There were those early days, when we strived and fought and suddenly were making enough money to take that vacation to Jamaica. We made a pact to totally relax, to remove ourselves from the daily stresses, to pack the glass thermometer and the little paper chart. We told ourselves, “Now we can afford to have a baby, we can begin a family.”
But when you are making a healthy salary, the addition of another person, an expensive little being, means you just can’t give up your job. So you stretch a little further and find the money to hire the best nanny you can find. You work a bit harder to be able to enjoy those times you now schedule and set aside to be a family. You find another position, a better situation, a job with a bit more money and flexibility. You maneuver and work harder to prove you are worth those extra perks that buy you a lifestyle; sort of a life-style.
We were living in a one bedroom garden condo in the south end of Boston. I ran an ad in the local paper; “Shaggy dog and little girl seek daily companionship and fun.” A wonderful French woman living near by applied. She was about ten years younger than I, had good references and instantly bonded with Lex and our old dog Mac. The three roamed the parks of the city as spring brought warm days and flowers. Sometimes she packed up Lex and a lunch, and rode the subway to my office, across the river in Cambridge. We would sit in the gardens at Harvard and catch up on their morning activities. Danielle took her job very seriously. The house was tidy, Lex and Mr. Mac were tired from hours of fresh air, and there were pages of her careful script in the notebook we kept about Lex.
When better jobs and more income allowed us, we left the cramped city quarters and bought our first house, twenty odd miles west in the more rural suburbs. Danielle was frantic. She and her boyfriend, Michel, would pack up and move too. She couldn’t stand the thought of losing her little girl. They rented an apartment and Michel (who Lex referred to as Seashell) found a job in the next town over. As Lex grew, she and Danielle explored the neighborhood on foot. They kept a keen eye on the spots where Danielle found wild mushrooms growing. The stroller was always packed with water to encourage the fungi until Danielle picked them at their peak and taught us to clean and cook them.
The other day I was digging through a closet in search of something, and I came across a dusty old box. Inside were all Danielle’s notebooks, along with the notebooks of various other nannies we employed over the years. I don’t know why I thought to save them at the time, but looking back at their chronicles of the kids’ days, when I was out pursuing the all-mighty dollar, made me think how life has changed. There was no nanny cam. Lex learned French and English as her first languages. She and Hanni had the luxury of childhood in their home and I was never concerned that they were not perfectly well cared for. There were scandals of nannies shaking babies in the news. We constantly fought the financial battle of daycare vs. in-home care. But at the end of the day when I walked in, tired and beat, our last nanny, sixty-seven year old Phyllis, looked at me and offered up a comfortable home and the suggestion of chilled witch hazel to “tighten those tired face muscles,” I always knew I had made the right choice. Trust in human nature and nurture, luckily won out for me.
I wonder where Danielle is today? With the power of the Internet…maybe she will see this…