"If writers possess a common temperament, it's that they tend to be shy egomaniacs; publicity is the spotlight they suffer for the recognition they crave." Gail Caldwell, from her book "Let's Take The Long Way Around"

"To look life in the face, always to look life in the face and to know it for what it is. At last to know it, to love it for what it is, and then, to put it away. . .always the years. Always the love. Always the hours." From the movie "The Hours", based on the book of the same name by Michael Cunningham

"Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly." Baz Luhrman, "Everybody's Free (to wear sunscreen)"

"A writer can do nothing for men more necessary, satisfying, than just simply to reveal to them the infinite possibility of their own souls." Walt Whitman

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant or talented?’ Actually, who are you not to be?” Marianne Williamson

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Babysitters Club, Part Two

When you're a kid, things just blur together.  Or actually, that's not true, because time goes by really slowly to a child.  It's the adult memories of childhood that tend to blur from one thing to the next.  Chronologically, I only have the generals correct, but I do know that as a child you go along with whatever life or your parents throw your way.  You might not always like it, but pretty much you have no say in the matter.  Like it or lump it, this is how it is.

Sometime around 1979 (I was nine), my mom and dad traded places.  Daddy moved out and Mommy moved into the house on Mayfield.  the deal had been that we live with Dad while Mom went to school, but Mom never did get her degree.  She worked as a legal secretary Dad had a job as an attorney with a firm.

(My mom will probably email me and correct my version of this memory, but this is what I know, what I have always believed, so technically correct or not, it's my truth.)

At any rate, Dad moved into the Montrose apartment not far from us.  In fact, it took a while but then I realized that I could walk to his apartment on the way home from school and for that matter, from my house.  I only went there once after school, maybe just to leave him a note, but he happened to be home.  I don't really remember what happened other than we visited.  Another time I went there and waited for him to come home from work.  I made mac and cheese from a box and played his Saturday Night Fever record.  It was one of those times, I guess, that I was visiting by myself.  During the separation and early years of divorce, Mom and Dad always gave each of us some one on one time with them, their way of making us each feel loved and important.

This was later on though, because when my mom moved in, we got a new babysitter, Suzanne.  Suzanne was a model, we were told.  I don't know how old she was - probably in her 20's - but she looked very glamorous.  I think my dad even commented on her.  She had jet black hair, always perfectly coiffed and wore lots of make-up, including false eyelashes.  She seemed prim and fussy, like she wouldn't want to get her hands dirty.  She drove a Cadillac DeVille.  I remember this because around that time, my mom always said she wanted a Cadillac Seville.  It was hard to imagine her being a babysitter, but I when I saw her, I thought, this one has potential.  To be okay, that is - young and hip, and someone who would not ever feed us liverwurst sandwiches or force Miracle Whip on us.  Ah, the seventies.

Well, it turns out Suzanne was a package deal.  With Suzanne came her mother, who insisted we call her Grandma Jeannette.  this woman must have been in her 50's or 60's for us to call her Grandma, so maybe Suzanne was much older.  Even though I thought they were supposed to come watch us at our house, we always ended up at Grandma Jeannette's, where Suzanne also lived, along with a Miniature Schnauzer.  I hated this dog.  I mean, I was the kind of child who never really liked dogs, in fact, was slightly afraid of the larger ones.  (I am not a dog person - sorry dog lovers; I have learned to appreciate the qualities of certain breeds, even offered a couple of times when we had appropriate housing to "let" Deril get a dog, since he had to learn to love my cats, which are his babies now.  It's no small surprise or achievement that he has actually managed to train them to act like dogs at times.)  The Schnauzer, anyway, was definitely Suzanne's baby, but he smelled funny - like a dog - and was a little hyperactive.

Suzanne and her mother were nice enough.  I guess out of all the babysitters, I liked them the best.  They mostly let us be ourselves.  My poor brother, though, he always got the evil eye and was nagged to death.  he was mischievous, quiet and definitely a little boy who probably longed to play with other little boys, doing boy stuff, like playing in dirt.

They liked me and Julie, though.  Grandma Jeannette used to call Julie Juliet Prowse because my sister would sing all the time.  Oh, how Grandma Jeannette would go on and on about Juliet Prowse.

