Column, Looking Back

The-child-to-adult transition

Looking Back

by Mary Ellen Shaw

There is a transition period for all of us when we stop being considered a “child” by the older people in our lives. We become “adults”, just like them. Our relationship changes with these people and those whom we called “Mr.” or “Mrs.” often tell us to call them by their first names. The topics of conversation that we have with these people also changes. We fit into their lives in a different way than we did in our youth.

When it comes to parents of our friends, I don’t think that most of us ever use their first names no matter how old we are. It just doesn’t seem right. Our former teachers also fit into that same category. But others whom I met as a child asked me to use their first names once I was an adult myself. It seemed odd at first to do that but it becomes comfortable with time.

It’s interesting to look back on how our relationship with adults changes once we have acquired that status. When I was a kid I am sure I was somewhat of a pest to my mother’s friends as they were visiting or playing bridge. They never made me feel that way but odds are I was. After college and a few years into my working career I knew I had reached the “adult level” with them when I was invited to go to Maine. The “girls” rented a house at the ocean and I found out that they certainly knew how to have a good time! The fact that I didn’t mind driving that distance and they were bothered by it made me the “chauffeur” for a couple of future trips. They were all in their 60s at the time and I am sure they didn’t think of themselves as “old.” My friends and I don’t think of ourselves that way now and we are in our 70s. I guess we are in denial!

My late cousin, Loyola, who was 22 years older than I was, loved it when I had the summers off during my teaching years. She liked to swim and spend a little time in the sun. Since they only had one car she had to stay close to home on a day off from work. But I had my own car and also liked to swim. So we would head to a little place just outside of Pittsford that we called Kapitan’s Pond. It was a great place for swimming and had changing rooms and a little concession stand. The time spent relaxing by the water was the beginning of many conversations between us resulting in a special relationship that lasted throughout her life. I miss those chats during which we solved the problems of the world!

One of my teachers at Mount Saint Joseph Academy became a friend after my college graduation. Sister Elizabeth Marie had attended Trinity College in Burlington. Her sister, Grace Morrissey, was a lay professor there. When I was trying to figure out the best college choice for me I was encouraged to visit Trinity. I did just that and decided it was a good match for me. I had the privilege of 50 years of friendship with Sister Elizabeth Marie. We got together often,…sometimes just to visit and other times to go out for lunch. She passed away in 2013 but I can still hear her words of wisdom to me: “Worry is not constructive!” Yes, I was and probably still am a “worry-wart” but I am less of one thanks to those words.

People may not realize that what they say to us when we are young impacts our lives way down the road. A former high school teacher told me that “I would be a doormat and people would walk all over me” if I didn’t speak up. I still have doubts that it was the proper thing to say to me at the time but this “quiet girl” began speaking up. These days there are times when people probably wish I didn’t!

It’s the end of an era when the adults who were a part of our youth are no longer living.

It happens gradually but eventually those who entered our lives when we were kids become only memories. All of the people mentioned above played a role in making me who I am today and I thank them.

Never hesitate to thank someone who played a role in your life. Don’t wait as some day it will be too late.

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