When your day starts with a viewing, it really can’t help but improve after that.
I ran a museum for five years. Our life blood, financially, was giving tours to school kids – most of them local, but some of them from a hundred miles away or more. We ran anywhere between 5000 and 7500 kids through that building every year, which isn’t bad considering that 90% of them came in a seven-week span. This often led to some interesting situations, since the bus drivers didn’t know where we were and generally underestimated how long it would take to get to us, which was a problem when we had big tour groups stacked up one after another. You learn to be flexible in situations like that – to crop your tour to the time remaining, to shovel people into the important areas and leave the “interesting but optional” areas for another time, and to look like you do this all the time so what use is there panicking and you should stop that now.
Tours were my favorite part of the job. Really, they were.
Without a dedicated corps of volunteer guides those tours wouldn’t have happened. We’d hire high school and college kids for the summer walk-in tours, since you had to have someone on duty at all times, but the school tours were scheduled so we could rely on volunteers. Most of them were women, and most of them were long past retirement age. Several were well over 80, and at least one that I know of was giving tours into her 90s, which is impressive considering that the tour involved three different floors of a building that was grandfathered out of all known and even theoretical ADA requirements, plus a tunnel into another building.
Hulda was one of my favorites.
There is an old adage that if you ever want the pure unvarnished truth you should ask an old woman or a young boy, and she was the model for it. You always knew where you stood with Hulda.
She was also earthy, in the way that a woman with seven children could be. She was one of the crew of old women who sprang to the aid of a fifth-grader who was on one of our tours when it suddenly became That Time Of The Month, possibly for the first time. I didn’t inquire too closely on that one. The conversation afterward was revealing, though, and more than anything else, humane. That is one of the highest compliments I can give.
I still give tours, even three years after leaving my job there – it’s a fun museum, and the people there are good people – so I would see her now and then. We weren’t close – I never saw her outside of the museum – but it was always nice to catch up when we did meet there. She wasn’t in good health recently. It was not a surprise to see her name in the obituary column this week.
I really hate funerals and viewings. I would skip my own if I could. But some things you do anyway, because it is the right thing to do. And then the day gets better.
Fare thee well, kind soul.