Special recognition

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed my friend to the left counting on her fingers, almost but not quite silently, “One... two... three... four... five...”

It was in retaliation to the woman with the microphone who was making the speech about the wonderful worker who had coached a team to perfection, met company targets week in week out, always had a smile on her face and had only been a manager for five months.

My friend – my colleague – leant over to me with baited breath and whispered, “Do you by any chance do you think she's talking about me?” And then, a nervous giggle. As if to represent a non-worded translation of 'no-way-it-can't-be-me...can-it?'

Of course, I already knew that it was her. I knew it before our boss had even took to the stage and began on the touching personal account of her shiny little baby manager. I knew it, despite there being plenty of worthy contenders: the gentle soul who worked 70 hour weeks for almost two months straight in times of crisis with not a single complaint; the countless souls who had met and exceeded expectations more than could ever be desired; the assistant managers who had accidentally fallen into the role of manager, and wowed us all with their chutzpah and enthusiasm; and even myself.

But I knew that it was her, from the moment she fell into my hands as a quiet but driven red t-shirt trainee. A compact little human being with all the beans and determination in the world to understand the brand that she was a part of, and the culture that flowed through the centre of it. We worked together, day in day out, and helped to create something marvellous of the store that we were in. And we did. We became the greatest pals in the process. A gang, even. We were two parts of the world's greatest team – the 419 – and we were unstoppable. She is unstoppable.

I remember the days and evenings we spent, papers and folders sprawled across hastily joined together tables, beakers of half-finished cold coffee bordering the table edges and keeping all these documents from flying onto the floor. The Indian takeaways we shared during, and the sneaky tequila-salt-lime shots we downed over and over to wash it all away afterwards. I remember the day she interviewed, with my bosses boss. Her bosses bosses boss. She passed with flying colours and her epic journey continued.

Soon after, we parted working ways and she was taken under the wing of my best lady, who helped me in guiding and coaching her further along the path of success. But it was her herself who had shaped and moulded into something quite unique. A softly spoken, yet firm management style. You'd do anything for her because she was so polite; you'd never have to get on the wrong side of her because you'd never want to. The kind of skill and execution that only somebody who truly feels the passion for what their doing, can deliver.

Back in the present, after receiving her accolades and an obligatory bottle of bubbly, she flew into me like an army tank with a hug full of love. A grin crept upon her face from ear to ear – one that the Cheshire Cat would have been jealous of – and then all of a sudden her face crumpled and she burst into tears. But it was nothing to worry about.

“I just...” She began, dainty little sobs taking over for just a second. “I just... never thought... it would be me...” She breathed in and her cheeks, coated in soggy salty tears, returned to it's winning smile. She grabbed my hand under the table and squeezed it so tight. “Thank you! Thank you and everyone who's helped me and been there for me so much, thank you! I couldn't have done it without you.”

“No, no, no.” I squeezed her hand back and tried to stop myself from crying too. “You did this all by yourself, Iris. You're amazing and it's all down to you. Thank you for being you. Thank you!”

I don't know and I won't know for years yet, but I'm certain that this is what it feels like to be a mother. Having the kids grow up, leave home and do good. This is what happens when you create; you feel forever proud.

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