Those Last Years of Tender Innocence
For the next two years, those sweet, sweet years before the door of her childhood closed forever, this was the pattern of our days and the comforting, predictable rhythm of our life together. Yet, even in the midst of that open, smiling innocence that I so cherished, pre-adolescent qualities and capabilities appeared. Sharon’s new qualities and capabilities appeared to sprout, overnight, one after the other, like so many tender sprouts in a newly-sown plot of rich, fertile soil.
The first of those tender sprouts of beginning adolescence was a growing independence coupled with a desire for and pride in assuming adult responsibilities.
She began walking the mile and a quarter home from school, and called me every afternoon as soon as she arrived. Then she got her own after-school snack and did her homework. Violence had not yet become a daily menace back in the 1980s, and although I didn’t like her being a latchkey child, she was one of many.
She also began doing odd jobs on Saturdays for my boss who, fortuitously, lived in the neighborhood abutting our apartment complex. My boss, equally fortuitously, had an endless list of home improvements and home maintenance projects that went much faster with another pair of hands, hands like Sharon’s that, although small and not too strong, were eager to help.
Helping Her Learn to Enjoy Work
“Mommy! Today I helped build shelves, sort nails and screws, and sort and stack some paint cans. Most of them were sort of empty, so they weren’t heavy. Next week we’re going to weed, water, and prune. Pruning is when you trim a tree so it’ll grow in thicker.
Major Boon has a lot of shrubs and trees that need pruning, and you have to use sharp shears, so he’s going to do that part. But he’s going to show me how and while he does that, I’m going to pull weeds, all by myself, and…”
My kind boss, Major Boon gave me a glowing report every Monday morning of how smart and helpful and responsible Sharon was, a report that, coupled with her enthusiastic briefings to me on Saturday afternoons, drew a clear picture for me of Sharon’s entire morning of work. Gratefully, I saw that besides the chance to exercise her maturity and independence in having a part-time job, and the blessing of regular, friendly interaction with a good father figure, she was being provided opportunities I could not give her.
“Mommy! I helped Major Boon start building a table and next week we’re going to finish it and then we’re going to replace the back door where the dog scratched it up and then. . .”