While cleaning the bedroom, we found a plastic box behind a chair that had a bunch of baseball caps and three of my old appointment books.
Wendy started to look through them, turning the pages, looking for a certain day.
“Chelsey wrote in these,” she said with a catch in her voice. She stopped at one that said “Fair Day” on two consecutive days, and she gasped.
“No, that wasn’t the day. That is the 2000 book,” I said. I picked up the 2002 book and turned to October, then to the 8th.
There it was.
“I have to write about this,” I said, the words catching in my throat, tears pooling in my eyes.
Since I had started cleaning chimneys in 1982, the fall season was always the busiest time.
We had homeschooled Chelsey since the fourth grade. She was 15, and she agreed to go to work with me, to learn how to sweep chimneys.
I would work from the roof, she would work from below.
(She had never been comfortable with ladders, but she wasn’t afraid of hard work.)
I still have a picture in my mind of the first chimney. We had just finished, and she stood proudly with some equipment in her arm as we prepared to load the van and leave.
She was wearing one of my old top hats, her red hair poking out all around, sooty smudges on her face, communing with her freckles, a hint of a smile.
She was a picture of beauty in this father’s eyes.
A few months later, the local newspaper did a personal interest story on this father/daughter chimney sweep team.
The next year, I began to clean windows, too.
Chelsey liked the window cleaning more than the chimneys. She would work inside, and I would work outside.
I paid her by the hour.
When I started paying her a percentage, her speed picked up. I asked her why, and she said, “Daddy, just think about it…it makes sense. If you pay me by the hour, it’s better if it takes longer. But…if you pay me by the job, faster means more money.”
She was smart that way too.
She was so fast, we ran through our year’s repeat business by July.
So, I taught her how to make phone calls from my files to build up our repeat business.
(Yes, I still payed her a percentage…I’m not stupid.)
I still remember one of the first days. She booked me 10 chimneys in one town, one right after the other. At that time it was one of the most profitable days I had ever had.
I called her when I got home to tell her how well she had done. “But…you’ve got to leave me some time for lunch, at least.”
She replied, “Okay, Daddy, but if you’re not workin’ I’m not making any money.” Yeah, she got it, didn’t she?
Zoë came, then Chelsey became a sign language interpreter, and I made her my business manager/dispatcher.
After her work day, she would pick up Zoë from our house, take her home, do mom things, then she would call my customers setting up jobs, filling up the calendar.
But, every year, in October, we would take two days off as a family, go to Dallas, to the State Fair of Texas…Big Tex.
She would call me. “Daddy, what day are we going to the fair?” and she would write “Fair Day” in the calendar.
It was even more fun with little Zoë. Chelsey and Wendy would wend their way through the crowds, enjoying the booths, the crafts, the arts, the food, and Zoë and I would follow, my eyes catching things to show her, her delight becoming my delight.
October 8, 2002 was the last fair that Chelsey scheduled for us.
Everything about our lives changed that day.
The story of that day can be read here:
(March 21, 2019)
But, when God brings things back to us, in unexpected little finds, even while cleaning a room…
Well, the tears and memories don’t have to be a bad thing.
The riches of life include joys and sorrows.
And God is the One that makes life rich.
And, one that leaves ahead of you,
to prepare the way,
reminds you that the best is yet to come!
I see myself, getting ready to walk into the heavenly city, and Chelsey comes running up, beaming, light shining from her eyes, a big smile of joy spreading across her freckled face. “Come on, Daddy, I’ve got to show you something!”