose taught her was to always read. It helps you to keep a hold of a piece of yourself.

I have heard a lot of writers tell me that Rose made a difference to them. She makes people believe in themselves. But there was a catch. She made you believe in your ability to get the job done if you tried.

When I was just out of graduate school (the first time), Rose set me straight. I was trying to make a few dollars by making portraits of a few classes of the local day care.

This, by the way, was before digital cameras. They had this process where you used a bit of plastic emulsion with some silver on it. Really! And sometimes you had to get wet with these poisonous chemicals that made you dizzy after a few hours. And sometimes you didn’t see the pictures for hours or even longer. And you could get dust everywhere, and all you could do about it was to paint on top of the picture with some bluish-gray ink. Seriously!

But I digress.

I charged $7 for a 5 by 7 and $10 for an 8 x 10. I was making the prints on spec and bringing them to the parents when it was time to pick up the kids. Anyway, one mother liked the pictures enough to ask me to come over to her house and make some Christmas portraits of her kids in nice clothes.

The prints came out great. I mean, they were poppin’. Sepia hues and just a perfect bokeh. But, we hadn’t discussed prices too explicitly. I kind of thought that $17 for coming out to her house was a bit on the low side. I sort of felt like they came out so great that I should charge her a sitting fee.

Rose had an opinion about that.

“You did a good job,” she said. “But that shouldn’t be a surprise. You have a lot of talent. You are a smart young man.”

She paused, put her phone book back next to phone, and turned around to face me. It was her kitchen. It was tidy. It was her turn to talk. She took a sip of a cup of coffee, her fingers clasping a set of keys on a large round key chain. Anyway, I was dating her daughter. I needed to keep my mouth shut.

Dory was quiet, too.

“Darlin’, why are you going to charge her extra because things came out well?” I could hear some traffic on Innes Street. But not much else. She looked at me, real close. “I think you should be glad to get a chance for the work.”

Well, she was right. I got my $17. I got more than $17.

Susie said it well, “If mom is writing a story on deadline, or if she is making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, she never thinks its perfect and she’s always working hard to make it better.”

I admit its not that simple. The town is saying goodbye and the reasons are complicated. Will there be another one like her at the Post? Maybe or maybe not.

And, there is some sadness here for Rose. She is leaving something that she has loved for so long. Some people have a job and its work and sometimes it’s not fun. I think Rose is ready to pick up her notebook and tell as many stories as she has time left. She still wants to do it for its own sake. She never did it for the $17.

The other day I had lunch in Salisbury. What was surprising was that the people I ate with, Claude and Anne from Kannapolis, did not actually know Rose. That caught me off guard. Then again, Claude’s career with Cannon Mills took him to New York and Chicago. And an executive with the mill was hardly the first focus of Rose’ attention.

No, her heart was in a different place. She would have been with the scores of workers, living in those factory row houses, drinking Cheerwine, rooting for the Hornets on Friday nights. Rose knows that we’re all kind of like that factory worker: if you could see inside the pockets of the coat we’re wearing, we’ve got our fingers crossed hoping that our best is going to be good enough.


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