My name is Max. I came along late in my parents’ lives. They were in their forties when I was born so I was definitely a surprise baby. Their other children, my brother and sister, were already grown up. The other surprise they got was their discovery that I was not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I struggled through school even with having tutors. I guess almost all of the brains had already been passed out by the time it was my turn. That was a great disappointment to my family. Everyone else had college degrees and good jobs. By the time I graduated high school I knew I wasn’t going to college. My family knew it too.
They were worried about me becoming independent and being able to support myself, but I was determined to do just that. My parents had retired by then and I didn’t want to become a burden to them. I told them I was going to get a job and get my own place. Easier said than done.
I wasn’t being picky about the jobs I was willing to take either. I was willing to do anything for a paycheck, but every place I went there were plenty of others wanting the same position even if it was a dish washing or a busboy position in a restaurant. All the other people wanting the jobs always had more experience than me. I didn’t have any. It was quite discouraging. I thought about enlisting in the Army, but I wasn’t sure if even they would want me.
I used a bicycle to get around since it was a lot cheaper than driving a car and it was the only form of transportation I could afford anyway. I was pedaling home from some more job hunting when I saw this old lady pushing a wheelbarrow up a long sloping driveway and it looked like she was having a hard time doing it. I stopped at the end of her driveway.
“May I help you move that, ma’am?”
“You most certainly may, young man.” I got off my bike and pushed the barrow up the driveway while the lady walked the bike beside me.
“My name’s Max.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Max. My name is Rose. It was certainly kind of you to help me. I do have a few more chores. Can you spare a couple of hours? I can pay you.”
“I can’t right now because I have my good clothes on, but I can come back tomorrow whenever you say.”
“Nine o’clock will be fine.”
I was real happy to finally get a job even if it was just for a couple of hours. I got up bright and early the next day and arrived at Rose’s house right on time. She had me raking leaves, loading trash barrels and turning mulch piles for the rest of the morning.
“I like to do my own gardening,” said Rose. “The so-called gardeners today mow the lawn and blow some leaves around. Then they think they’re done. That’s not gardening.” She also hated the racket the power tools made and just used hand tools. Even her lawnmower was the old push type.
It was a warm morning and I was all hot and sweaty. Rose left to do something else. I was out of sight behind the garage so I decided to take off my t-shirt. I felt a lot better. I’d just started raking again when I heard someone gasp. I looked up and saw Rose staring at me. She looked surprised. It took me a moment to realize she was probably upset with me being half naked.
“I’m sorry!” I blurted and rushed to put my t-shirt back on. She finally smiled.
“Don’t worry about it, Max. Sometimes I wish I could get away with doing that myself. I just came to tell you lunch is ready if you’re hungry.” Well, I’d completely forgotten about packing a lunch and suddenly I was starving.
“Is it all right?”
“Of course it’s all right.” Rose led me inside the house and showed me where to clean up. When I came out she introduced me to Priscilla and Mary Lou. The two ladies looked as old as Rose. We sat down and had sandwiches and lemonade for lunch.