Overhead, rain pounded on the rooftop as I stood in my childhood bedroom staring out the window. The heavy spring-time shower formed rivulets on the glass, turning the back lawn into a green blur. My upcoming high school graduation and this week’s job search meant my childhood was over. But I felt fragile and unprepared to be an adult. I didn’t know what kind of work I wanted to do, let alone, if I was able to do it.
Being the youngest child in a family of seven children had allowed me to stay cozily tucked into a pocket of prolonged childhood where I avoided responsibility, independence and practicing adult activities. Mom and Daddy were born in 1905 and 1906 respectively, an era when women didn’t generally find a job or leave home after graduating from high school.
A mere nine months ago was the first time I even walked into a store alone to independently pick out and buy a pair of slacks. Now I needed to get a job, find a place to live, and buy household supplies. How was I going to do all this? I felt like a delicate flower facing a frosty night.
The leaves on the flowerbed apple tree were dull green. All leaves on the lilac bushes along the red barn were missing. A cool breeze gently tugged at the hem of my shirt as if to remind me of why I stood on the deck outside the backdoor. Fall was further along than I had thought.
In July and August, when everything was lushly green and growing, the summer’s heat and mosquitos had kept me indoors. I’d told my daughters, “Come September, the nights will be cooler and the days more pleasant. I’ll go outside more, then.”
The maple tree Arnie had planted along the road was still bright green. Through its branches, I spotted the red leaves of sumac growing on the lower end of my yard. I wanted a closer look. Walking toward them, I studied the grove, reflecting, “Sumac are slow to put on their leaves in the spring, but are the first to turn red in the fall.”
Long, cool shadows covered most of my garden. I stopped hoeing the weedy pathway for a moment to rest. My daughter Tammie, sitting in a red chair next to my garden’s tea table, looked up from reading and asked, “Why don’t you let me hoe for a little while?”
Responding indignantly, I exclaimed, “No! You are visiting me and I will not put you to work! I love your company, though, and enjoy hearing the interesting things you share from the article you’re reading.
Sighing, Tammie admitted, “I wish I could help you, but realize it takes me so long to do things, it probably is easier for you to just do it yourself.”
I reiterated, “I love having you with me. If the mosquitos aren’t bothering you, all I want is for you to sit and keep me company.”
The older woman had white hair dyed pink. It looked pretty, but a tad unusual. She held out her right hand and introduced herself, “Hi, I go by the name Pinky!”
In my line of work, I felt free to ask personal questions. Glancing at her hot pink sweatshirt and black jeans, I questioned with interest, “Pinky is an unusual nickname. How did you get it?”
Grinning broadly, Pinky explained, “When I was a toddler, my Mama had a baby, so my sister and I stayed for a week with Grandma and Grandpa. One afternoon Grandpa wanted to take us to the park. My sister and I were excited but had to change clothes to leave the house. I insisted on wearing my pink pinafore, but Grandma couldn’t find it. I had a huge tantrum and refused to leave the house. It was the pink play suit, or nothing. For the rest of Grandpa’s life, he called me Pinky. Eventually so did everyone else. Most people don’t even know my real name.”
I laughed, “I like your family story.” Looking at her pink tresses, I added, “I also like how you’ve embraced your nickname.” Pinky proudly patted her pink head.
A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet, according to William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. But in the bible story about Job, chapter 34 verse 3, Elihu said, “The ear tests words, as the tongue tastes food.” That verse rings more to the truth to me.