Other people’s parents

All I really wanted when I was a teenager (besides being a size four and for my bangs to feather) was to be of use.  I wanted to be necessary, indispensable, valued for my contributions to the world.

I’m not kidding.

I was a volunteer extraordinaire.

I watched babies in the church nursery.  I helped with a 4-H group.  I taught Sunday School.  I bagged sandbags during a flood.  I scrubbed refrigerated cases in a food co-op.  I sold baked goods at rest stops on the freeway to raise money.  I walked in a Walk-a-thon.

But by far, my favorite volunteer activity was working as a “Volunteen” at the local hospital.

I wore a pink smock and helped out on the “broken bones” floor.  I gave patients cups of cold water.  I ran errands for nurses.  I fed people.

I loved it.

But the problem was that my parents refused to give me rides to any of my activities, no matter how altruistic the cause.  They forced me to take the public bus (which always terrified me, probably for no good reason) or beg for a ride from an acquaintance or friend.  I hated to ask for a ride only slightly less than I hated to wait in the dark for a public bus.

An acquaintance of mine (her name was Mary and she was so blond she had nearly no color at all) also volunteered at the hospital.  Her father was a doctor there.  Her mother picked her up after our shift.

I asked Mary if her mother would mind giving me a ride home, too.  After all, we lived in the same small town.  She agreed on behalf of her mother and that settled that.  Instead of having to stand on the street corner in the dark, waiting for the bus, I could ride the seven or ten miles home in a private car, in safety.

But Mary’s mother could not hide her annoyance with my presence in her car.  I don’t understand it to this day.  She did have to drive probably three miles round-trip out of her way to deliver me to my driveway and perhaps that was just too much to ask.

I still have a sick feeling when I think about how much that woman appeared to resent me.  She probably can’t remember me, but I remember her.

Other people’s parents can be so mean to teenagers.

7 thoughts on “Other people’s parents

  1. You are right Mel. I remember a lot of things that friends parents did while I was growing up. I also have to say that once I got irritated with the neighbor boy for coming over at 9pm to ask for an egg. I know I was concerned about him waking up the baby who never slept without momma but still, I hate that I was irritated at him. Later on I learned some things about his family and I still to this day feel horrible about it. I wish I could tell him I am sorry for being short with him.

    We all can be so cruel at times.

    Ouida Gabriel


  2. My husband has a memory so very much like yours. Except that it wasn’t ‘out of the way’ at all.

    One thing I learned about my mom at her funeral yesterday is just how much she meant to ALL of my cousins. They said the sweetest things about her – things we never knew about how she made them feel. Like their lives were improtant to her. And they were.


  3. Not just teenagers. I still remember going over to my friend’s house to pick up my allotment of Girl Scout cookies when we were about 8, and the intense sense of irritation emanating from my friend’s mom as we stood in her basement. I remember feeling at the time like it had something to do with my parents being divorced, and maybe it did. I still don’t know, but I don’t think I was imagining it.


  4. Maybe this is why you are SO GOOD at being a mom & picking up & delivering your kids to everything?


  5. Sad. When I read the title, I so wanted this post to be about how “other people’s parents” made a positive difference somehow.

    I have a few “she probably can’t remember me, but I remember her” people in my life too.


  6. This post didn’t go where I was expecting it to go and that’s one reason I enjoyed it so much. I’ve probably been that parent who was irked before, but I don’t want to be. Neighbor kids wander into our yard and my spouse doesn’t seem to mind, “Our kids wander over to their yard” she’ll say. Thank you for making me think.


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