The other day I was reminded of the innocence of children. Whenever I see donuts, I think of my oldest son. My mom, his grandmother, had a donut addiction! She also had one of the best donut shops, Danny’s Donuts, very close to her home. Matthew loved the glazed donuts, and when he saw them, his eyes got even bigger than they were, and he would happily exclaim, “Blazed donuts!” Nothing beats a good fluffy “blazed” donut! Maybe because he is my first child, I remember more stories of his innocence, like the time he came home from preschool and told me he “had to kiss Angie” that day. He said it with all sincerity, and I asked him why, he “had to kiss Angie.” His reply was because she looked sad. It was said with total innocence, and I realize that we mothers scoop up our children in our arms when they are sad, and we smother them with love and kisses. I still smile when I think of that story.
I was pretty innocent as a child. I was the youngest of three girls, and my mom was very conservative. I know of a few instances that I blurted out my innocence, and today, those memories still make me laugh.
The first one occurred when I was maybe eight or nine years old. My mom was my Sunday School teacher. That particular Sunday, the curriculum was the Ten Commandments. I know I was aware of these 10 rules passed down from God through Moses to the Israelites, but I guess I never really thought yet about what they meant. I do remember the Sunday that I raised my hand in class, and proceeded to ask my mother and Sunday school teacher, “What does adultery mean?” There you go! Around 1956, these topics were not openly talked about, at least in circles of my life. There it was—asked in the open in front of the other children. The only reason I remember this is that at the lunch table, my mom told my dad and sisters what I asked, and they all laughed. I wasn’t sure why, but I realized I had asked something in public that wasn’t usually asked. So, how did my mom answer that question? This is the mom who had taught me the proper name of body parts, but told me not to use those words around my friends. It was my friends’ parents who would teach them those words. I don’t know the exact words she used in the answer, but it was pretty much like this, “It is when people pretend to be married when they are not.” Or it was, “Doing things that married people only do, but they are not married.” I didn’t know what those things she was referring to were, but the answer satisfied me for the time!
Moving on, my innocence still remained. I was probably in the 6th grade. This is the year girls start to blossom, and the questions whispered to each other at school was, “Are you wearing a bra yet?” At that point in life, that was probably what we thought was the rite of passage to womanhood. We lived in a mid-century ranch style home. My mom did the laundry in the basement and would bring the baskets of laundry upstairs where she would fold and and stack the clothes on the kitchen table. When she was finished, she would call us girls to take our stack of clothes to put away in our bedrooms. That particular day, my sister, Judy, who was four years my senior, was helping fold the clothes. I was watching. She took out this little elastic thing and put in on her stack of clothes. I had never seen a contraption like this. It was a circle of elastic, with a plastic or metal hook on each side. Yes, you guessed it. It was a belt for holding a sanitary napkin. I picked it up and asked her, “What is this?” Of course, Judy must have remembered the rule of don’t tell until the parents tell, so she told me it was a contraption for when a bra strap broke. I looked at her in bewilderment, and said, “Why don’t I have one of those? I have a bra.” Mom had recently bought me bras for the first time. About a year later, I learned the real truth of that elastic contraption.
My innocence continued into junior high. It was either 7th or 8th grade. I was in the school library for study hall. I don’t think schools have study hall any longer—the hour of no class, but to do homework. I was at the table with this other girl, whom I don’t remember, but I surely do remember the interaction! All these magazines for women and teens had quizzes you could take, for whatever entertainment value they may be. Classmate #1(the girl) asked classmate #2 (me) if I wanted to do the quiz. Sure I did. So she proceeded to ask me questions. The questions must have revolved around boys and dating. I don’t remember the questions, but I sure do remember the outcome. As she completed scoring the test, she said, “You are a virgin.” I didn’t know what that word meant. I had only heard it in my household in relation to Mary, the mother of Jesus, so I thought her saying I was like Mary was sacrilegious. So, I immediately blurted out, “NO!” Her eyes got huge, and she said with this incredulous tone, “You’re not a virgin?” I realized at that moment, although not sure what the definition of virgin was, I need to alter what I said! I apologized and said I didn’t understand what she said, and agreed I was a virgin. Good move, Andrea, because that was the correct and true answer.
I am not sure that children today have the innocence we had in the 1950’s. There is so much on television and the internet for them to learn way too quickly. I have to laugh when I think how innocent I was as a youngster and a teen. This was in the days where our parents taught us about the birds and the bees. In fact, as sweet and innocent as my mom was, she did give me that information. That is a car ride I will never forget. As she explained the facts, she also told me that it was not nasty when this is done by a husband and wife. I was in shock, because as a young innocent, that is how that sounds initially.
A couple years before that conversation, my cousin, Patti, had come to St. Louis with her family, from their home in Phoenix. She spent the night at our house, and as we were lying in bed, she told me about what some girls at her school had told her. It was the birds and bees talk that our parents had not yet given us. She asked me what I thought about it, and if it was true. I was 9 months older than her, therefore in her eyes, wise and mature. It was the weirdest thing I had ever heard of, and told her I was sure that information was wrong. Ick! Yes, we both agreed, and went peacefully to sleep!
Looking back on my life, I had many hard times that can still evoke sad feelings, but when I think of these stories of innocence, they bring a smile to my face. I am glad for my innocence. I learned everything soon enough, when I needed to to know, not before.