Economic recessions came and went, but my mother returned every Monday, Friday and occasional Sunday.
She spends her days in teal latex gloves, guiding a blue Hoover vacuum over what seems like miles of carpet.
I grew up in a bed and breakfast, in the sticky thickness of the hospitality industry. I was late to my own fifth birthday party in the park because a guest arrived five hours late without apology.
Following a weeklong stay in which someone specially requested her room be cleaned twice a day, not once did she leave a tip for housekeeping.
The squeal of her vacuum reminds me why I have the opportunity to drive my squealing car to school.
I am where I am today because my mom put an enormous amount of labor into the formula of the American Dream.There exists between service workers and their customers an inherent imbalance of power: We meet sneers with apologies.At the end of their meal, or stay, or drink, we let patrons determine how much effort their server put into their job.I memorized the geometry of place mats slid on metal trays, coffee cups turned downward, dirtied cloth napkins disposed on dining tables.I knew never to wear pajamas outside in the public courtyard, and years of shushing from my mother informed me not to speak loudly in front of a guest room window.Each year, we issue an open casting call for high school seniors who have dared to address money, work or social class in their college application essays.From the large pile that arrived this spring, these four — about parents, small business, landscapes and the meaning a single object can convey — stood out.The professors left me the elements to their own success, and all my life I’ve been trying to make my own reaction.Ultimately, the suction of the vacuum is what sustains my family.I took these remnants as a celebrity-endorsed path to prosperity.I began to check out books from the school library and started reading the news religiously. It was there I, as a glasses-wearing computer nerd, read about a mythical place called Silicon Valley in Bloomberg Businessweek magazines.