Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Peach and peanut butter sandwiches.

Mrs. M, or as my mother fondly called her, "Jean," was my old lady babysitter for a couple of summers when I was 8 or 9. I hated every minute spent with her. And I think my brother will back me up on that sentiment. Except for the one precious day when his friend's mom picked him up early, and the opportunity allowed him a whole afternoon of smug happiness at my expense.

As I said, Jean was old (I feel that I can call her by her first name now that I survived childhood). Also, she was mean. Jean lived in a little house on the side of a busy mountain highway, with her big dogs and her aspen leaves and wildflower-in-resin jewelry projects (God help us if we entered the room where her dried leaves and such were stored).

What I remember about this lady is that she reprimanded me when I laughed. She said that I was too loud. This, about the kid who was always labeled the "shy" one. The "thank goodness her birthday was beyond the cutoff for first grade so she could gain a few months on the other kids," one.

Every morsel of food Jean ever fixed for us made me sick, so much so that every meal ended with at least a dry heave. It was sort of my homage to her. Peach sandwiches were regular sustenance, and when I say "peach," I mean slimy slices of canned peaches, not a big juicy one from Grandma's heirloom tree out back. No, we had fruit cocktail and peanut butter (likely tainted), on wheat bread.

Also, there was nothing to do at Jean's (except laugh to tears). Usually, on warm days, my brother and I would spend as much of the day away from her, in her driveway, digging "scenes" in the dirt with sticks. My favorite was a giant mermaid. Then, when it was time to come in to eat, or when that magic time when "dad was almost here," approached, she marched us to the bathroom for a scrubbing with her infinity bar of homemade soap. My face still feels dry.

Also, we never left the house expect to venture to the woods behind her house to dump her garbage in a hole as big as a quarry pit. Apparently, the hole existed for Jean's trash alone (never mind our fine furried, and not so furried, friends).

Under her vice grip, we also periodically made Frogger-like crossings of the busy highway to get to the post office across the street. Inevitably, when we returned home, we were met with a sea of pee that her dogs would leave on the linoleum that lined every inch of the house.

One day, I came up with a solution to my own problems (the woman could cause a kid to start bed wetting). I brought my trusty baby blanket with me that day. Upon arriving at Jean's, I promptly sat on her vinyl couch, covered my entire person with the blanket, including my head, and feigned sickness until one of my parents came to release us. As a result/reward, I was not forced to eat anything. I thought I really had something. I thought Jean and I had finally struck a working relationship. Unfortunately, the next day, she banned me from the couch and head coverings of any kind.

So the "la-la-la-la, I can't hear you" trick didn't work with Jean. But my pleas to my mother of the honest truth about Jean didn't work either. My mom listened to me, but she didn't do anything to get me the heck out of Dodge. Back then, I couldn't understand why she kept us there, and I didn't really get it, like most things, until I had kids myself. Turns out, mom did Jean's hair, and the babysitting arrangement was likely an in-kind exchange.

At the moment, I'm trying to figure out where, and for how long, I should let my kid go to preschool. My sanity and money, along with D's well being, play a role in the decision. I haven't decided yet if I should send D to the "guaranteed to be an elected official, a saver of the planet, or at least an Elk's scholarship recipient" school, or the other cheaper, "more religious than we are" one that starts early enough for Hub to drop her off (freeing me up to address pressing issues, like breakfast dishes).

I guess before I do anything, I should check the snack menus.

1 comment:

anymommy said...

I think I might have gone to the same babysitter. Well, no peaches, but always the driest bread with ham. I still hate ham.

Tough decisions - but, you know, you'll listen to your daughter and her concerns. I'll try. Unless I REALLY need some computer time.