Child 1 wins a prize… (part 1)

This afternoon, after a truly epic – but in the Towering Inferno sense of the word – scholastic year, Laura (this post will probably be too heartfelt for me to maintain the Child 1 moniker) came home from school for the first time with a proper award. Not ‘tried hardest this week’, ‘best behaved’ (which, strangely, her kid sister’s won three times), ‘trip from the Tooth Fairy’ or the like… Nope, a proper, end of year prize. Given at a socially distanced, Covid secure Speech Day ceremony and everything.

Obviously I’m horrendously proud and have told everyone. She asked me to tell three people especially. All from my work – none of them her grandparents – and all people who have been tremendously encouraging and supportive to her over the last year.

Carol was her first choice. Carol is my supervisor – actually she aimed high with all her choices – and she is also responsible for making Laura’s birthday so special last August. Movement was limited and so we hatched a scheme to ‘take your daughter to work’ because – for some reason – both my kids seem to think that New Look Speke is as magical as Selfridges. I mean it’s good but it’s no Edwardian wonderland of consumption, is it?

Laura stands next to a shop mannequin.

Anyway, Carol made the store magical. We arrived a good hour before opening and Carol put the lights down low for a full-on Night at the Museum experience. She took Laura through the back of the store and showed her the main stockroom – while I picked things off the racks to show our guest new stock she might be interested in. Then we entered the footwear stockroom and the real magic happened. What do you think an 8 year old would do when given permission to try on any of the gold, silver, diamanté embellished, velvet, satin, beribboned choices on offer? Yeah, that happened.

Laura stands in front of the till ready to use her mum’s debit card.

Since then, Carol has been Laura’s standard for good sense. Carol gave her advice she actually listened to. When Laura asked about working in retail, Carol said “always aim higher than the shopfloor. Train to be a buyer or a designer or work on strategy.”. Now my kitchen table is covered in paper fashion dolls. All the time. Thank you, Carol – for giving her something to focus on.

The next choice was Jenny. Jenny is my other supervisor and I have a close relationship with her. I love her to death – and have loved working with her every minute of the last 3 years we’ve spent together. We’ve disagreed artistically sometimes. We’ve probably competed a little bit too – but I can’t value my working relationship with her highly enough. She’s younger and hipper and edgier than I am (and I suspect that (secretly) she hates my use of very literal Emojis) but that’s a great gift to me. I’ve learned so much from her and she’s given me a lot of confidence in my ability to identify which of our trends and individual items will sell best. We both agreed on black leather shorts two years ago and we were right. I’m pretty sure that neither of us were quick enough to get our hands on a pair.

Pencil sketch of a stylish young woman with artist’s hand.

Laura adores her. In large part because she perceives her as the epitome of cool. During Lockdown 1, I had a WhatsApp video chat with Jenny and Lauren (another colleague – who Laura loves because she’s a die hard Eurovision fan) and Laura was also a guest. Now Laura follows Jenny on my instagram feed and even asked me to make sure that I get Jenny to show her prize to Mrs Rose (Jenny’s mum) and Rachel (Jenny’s sister – who is a nurse and gave me invaluable advice for the post operative care of Alice’s (Kid Danger’s) head injury two years ago). My kids love Jenny so much that they drew pictures of her and her dog after he sadly died before Christmas. Yes, they’re that invested.

Two drawings of a dog by a 9 year old and a 6 year old, respectively.

Lastly, Laura chose Michelle. Michelle was our interim manager during our permanent manager’s mat leave. She always welcomed the kids to the store and let them become part time window mannequins last time they visited. She’s usually based at the Belle Vale New Look store. The kids have been there and it’s the prettiest high street store I’ve ever seen. It has birdcage chandeliers, for God’s sake. Birdcage. Chandeliers.

Anyway, the highest accolade Laura ever gives has been dispensed upon Michelle. Laura doesn’t like hugs. She’s self conscious about physical contact. She’s one of those people who loves – and lives – social distance all the time. Not so much with Michelle. Last time she saw her she left work with me and said “I really wish I could have given Michelle a hug. She looks like she gives good hugs.”. One day, kiddo. One day…

So that’s the story of the people that Laura wants to impress in life. She’s right – they are all wonderful and we’re all lucky to have them in our lives. And Laura is now a prize winning friend of theirs forever!

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