Remember, ‘Who takes care of the caretaker’s daughter when the caretaker’s busy taking care”? The 1920’s novelty song may never have been a part of your hit-parade, but it was a favorite of my grandmother’s. Often hummed under her breath and punctuated by a little chuckle, it made her feel cleverly risqué; something her Edwardian sensibility didn’t easily indulge in. Even though I appreciated the way the lyrics played with sounds, I thought harder about their meaning, as children do, disturbed by the thought that the caretaker’s little girl was at risk because her father was too busy doing his job to watch out for her.
“Someone will be there to take care of the daughter if the father can’t, right?” I was apparently already anxious at an early age especially about not being cared for. There were many reasons in my childhood why that thought might have crossed my mind, but the imagined fear faded in reality as I grew up, although the historic memory of it never did. I’m sure that’s one of the main reasons women marry very young, and although that’s no crime, it’s a shame when you think of all the people affected by a need that one eventually outgrows.
Unfortunately, the emotional maturation process isn’t as obvious as clothing that’s too short or shoes that are too small. The caretaker with a fully independent adult charge is suddenly out of work, and it’s a jolt that many just can’t face. I’ve known mothers and baby sitters who’re still walking their now teenage responsibilities to school because they can’t let go. The grownup kids are often very sensitive to the difficulties their caretakers are having with the new independence, finding a way to let parents and others down gently. I well remember hearing a conversation in front of me on the streets of New York one day. It was between two teenage boys apparently just home from boarding school for a holiday. One told the other just to humor his parents when they seemed too intrusive. ‘They really NEED to give you money, buy you cars and do your laundry’, he informed the other. ‘So just let them!’ His friend nodded sadly, apparently unable to come up with any argument on the other side of his parents’ neediness that would make sense. I remember thinking this was adaptation of the most subtle kind. How did teenagers learn such sophisticated stuff? The same way I did.
Looking down at a minute, thin gold band on my left hand, I’m reminded of how often I made those adaptations myself over my young adult married life. I still wear this ‘wedding ring’ even though I’m a new widow because it’s not a wedding ring. I bought it for myself when I was first married because its simplicity pleased me and was more comfortable when I went to work than the gems of the engagement and wedding rings my husband had given me. Although I wore the conventional beauties when out with him, I always slipped back into my own little ring eventually. Continue Reading