So I guess it didn't bother my mom that even though she had hired Suzanne, we spent most of our time with her mother.  I think it was because Suzanne was supposed to be allowed to go on auditions or what not.

One time, Suzanne wanted to plan a special day where she took me out alone.  She took me to lunch and then we went to the movies and saw "The Main Event" starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal.  It was a pretty grown up movie for me.  In fact, it was a pretty grown up day.  She wasn't like my mother.  She wasn't better, she was just so glamorous.  We went to the drug store, too, for nail polish or lipstick or something.

They used to take us to lunch quite a bit, it seems - either Bob's Big Boy or this little Italian Restaurant in Montrose.  One time, I accidentally put sugar on my pasta instead of salt.  Too bad for me.

And that's probably the most interesting thing I've said this entire posting.  Sorry, folks.  It just seems necessary to build the foundation for the really juicy stuff.  And I'm trying to work out my memory and figure out why I am the way I am.  I tried so hard to be good, to make Mom and Dad happy, as though I had that power.  I felt I had to protect Matthew and Julie, even though Matt and I fought a lot, but it was just normal brother-sister sibling stuff.  I was a control freak in training.  Someone had to keep it together, whatever "it" was.

Suzanne and Grandma Jeannette were the last of the babysitters.  Finally.  Julie was potty trained and we could finally go to daycare - all day for Julie, after school for me and Matthew.  Eventually, I would be given a key on a string to wear around my neck and a latchkey kid was born.  If you're too young to know what that means, google it.  For me, it basically meant time to grow up and take care of yourself.  You're on your own from about 3p-6p.  Sounds great, right?

P.S.  I just realized that I made an earlier reference in another post to my Mormon baptism at age 8.  That's how it is with the Latter-Day Saints.  You get baptised and confirmed into the church at the magical age of 8.  You would think I would be more educated about the whole thing, but I'm pretty clueless.  The event itself was kind of cool.  There's a special room where people can watch you walk down into a sunken kind of bathtub.  For me, the water probably came to my shoulders.  You wear special white garments and are baptised by one of the men in the priesthood.  For me, it was my dad.  He said a prayer and then I got "dunked" John the Baptist-style in the water.  I was a little worried beforehand about water going up my nose, etc. but afterward I thought it was kind of fun.  Fun.  Nothing sacred, nothing meaningful - I don't know why.  I was already a Child of God, as the hymn goes, a Sunbeam.  The most meaningful part I remember was afterward my mom combing my wet hair into a bun and putting a wreath on my head and I was wearing a pretty dress.  Then later, on a separate day, I was confirmed, which means more praying while elders placed their hands on my head and I was surprised by the weight of so many hands.

At age 8, my parents were already separated, maybe divorced, but apparently not exiled or rather, excommunicated, from the church that my dad couldn't hold the priesthood.  And he must have taken it seriously enough to do my baptism.  By the time Matthew was 8, three years later, they were done.  There would be no baptism for Matthew or Julie, so in LDS theory, they are not members of the church and we will not end up in the same place after we die.  I'm not worried.


  1. That last part really made me laugh! Not to make fun of Mormon's too much but growing up in Gilbert, as a "non-member" you learn to have a sense of humor about differences in beliefs...make that a secret sense of humor that is rarely shown outside of home mostly out of fear that offending one Mormon friend would lead to making enemies with the students from all 8 periods of seminary classes held across the street from the high school. About being a non-member, I always thought it sounded more like a club than a religion when they used the terms member and non-member...I never got that.

    I don't mean to write you a novel but just wanted to say I'm really enjoying your blog!

  2. Amy, I feel like a dud because I am just realizing how to see people's comments and it's been 2 years since you posted this, so maybe you won't see it, but THANK YOU! You are the first person I don't know who has commented on my blog, and I appreciate so much that you took the time to do so. I''m glad you enjoyed reading my blog. I have thought about re-starting it - I can't even remember what inspired me to stop, but I will be re-vamping it a little and maybe going forward in a slightly different direction. Thank you, again, fellow Gilbert-ite!