A Love Story
I met Rita on our mutual first day of employment in the kitchen of a suburban Pittsburgh family 13 years ago. Our boss, Betsy, was delighted with our installation, as it meant that her long and inconvenient kitchen renovation project was complete. Rita and I were placed on either side of a white, 36-inch wide, porcelain farm sink.
Our uniforms were Benjamin Moore Palladian Blue wood panels that matched the cabinets. We also received some jewelry (a signing bonus perhaps?): a brushed nickel handle and knob each. However, I think that Betsy made a mistake, for though they resembled an eye and a mouth, they were inverted. But we didn’t complain. We were very much aware that while multiple piercings are for some; we were not among them. And we were fine with it, as we were still able to communicate, and more important, we were facing each other. And to top it off, we both had a lovely view of the garden.
It was love at first sight for Rita and me, but we hid it from Betsy as we knew that workplace romances are often frowned upon. But we worked so well together, Betsy soon noticed our attraction for each other and was happy for us. When Rita was working I silently supported her, and while I worked she did the same for me. When Betsy and her husband had parties or many people for dinner, we were both put to work. We hummed, purred and swished together in tandem. If only that sink hadn’t been between us!
One day Betsy’s son was clearing his plate and asked, “Which one Mom? Larry or Rita?” We had names! Finally! Up until then, Betsy, when asked the same question, referred to us as Left and Right, which we found rather insensitive. And let me tell you, calling Rita Right all of the time was wrong, because quite frankly, she wasn’t. Betsy found this quite clever of her son, mostly because it was the first time he ever was, and never once called us anything but Larry and Rita from that moment forward.
We loved our jobs and did them well for years. We loved working in such a busy and lively household, and we had the pleasure of watching three children grow up. There were things that we wished we hadn’t seen: fights, yelling and tears. But the good far outweighed the bad and there was a lot of laughter and joy. There were many visitors and friends stopping by and many, many parties. The food always smelled delicious, the flowers were pretty and the wine flowed. Betsy was very good to us. She made sure the dishes were clean before she put them in us and if the children put them in carelessly, she re-did it so we were more comfortable and able to perform our jobs more efficiently. And when Betsy drank her favorite Orange Label Champagne, she would treat us to our favorite: Blue Label (it made the drying so much easier). We were never bored and our vacation time was great.
Then I got sick. It was a clogged artery and easily taken care of, but I overheard Betsy say to her husband, “I hope this isn’t the first sign of their demise…they are getting old, you know.” I thought that she could have said that somewhere else, rather than right in front of us, but she was right. A few weeks later I developed a horrible rattle and couldn’t do my job. I was full of dishes and could not wash them. I was sick both literally and figuratively. Betsy knew that Rita would be able to carry the load and transferred the dishes to her, but Mon Dieu! (I picked that up from Betsy’s husband who thinks he can speak French but other than Mon Dieu! the only thing he can say is “Je voudrais un vin blanc s’il vous plait.”), Rita couldn’t do them either. I was praying that it was just sympathy pain and that she wasn’t sick as well.
Betsy, who we learned, tends toward over-dramatization, said to her husband, “Larry and Rita are dead! They are just like those couples you read about who have been married for 70 years and then die within hours of each other!” He said, “Maybe they aren’t dead…have someone come out and look at them.” He was right, we weren’t dead. We just each needed a new impeller. But, there was a problem. Betsy’s insurance would only cover an impeller for one of us. Impellers are very expensive and it didn’t make sense to a put a new one in a 91-year-old (we age like dogs). It was a very difficult decision for Betsy, but she chose me to receive the transplant as Rita’s rack had started to sag. I was heart-broken (for that is what an impeller is, after all). I had my surgery, which was successful, the day before Rita was to be taken away.
Betsy was very kind to Rita when she left. She apologized for having to retire her. She gave her a pat on the head, thanked her for her long and devoted employment and told her what a fabulous job she had done while working for her. I sprung a small leak as she was wheeled out of the house.
And then in came Rachael. Welllll helllooo, Rachael!