I’ll wipe the slate clean for each of them. I’ll forget they ever sinned!” God’s Decree. – Jeremiah 31:34 MSG
I’ve had a job since I was fifteen. I think coming from a gypsy mother with no money made the act of making money really intriguing to me. It’s just that I developed a habit of wanting to work in most places I entered. I was a clerk at a really small town grocery store until I went with a church group to eat at a little country buffet and became their newest server. One afternoon, I went shopping at a nearby bigger small town with my adopted mom and we grabbed a cherry limeade from Sonic. I was driving by this time, so I submitted an application and I upgraded from country buffet to fountain drink maker at Sonic.
Working in another town made it easier to get away with my crazy and most nights people would have to drive me home because I was too drunk to drive myself. In retrospect, these were some pretty good acquaintances because I lived over thirty minutes away and it would be the middle of the night down a country dirt road. My adopted mom liked to shop at Wal-Mart and they built a new supercenter in a different, bigger small town, so I quit the fountain drink making job and became a cashier at Wal-Mart.
After I turned seventeen, I got a second job taking care of the flower beds at a local college during the summer. That was the summer I left home. I’ve always been fiercely independent. I think I came out of the womb waiting to be on my own. I quit both jobs and started working for quarters, literally, at a diner. Then I worked at a fast food burger chain. Then a different fast food burger chain. I cleaned rooms at a hotel, made follow-up sales calls for a satellite company who made us call ourselves a “phone line cable” company, and then I sucked nitrous oxide from whipped cream cans in between making sundaes at a frozen yogurt shop. After that, I worked as a cashier at a grocery store.
It was hard for me to keep a job because I was homeless and my life was chaotic. When I turned nineteen, I was pregnant and a brand new Christian. A friend of a woman at my new church let me man her mall kiosk of flower arrangements until I had the baby. This brings me to the point of my story. Around this time, an Irish owned Mexican restaurant chain out of Kansas was built in our town. They opened right around the time my daughter was born and I went there with some friends after church. Old habits are hard to break. I filled out an application while I ate chips and salsa and I started my new job about two weeks later.
Due to the structure that living a Christian lifestyle brought, my life was more linear around this time. I had stability and a little group of people supporting me. My best friend from church started working with me, which made clocking out at 1 a.m. a blast. We were both nineteen, so the night was still young at 1 am. The rest of the world, however, was closed for business. That is, except the 24-hour Supercenter. We were the teenage girls who smelled like salsa and raided the beauty aisles of Wal-Mart at 2 am.
Our church groups would have their nights out to our restaurant. Other friends would end up there and wait to sit in my section. I loved when my world would take that place over. It made me feel important.
Life moved forward and earned some breaks and scars. Moves, marriages, break ups, failures, and redemptions looped us all in passing circles. I went there twice since I moved back. Once to see what the past tasted like and the second time to sit next to my husband as his heart was torn out.
Here’s the thing. I’m taking a small-town-ambition-fueled highlighter to this soggy-marshmallow-trailer-park-social-salad. The circle of friends got tangled. And a cold plate of nachos sat like a prop on an unfriendly Mexican Irish booth while words became razors.
We never entered that building again. It became an eyesore, a reminder of our sins, an innocence graveyard.
Then, a few months ago the place got shut down. Like a fed up landlord, a note hung on the door and the locks were changed. You can’t celebrate enduring memories on blood stains. So, I was glad.
An era is over. Grace has washed away most of the bitterness. New memories, new life, and redeeming Love has softened the pain of failure and loss. Healing has taken over and kindness has replaced scorn. So it’s only fitting that the Carpenter deemed it time to clean the slate.
Good riddance, Carlos O’Kelley’s.
“Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be— you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean.” – Psalm 32:1 MSG