Ted taught Sara Jean had to ride a bicycle and tried to teach her how to play softball. He bought her the bat she wanted, a navy-blue Louisville Slugger, and a mitt for her left hand. He took her to grassy area in front of J. B. Atkinson School and tossed the ball to her a few times. Finally, he decided she knew what she was doing and told her to pick up the bat and swing it at the ball and hit it. Sara Jean did exactly as she was told. She hit the ball and it went a good way down the grassy area. However, Ted didn’t tell Sara Jean to let go of the bat once she hit the ball. So, Sara Jean completed her swing full circle with the bat still in her hand and hit herself in her head.
Standing up on wobbly legs and feeling the lump beginning to grow on the back of her head, she looked at Ted as if it was his fault. She said, “No,” and walked home leaving the bat, mitt and ball for Ted to pick up. She walked home with such an attitude that Stella asked her what was wrong. Sara Jean just gave her the same look she gave Ted and stomped up the stairs to her room. That was the end of Sara Jean’s softball experience. There would be no more, not even to go to a game. Her answer was always the same, “No.”
Something that worked out better was Sara Jean’s trailing Ted around as he puttered in the garage, tinkered on the cars, or went for his regular walks. In the garage she would hold this or that tool, or steady a certain piece of wood for him, while Ted taught her about the tools, the vise, and what he was doing or making. With the car, it was the same thing, she would hold the tools for Ted and listen while he explained how the engine worked and what he was doing. He showed her simple tips, so much so that once as a teenager when the date’s car stalled and he didn’t know what to do, Sara Jean popped the top and tinkered with it until the engine roared to life again.
Sara Jean enjoyed their regular walks, especially the Saturday ones. She would walk along and just listen to Ted talk about whatever he wanted to talk about. On Saturdays they would walk to the hardware store where Ted would look at a great many things before purchasing something. He would catch up on the local gossip with the guys while having a cup of coffee. Or they would walk to the barber shop where Ted would get his hair trimmed and his neck cleaned up. Again, he would catch up on the local gossip with the guys. Or they would walk to the local bookstore and talk with the owner there. The bookstore was Sara Jean’s favorite place. For every two books that you brought in, you could choose one book to swap and take home. Ted was a voracious reader, a trait he passed on to Sara Jean. While he was trading murder mysteries and westerns, Sara Jean would trade comic books.
Stella would pick up a stack of twenty-five new comic books for Sara Jean at the wholesale place where she went to get food and products for the store every month. Sara Jean would read through them quickly and then be ready to turn them in whenever Ted decided it was time to go to the bookstore. The owner appreciated these books because they were almost new, having only been read by one person, and they were the most recent releases. All of this togetherness, in the garage, in with the cars, and the walks, caused some people to talk. They called Sara Jean the boy Ted never had. Others called her Ted’s Shadow. When she heard that title, she would raise her head and smile with her eyes twinkling bright.
REFERENCE: Sara Jean’s Early Years