Friday, April 15, 2011

A Trip Down Nannny Memory Lane by Robin Gorman Newman

Seth's former nanny called.  It's been nearly three years since she left.

We were in the middle of eating dinner in the kitchen, so the answering machine (on speaker)  picked up, and I was stunned (we were all stunned) to hear the words "This is Eunice....."  She went on to say timidly that she'd been thinking about Seth, had wanted to send a birthday card but misplaced our address, so decided to swallow her pride and pick up the phone.

I was going to jump in and grab the receiver, but I was so taken aback and didn't want to interrupt our family meal (it's not too often we get to all sit down together, and my dad was visiting).  She asked that I call her back, yet she didn't leave her number (I still had it on my cell.).

She was always loving and devoted to Seth....and honest.  These are important things when you take someone in to live with you.  She spent nearly five years dwelling in our less than swanky basement, caring for Seth from age 8 months to close to 5 years.  She was dependable (for the most part), and she became a friend to me. We had many close conversations, and she got to know all of us, including my senior dad who frequently stays over when his aide goes home weekends.

On the challenging side, Eunice didn't take good care of her health.  She had scary high blood pressure (and would sometimes forget to take her pills or run out), and asthma (including bouts of misplacing her inhaler, only to inform me the morning after that she almost died during the night until she got her hands on it.). 

This was all worrisome, to say the least. Here was a woman we hired to watch our son, and help with light housework and occasional cooking, yet ultimately, I started to feel like her caretaker.  I grew more and more ill at ease with the situation, and things came to a head one Friday. 

Eunice informed me that she had yet again made an appointment to visit her clinic, and it was on a Monday.  She knew that Monday was my standing gym appointment, yet she persisted in going that day of the week.  I suggested she make her appointment on a Friday, and she got all flustered and upset, accusing me of not showing concern for her health.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  I was glad to see her taking action, but it impacted my workout schedule with a trainer that wasn't flexible.

We wound up having a heated argument, and she left.  We did intend to let her go in a few months due to our plan to do major construction in our basement, but we never anticipated things would come to a head as they did.  It was a big disappointment.  She left in such a rage that she barely said goodbye, despite our giving her a generous severance (which we scrambled to provide...quickly ran to the bank....since this was not planned).

So, when Eunice called, all these thoughts came flooding back.  But, since three years had passed, I wasn't harboring any ill feelings. In fact, I felt sorry for her at the time, leaving without another job. 

What was interesting to me was that when I returned her call, and we got past the initial awkwardness,  I found myself falling back into the familiar.  I appreciated hearing her voice and respected the interest she was once again taking in my family, asking about all of us.  There was something comforting about it.  It felt genuine.  I even put Seth on the phone to say hi....though he's not much of a phone conversationalist.  I invited her to visit us, if she wanted to make the trek from Brooklyn, as she used to.  She said she'd like that.  She wants to see Seth again, and I am curious how Seth will react to her.  We'll see if she makes it over here.  I'll always hold a fond place in my heart for Eunice.  She was there for us during a time when childrearing felt like unchartered territory.  She was there during the potty training struggles, diaper changing, walking, etc....many a milestone.....much of which almost feels like another lifetime ago when Seth was that young.  It went by in a flash.

As a mom who doesn't have a mom, Eunice made me know that I wasn't alone, and there was a lot to be said for that.  We've never had any parental or family help, so having a nanny was the way to go for us.  I'm grateful that we were in a position to afford childcare, and I'm grateful for the fact that we chose a kind, big-hearted person to embrace Seth particularly in his younger years.  Kids can never get enough love, and moms deserve to be supported in any way possible.

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