We chatted yesterday, Jan and Beth and I, while dinner was in the oven. I asked Jan about the neighborhood dynamic when she was growing up. She’s ten years younger, and it was surprisingly different. Mrs. Smith was a given among her group; they avoided her because that’s what you did. Although a few of them surely were threatened with poison raspberries.
Jan’s best friend was an entire street away, although the trips back and forth were through two back yards. The world she knew at five was already broader than mine at five. She reminded me that mom went back to work when she was in kindergarten; mom was not at home; mom was not even in the neighborhood. Jan’s emergency back-up mother was Mrs. Davis, one of the few stay at home moms on the street. Jan fell into a puddle once, on the way to school, and was soaked through and through. An older boy in the neighborhood fished her out and told her to go home for dry clothes. She went right to Mrs. Davis and spent the afternoon drying out.
Of course mom went back to work. So did many women on our street, in the late fifties, for various reasons. There was need for two incomes in some homes, but I think mom was looking for a change. She had been employed before marriage; and she always worked in her fathers’ business and was his bookkeeper. She worked for the next twenty five years, during which time she held three different jobs, all of which she loved.
Before she went back out into the business world mom went to a local secretarial school to brush up on her skills. When Jan mentioned mom going back to work I remembered the school, mom doing homework and mom worried about re-entering the world she left fifteen years before. Her fears were groundless, of course; mom was a competent person. She worked for three or four years part time as a church secretary. Later she took a job downtown in an insurance agency, a job she enjoyed and kept until the agency moved. She preferred being downtown and finished her career as the secretary to the manager of the building she worked in, the Akron Savings and Loan Building.
Mom’s first job back to work was part time; I recall she had a job, but it made little difference to the household I knew. We still cleaned the house on Saturday mornings, washed dishes and helped make meals. Three years later, when I applied for college, mom did go back to work full time. Jan was almost eight, and being looked after by two brothers when she came home from school was a big change in her life.