Sunday, June 19, 2011

Holding Court in the Cabin

I love my job, and I love that I can still go back and work the occasional shift. I've been an historical interpreter at Scarborough Museum in Scarborough, Ontario for about 6 years now, and it's the best job in the world. I just worked a shift today and it amazes me that even though a lot has changed at the museum since I left to have my little girl, I still feel very at home there.
Me in front of the log cabin, my favourite place to be!
I started working at the museum in 2005 (I was hired on my birthday!) while I was finishing up my Master's degree, and I am thankful to this day that I was able to get a job in the field that I studied (anthropology/Canadian Studies and Native Studies). Most of the people I worked with when I started are still there now, but I don't see them very often. My only free days are weekends (Hubby takes care of our daughter) and all my close work friends work during the week, but since I also work on special event days (Canada Day, Ribfest, Harvest, Christmas etc.) I get to see them then.

We've hired a few new people since I left in 2009, but a couple of them were volunteers while I was there, so they're familiar faces at least and all the new people are great and easy to get along with. For example, today I was working with one new interpreter who was hired shortly after I left on maternity leave and two teenage boys (well, 'young men' I guess I should say) who started off as volunteers at the museum and then got hired as staff; this, by the way, happens quite often. We take a lot of high-schoolers who are doing their 40 hours of volunteer work (mandatory for graduating) and the really good ones we try and keep around. I've worked with the new interpreter a few times since coming back, and the two 'young men' I've known since they were volunteers.

It was kind of surreal (and really great, too) to see one of the 'young men' in particular as a key-holding staff member, since I remember him as a shy 15-year-old in one of my volunteer programmes. It's often surreal for me in general because by and large everything feels the same as before I got pregnant - the houses don't really change much, I'm still wearing the same costume (that I made myself), and I'm usually working with the same people - but it's very different because I'm going home to my little girl.

We have four historic houses on the site - an 1830's log cabin (my favourite place), a Victorian Era frame house, the Carriage works and a little multi-purpose building. I'm usually put in the cabin because I love being there and my boss knows it. Not only do I know a heck of a lot about the people that lived in the cabin, I know even more about the time period the cabin represents. I've read all of Catharine Parr Traill's and her sister Susanna Moodie's books, plus Edwin Guillet's almost 800 page "Early Life in Upper Canada," and basically whatever else I could find on early settler life in Ontario. I've also got two degrees in Anthropology/Native Studies/Canadian studies, so once I get started in the cabin, I really get going! My boss calls it 'holding court' and one of my co-workers likes to say that I'm giving seminars; they're both apt descriptions. Often I've got 20+ people crammed into the little cabin and they're laughing at all my jokes and generally hanging on my every word (if I can toot my own horn here a bit) and I really, really love it. I love sharing my knowledge, and I guess it shows. I've even gotten applause.

When I left on maternity leave I cried because I love my job, coworkers and yes, even my bosses so much, but I'm so grateful that I can still come back now and again (it's averaged about 5 or 6 shifts a year, but I think I may get more this year); not only does the extra money help us out, I get to go back and do what I love, and yet still stay home with my daughter.

Cornell House

My beloved McCowen Log House
Sure it's exhausting - I generally do an 8 hour shift, on my feet, talking most of that time - but I find it so fulfilling that I don't mind the sore feet and throat and decreased energy level that lasts for a few days afterwards.

And I have to end off by mentioning that my daughter likes to 'save her poopies for Mamma.' She'll usually go the whole day without pooping, and then have a big, messy one within a half hour of me coming home. It's happened so often that we've come to expect it.

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