Chapter 6 – Seth
Seth Anderson had adjusted well to the relocation. His school years seemed to have passed by quickly and were filled with pleasurable experiences. He’d graduated top of the class in High School much to the delight of parents now established and well known pillars of the city establishment.
College had been a little bit more of a challenge. Seth had become too much involved in ‘extracurricular activities’ as he laughingly called it until his Father had a heart to heart chat with him and pointed out grades were a dividing line between a mediocre and a desired university degree. He saw the logic of that and applied himself to final years of study much to the astonishment of former friends who continued their carefree lifestyle and shut him out as punishment. The result was a regaining of his near top grades. He reflected sadly he could have been right on top had he applied himself in those first two years.
But he was accepted in the University of Choice and it was a bitter sweet day when his parents bade their farewell on campus as he established himself in one of the university village residence halls. It was bitter in that he realized this was to be a final break from living at home with the family he loved. It was sweet because he was now on the bottom rung of independence, and of course the neat little convertible his parents had given him certainly added to that joy. He’d also lined up a part time job, and that further gave him a good feeling of contributing to the costs of his higher degree.
At the end of his studies he’d reflected on his former life as he sat listening to the usual preliminaries before marching up to receive an MBA along with other members of the class. As he received that neatly bundled cylinder with the ribbon tie he looked down at the audience and searched for his parents past the glare of stage lights. They were not in their assigned seats, then as he dropped his eyes past the stage lights he caught sight of them standing with cameras at the ready, Dad with the video camera and Mom with a digital camera. Dad gave him the thumbs up as he marched down from stage to re-join the seat with his class for the last boring part of the evening. Of course he knew the document in hand was a fake. The real degree would be picked up at the Academic Office later after his account had been declared finalized.
He already had a number of jobs on offer, there were two different multinationals interested in his CV and one interest was from an Investment Bank. He went through the usual tests and interviews with each and added another his Father recommended. Both multinationals eventually responded with a request for further interviews and tests. That was a good sign. The Investment Bank requested a further interview too. His Dad’s suggested corporation didn’t really appeal to him after interview and he decided to eliminate it from his search.
Each of the multinationals got wind of each other’s interest and he was urged to see each urgently to negotiate. Seth was blown out of the water at the salary and entitlements offered him, but the exacting nature of his expected orientation and later work alerted him to the fact each of them would require an exhausting output and his soul. A careful reading of the fine print told him if he didn’t produce to their highest expectations constantly he’d be discarded. If that should happen no other recruiting agency used extensively by multinationals would let him in the front door when looking for alternative employment.
While the Investment Bank also had high expectations there was a little more humanity in their contract which Seth searched diligently for hidden pitfalls. He thought that would be the better way to begin his climb up the corporate ladder and while salary and entitlements were not as eye catching as the interested multinationals they were quite impressive and would give time for personal recreation as well as expected socializing for the benefit of the corporation. So he was soon being oriented to Investment Banking and discovered he loved the experience. Seth was intelligent, and surprised his minders with speed he grasped intricacies of national and foreign marketing. They marked him for future advancement, but for the time being he was rotated around national and foreign offices to hone his developing skills.
It was at the London Office he met Carol. She worked for the London office of Morgan Oil but as expatriate Americans they were naturally drawn together. Neither of them had any romantic inclinations as they were learning their respective trades and couldn’t afford the luxury of marriage and family yet. Carol introduced him to theatre which he greatly enjoyed but he drew the line on ballet which threw Carol into fits of laughter after his introduction to that art form. She’d tease him about their next visit to the ballet, and mailed him literature on the history of the art which he received with great humor.
On days off they visited historical places of interest. Even went on weekend hikes stopping at quaint villages hanging desperately onto remnants of the past, some of their bed and breakfast stopovers had very basic facilities and strict rules about unmarried people sharing a room. They’d be watched carefully by the matron in charge to see no rules were broken. This added to their amusement.
As they were hiking through one of those villages one weekend they came to a lane called Sunrise Lane. Seth stopped in his tracks and stared at the old wooden sign.
“Sunrise Lane, that leaps out at me from my memory storehouse! Where have I heard that before?” He stood thinking pensively, then with recognition his face lighted up.
“I know, there was a Sunrise Lane leading down to my Uncle Jock’s farm! I spent a couple of vacations with him when I was small. I used to have such fun on that farm but he died soon after my second visit. I wonder if civilization has caught up with that place and built over productive land. It’s a crime when developers do that!”
“Indeed it is a crime!” said Carol indignantly.
As they progressed down the lane Seth stopped abruptly by the gate of a quaint little cottage with an enormous flower garden.
“Well I’ll be……….!” He pointed to a spot in the gardens where a boy and a girl were taking soil from the garden and whetting it in small steel cake tins. Upending the tins onto a board where the mud baked in the afternoon sun.
“What are you doing?” Seth shouted excitedly through the gate.
The two children looked up in surprise. “We’re making mud cakes,” they said in their quaint country English dialect.
Then a similar boyhood scene came forcefully to mind. “Trudy Carter, I used to make mud pies with Trudy Carter!”
Carol slapped her sides and danced around laughing. “Well bully for you Mr. MBA mud cake maker. Let’s get going, we have to reach the next village before nightfall and that means we need to really get energetic!” She pushed him forward and had an occasional burst of giggles as they walked briskly through trails and lanes, much to the irritation of Seth.
That evening Seth sat on the sagging bed in his room thinking. He remembered the last visit he made to Carter cottage on Sunrise Lane, Crestville. Mrs. Carter had received him warmly this time. The Mercedes had elevated him to class in her eyes unbeknown to Seth. But Mrs. Carter informed him Trudy was in boarding school and that puzzled him. Why would a person that young want to go to a boarding school. He certainly wouldn’t! He loved being with family. So they’d exchanged pleasantries and Seth had walked back to his Uncle’s farm wondering why Trudy had chosen to do that.
He determined to revisit Crestville when he returned to the US and find out what Trudy was doing now. In his dreams he remembered what fun it had been playing at the Carter home and a wave of nostalgia swept over him in half awake dream.
On Monday back at the London office he learned he was being reassigned to Paris and should pack and get there as soon as possible. His cross cultural journey was to continue. He phoned Carol who shed tears at the news then he went home to pack his few belongings and take the next flight to Paris. He promised Carol he’d contact her when they were both back in the US. This assignment was followed by a further assignment in Dubai, then Hong Kong and Sydney before he was recalled to head office. Seth grew in experience and learning and felt he’d made the right call in joining Investment Banking. Then on reflection he realized, he did work for a multinational after all. He laughed at this sudden realization.
To be continued.
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