Room & Board by
(28 Stories)

Prompted By Retirement

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When I was 16, my parents told me to get a job.

“Musicians don’t retire; they stop when there's no more music in them”                                                                                                  Louis  Armstrong

I was horrified and demanded to know why?

“you must learn to be responsible and

furthermore pay for room & board”

I proposed a one-day-work-week to meet my ‘responsibility.’

I didn’t win.


My first jobs were my favorites –

A local pool’s locker girl, a stint on a hot dog truck,

McCory’s jewelry counter sales girl in downtown Newark.


Meanwhile, my fun at night became serious.

Boyfriends dominated the scene, 

my reading material changed, the rock world exploded,

protesting the Vietnam war took center stage.


Now I sought employment to pay for things, like typewriters,

ink, paper, posters, writing supplies to fuel our anti war dissent, 

our kitchen made pamphlets we gave to the public in Time Square.


For years afterwards I stayed at that court clerk’s job

until I married and had kids.

Fast forward to a teaching career until my retirement in 2015.


Finally, back to the beginning.

Before the powers to be sentence us to what is or what is not,

to who we are, who we should be,

to all the room & board Barbie models they extol.  


Here I am every bit of 15,

inside an avatar I adore, inside the aging actress

who still dwells happily in her clockless garden,

filled with freedom stories and perfect sound.




Profile photo of Patricia Valese pattyv

Characterizations: well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    You certainly describe a broad range of experience here, Patty, from teen years to teacher of import and back again. The communicator in you will not be silenced (nor should it be, ever), even if the tools have gone from paper to computer. And Dylan is still singing (and is now a Nobel laureate).

    • pattyv says:

      You know Betsy, I remember that first typewriter we had to buy. I called it a printer to let the reader know exactly what it was needed for, I corrected. My best friend Peter was in charge of the whole thing. It was really the one expense I got the job for. It was an IBM and cost around $500, which was a fortune for us back then. Before that we wrote our stuff and it was very limiting.

  2. Thanx Patty for this look into what made you who you are.

    And instead of fast-forwarding, I’d like to know more about your teaching life in those intervening years!

    • pattyv says:

      My fast forwarding years were a mix Dana. Divorce, single parenting, waitressing, library help, college, etc. it was exhausting. My favorite memories were consumed by my English professors who thoroughly enjoyed my writing, and inspired me daily. When it came to choose my career choice, I was smart enough to choose the public teaching route instead of becoming an adjunct at the time. Teaching? Loved the students, considered myself lucky to be in their midst. Chris Christie threw a bomb in our world, retired soon afterwards.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    Like you, I went to work as a teen, not for room and board but to earn spending money and learn responsibility. Babysitter, cashier at a discount drugstore (hard work, little pay), sales person of nylons and purses at a cheap shoe store ($1/hour plus commission), day camp counsellor — really low paying jobs. Like you, I taught in a high school (English) and retired from that job to have kids. Then an early childhood educator and director for many years. Think I’ve earned my retirement!

    • pattyv says:

      Laurie, we’ve so much in common. Too bad we can’t share a cup of coffee (my preference, Verona) or tea. Right now I’m reading Charlie’s trilogy, then your book. I love that title. And then I’ll check out your blog. Montclair is paying almost $200 a day for subs and I’m almost tempted. I think they’ll take anyone after the age of 90. But after the COVID, I heard the students are off the walls. With this new blast of parent involvement, I would never want a teaching career.

  4. It’s going to take me a long time to make sense out of your final stanza. But it doesn’t need to make sense; it already sounds great, tripping over the tongue. The repetition of “inside,” the mixture of A and R sounds in “avatar” ad “adore” and “actress,” all those wonderful L sounds in “dwells happily in her clockless garden,..,.,” and then those alliterative Fs, “filled with freedom stories and perfect…” Such a melange of melodies.

    • pattyv says:

      You know what’s funny Dale, I reread that last stanza and think it absolutely makes perfect sense. So I like you dwelling over it awhile. I’ll leave my L. Armstrong quote for a clue – “Musicians don’t retire; they stop when there’s no music in them”

  5. Patty: You write so much with fun in so few sentences. I enjoy your prances.
    My first job set the tone for my life: at the age of 10, I delivered newspapers to the veterans in a housing area. They were poor. So I wrote a letter to President Truman urging him to provide more economic and health care to these daily readers.
    From then on, I have always felt an obligation to report on the issues I observed during my life.

    • pattyv says:

      I knew it Rich, your love for people, not just the impoverished, is so evident in all your work. You have such an endearing spirit, warm, and playful, and with your outlandish risk-taking it makes for one incredible guy. So happy to have met you on Retrospect.

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