There are some things exclusively your job

There are some things people count on you to do, and that’s all there is to it.

There’s no deviating, no possibility of retiring, no passing the ceremonial baton on to someone else.

It’s your job, understood or not. Period. End of story.

When I was growing up, for example, my mother did not bake cookies.

That was my job.

She baked cakes, her specialties poor man’s cake as we called it (spice cake with raisins) and crazy chocolate cake, my maternal grandmother’s from-scratch recipe that included vinegar as an ingredient that foamed and fizzed when it made contact with the baking soda. As a child, I always looked at the preparation of this cake that would be topped with homemade caramel icing as more of a science experiment than a dessert-making experience.

And mom made pies. Fruit pies. Pumpkin pies. Mincemeat pies. Custard pies.

But not cookies. No way. It was not her thing.

My mother reasoned that they required too much work, too much time, too much monitoring, so if chocolate chip cookies or some other variety were needed for some occasion or another, that was my job.

“Janice will make them.”

I also was always in charge of making any cheese cake, even if it was only a box mix.

“Janice will make it.”

She was counting on me, just as she was expecting my dad to carve the turkey or slice the ham for holiday meals.

Mom could make a million things for a big dinner, the main course among them, but taking carving knife in hand to connect with meat and cut and slice — nope. It was not in her skill set.

That was dad’s job. Understood, expected, counted upon.

In adult years in the food department, I had another job, this time to always bring the big vegetable tray for a holiday meal. It was never a true question when meal planning was under way.

“You’re bringing the vegetable tray, right?”

My sister Cathy had her job as well — bring the rye bread bowl hollowed out with that dip in the middle.

I thought about all this during the Labor Day weekend when the house was full of relatives we hadn’t seen in nearly two years between a pandemic and conflicting schedules.

Yes, the thoughts revolved around food and meal angst, knowing it was my job, so to speak, to make certain things or suffer the consequences.

Make those deviled eggs, the haluski, stuffed mushrooms would be in order, dippy eggs for breakfast, taco in a bag for southern youngsters not inclined to have that sort of thing in North Carolina.

But I thought more so in terms of taking pictures — candids and posed ones.

That’s another thing that’s my job, and not just inside the newspaper parameters.

It’s not that anyone orders me to fetch my camera — not a cell phone, a real camera — and start snapping photos. If anything people hide from me and even grimace when they realize there’s no escape. Just cooperate and it won’t be too painful, I lie.

I think of it as my job, as something my family counts on me to do, especially to herd everyone together like cattle for the time-honored group shot everyone groans about initially but then asks, “Could you take one of those with my cellphone, pretty please?”

I may prefer the candids but you have to have a group shot or two in the mix. Otherwise, the post-visit conversation would be “Did anyone take any pictures?”


“That’s Janice’s job.”


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