Mom would tell me, "Miss Ryan called and she wants you to burn the trash.” I would put on shoes and a coat then cross the driveway. Mrs. Ryan would be waiting for me at the door.
Burning the trash was still how folks discarded anything that would burn. This and other chores were a regular weekly event. It seems that I began to help Miss Ryan when I was eight years old.
Miss Ryan was a very special neighbor. She seemed older than God. She walked stooped over as she had a hunched back. She was a devout Catholic.
She seemed to watch over our family. Miss Ryan saw us all grow up. We were always polite, and we greeted her when she was in her backyard or on her back porch. When her cherry tree produced sweet cherries, she always gave us permission to pick away.
Miss Ryan never married and worked as a legal secretary into her late seventies. She worked for a prominent lawyer in our town. Their office was in one of the buildings on Main Street. Every year’s community festival included a parade. Miss Ryan’s third floor office had one of the best views in town. We were lucky kids.
The very first time Miss Ryan had me come over to help her, the chore was simple. Before I left her kitchen, she gave me a quarter. I was happy to have helped her and I remember how uncomfortable I felt taking her money.
I helped her and even at an early age, I felt embarrassed taking money. How could I take money for doing something my heart had taken pleasure in doing? Miss Ryan insisted I take the coins.
Of course, Miss Ryan, was appreciative of being helped and “rewarded” me with enough cash to buy some pop and candy. Helping my elderly neighbor is certainly a fond memory. And, once again, my heart remembers more than my mind does.
Thank you, Miss Ryan.