Trusting your child to someone else is the biggest leap of parenting faith. We hear about far too many nanny nightmares, and babysitter from hell stories abound on the playground and in PTA meetings. Finding quality childcare is hard. Finding someone to love your children and become part of your family is a dream. Allow me to share a few words about an uncelebrated but much loved woman who has graced our lives.
Miss E. was our nanny for several years. The word nanny doesn't do her justice, nor does babysitter. Miss E. was the consummate giver of care, yet caregiver is too cold a moniker to bestow upon this most special lady. Miss E. was more grandmother than anything. She showed my sons Bird and Deal the kind of unconditional, patient love that only those whose blood you share can give you. The boys adore her still, though she hasn't been with our family for a couple years now.
She came in the wee hours when I had the mysterious lump removed from my breast. She came to help me care for Bird and Deal in the days post-surgery. She was there when I was a wet rag doll blazing hot with the flu. She was there as my respite when Mac Daddy was on the road days at a time for work. She drove my sons to school, the park, and long pecan hunting expeditions. She can crack a pecan with her bare hands, a feat neither Mac Daddy nor I can do, making Miss E. way more impressive than we are in Bird and Deal's eyes. Miss E. was at every school performance, clapping and hollering, even when they play was in German and she didn't understand a thing. She spoiled those boys with nuggets of candy hidden in her outstretched hands. She frequently took them out for milkshakes or brought over homemade sweet potato pie and ears of corn from the farm stand near her house (that she had shucked for us). She lovingly made the boys peanut butter sandwiches wrapped in wax paper to hand them in the carpool line, knowing they were starving after school. And she didn't mind globs of jam on her seat. There were times she didn't want to accept payment because she said she didn't think it fair to be paid just for playing with and loving my sons. I paid her anyway, extra in fact. Miss E.'s generosity is unmatched.
Bird and Deal still ask about Miss E. They sent her a card and were delighted to get a note in return. They exchange "I love yous" like they're kin. She still comes over to babysit, and the boys clamber to her lap, excitedly talking on top of each other to show off their latest tricks and stories and new found talents. Our dog Larks barks protectively while Miss E. pets his velvet ears to calm him, losing not a tish of patience amidst the din.
Miss E. lived her life in the same two bedroom house in the African American part of town. She raised two sons who excelled in school and went on to fine colleges. She was strict with them, yet showered them with love. She and her husband were working people, not asking for much but contributing a helluva lot. Miss E. lives her life without complaint and sees joy over sorrow. She hasn't patience for the spoiled and ails alongside the hurt. She welled up with tears when Obama won. "A black man in the White House," she said. "Now isn't that funny? I never imagined this would happen in my lifetime." She supported my rants against the school board and watched the boys so I could go to excruciatingly long board meetings. She asked me to give voice to all those children whose parents were long disenfranchised. Her neighbors.