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Looking out my Backdoor: A Dangerous Corner in the Road


Last updated 6/24/2022 at 11:31am

Yesterday, I took a deep breath and offered my services for a job, for which not only am I ill-prepared, but in my deep heart-of-hearts, I know I cannot do.

This will seem like nothing to you but to me it is a BIG DEAL.

I offered to go to Glendive to fill in as secretary for my daughter until she could hire somebody adequate to her needs.

See? I knew you would say, “So what?”

Back when I was in high school (early ’60s) the career opportunities for women were sorely limited. On the cusp of opening, perhaps, but in northeastern Montana, the barriers were still firmly implanted. Five years later it was a whole different world for women.

What were our options? Nursing, secretarial work, store clerk, teaching and homemaking. None of those jobs appealed to me in the least, but two things I knew I was constitutionally incapable of being. A nurse? No way. A secretary? Not in a million years.

What I really wanted to do back then was to go to the University of Indiana, School of Journalism. I let fear shove me against the wall in a paralyzing headlock and took the easy way out. I got married.

Occupationally, I already had the necessary skills. Emotionally, not so much.

Sometimes what seems the easy road rounds a rocky corner and the resultant wreck tumbles one onto an entirely different pathway, down a steep cliff, and splat, so to speak.

I’m a most fortunate person. Life gave me many rough corner turns. And I grabbed the opportunity to learn many skills I could not have imagined back in those teen years.

However, fortunately, life protected many people along my pathways and neither nursing nor secretarial work popped up as options. Those people who work those heroic jobs have my undying admiration and gratitude.

I made my offer to Dee Dee in fear and trembling, but, not to blindside my daughter, whom I’ve not seen eyeball-to-eyeball in three years, I asked her if she thought I could be trained to fill in on an emergency, very, very, very temporary, basis while she assiduously searched for a real secretary.

She said, “Oh, Mom, it would be easy for you.”

I thought she knew me better than that.

But I love my daughter with all my heart so I was willing to feed myself to the lions for her. If it would help.

She turned down my offer.

Perhaps she does know me well.


Sondra Ashton grew up in Harlem but spent most of her adult life out of state. She returned to see the Hi-Line with a perspective of delight. After several years back in Harlem, Ashton is seeking new experiences in Etzatlan, Mexico. Once a Montanan, always. Read Ashton’s essays and other work at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com/. Email [email protected]


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