I was chatting this afternoon with my BFF and was tinkering around a little on Facebook. Facebook is both a blessing and a curse, folks. Sure, you can search for anyone under the sun but most folks have their profiles locked (mine too, natch) so you can't see more than a 1"x1" picture of them, and perhaps their current location or school. And this doesn't help an old lady like me when it comes to identifying kids that I once babysat. Yes, I looked up kids I used to part-time parent. That's what I always thought babysitting was, anyway. Hardly one of those things where you sat back comfortably on the couch and relaxed. I was the best damn babysitter in the world.
I think the first kids I cared for were the Madaj's up around the corner from my childhood home. There were three kids, two boys and a girl. The girl was all piss and vinegar and the boys were just loud and rambunctious. My fondest memories include the kids showing me their parents CD collection and hearing Spin Doctors for the first time...ONE, TWO, PRINCES KNEEL BEFORE YOU. That's what I said now. I also remember the girl, J, insisting that she was allowed to watch Beavis and Butthead. I wasn't even allowed to watch that evil show, so I decided that it was a cardinal rule when I watched them. No. Freakin. Beavis and Butthead.
They soon grew out of needing childcare, right around the time I started caring for the two girls and a little boy across the street. I can't remember their last name beyond the fact that the eldest daughter was in the same class as my brother, and she insisted that it was acceptable for her and her younger sister (they were probably 9 and 5 years-old at the time) to watch Pretty Woman. Again, I wasn't even allowed to watch Pretty Woman, but we put it in and I fell in love with the concept of being a high class hooker with a BFF named Kit Deluca. Who knew that I'd grow old and have a friend not much different than the woman who coined the phrase, "Cinder-fuckin-rella."
Shortly after these kids came E, who was a little angel fighting for her life after having a brain tumor removed and being in the throes of some heavy duty chemotherapy. I remember one night reading an entire children's library department to her and losing my voice. We used to sit on the big old leather sofa in her living room, with the reading light on, and see if the peach fuzz on her naked head was amounting to anything. We also fought like big sister/little sister the day she insisted she was going to wear her Jasmine (from the Disney film Aladdin, natch) t-shirt again, even though she had donned it for close to two weeks EVERYDAY. Their housekeeper was kind enough to do the laundry on the daily for this family. I took care of E for many, many years and saw the addition of J, her sister, and T, her brother. I used to have to chase their dog Quincy all over God's green creation or wrestle with him to release a dirty diaper. He was like a dysfunctional Nana, the family's steadfast nanny from Peter Pan.
The only other significant family I cared for was the Reavis family, at the top of Orr Drive, my childhood street. There were three kids...E, J, and M...two girls and a boy. E was a wonderful oldest sister, guarding her home and her siblings like a hawk. She used to suck on her two middle fingers and drag a tattered blanket across the top under her middle and pinky fingers, with perfect timing and consistency. J, the middle child, was classic neurotic. She had a terrycloth bear (who did have many stunt doubles) she'd cart around endlessly, sucking on the arm until it was practically rancid, at which point I'd have to hunt down a clean one and swap the dirty bear out. M was the baby, and was always a little uneasy. I think he knew that there was trouble afoot from the minute he was born, and I don't doubt for a second that his birth was an attempt for the parents to make it work...this one last time. Their parents' marriage disintegrated rapidly, however, when Mr. was discovered to have been cheating on Mrs. Mrs. was the sweetest lady in the world, and rather than crumbling into a million bits, turned into a powerhouse and eventually carted the kids back to her homestate of Michigan (I think). I never really heard from them again, save for a Christmas card now and then.
The kids I babysat were kind of a cross between children and siblings for me. I worked really hard, above and beyond most nights, and won the favor of the kids and parents with ease. I became sort of infamous in my neighborhood for being a great caregiver, and while I'm sure it stunted my social growth (or aided in my social ineptitude, however you'd like to look at it), I wouldn't change it for a second. Those moments when you're watching 12 kids in a townhouse in the middle of nowhere, and the home happens to be owned by a guy who works for Hostess, and they happen to have a gigantic stash of Twinkies and HoHos in a broom closet, and the kids happen to eat a few boxes and pass out in a heaving, post-hyperactive mass on the pullout couch in the basement, and you have to cart them all to their separate resting spots. Or the kid, whose mother was a news broadcaster and doesn't have any idea what a real kid should eat or look like when they're feeling particularly tummy-ill, and insists they should eat pizza for dinner, and then fails to come home in time after said child has literally projectiled vomited across the VERY expensive Oriental rug in the family room.....well, I wouldn't give those times up for anything. These moments are mine and I love them.
Back to Facebook. I decided, in my piddlefarting around, look up a few of the kids I used to care for...specifically the Reavis kids. I found E, J and M (I hope!) and after a little uncertain chatting with my BFF, decided to pen a Facebook message to E, in the hopes she would write back and I could see how the family was...which is where I am now. Waiting.
I was part of a Babysitter's Club of one, and I was exceptional. And I love these memories, these kids and the person they helped me become. So, God bless Facebook.