in praise of those who get us through…and raise the kiddies, too

every once in a while, you hear a story, ‘bout some super nanny, just shy of mary poppins maybe, maybe one who doles out only three-quarters of a teaspoon of sugar with every lump of medicine.

regardless of the nitty-gritty, you hear these tales of someone loving and kind and supercalifragilisticexpialidocious who, well, arrives on the doorstep not long after the stork makes its deposit, and then never really leaves.

that extraordinary someone puts up with it all: the babies who howl through dinner time, the little boys who can’t possibly watch enough trains go up and down the tracks (and so they sit trackside watching and whoo-whoo-ing and clapping crazily for hours on end).

why, they are there to teach little ones how to throw a baseball, tie a shoe, and the difference between a butterfly and a moth. out on their daily rounds, the little one and the keepers of the children might make whole flocks of friends. they might come to know the crossing guard by name, and the lady at the bakery who always picks out the oatmeal cookie with the fattest raisins.

these someones seem to have something for every passage, from secret potions to cure a diaper rash to how to make the letter “a” not look as if it’s whirling down a drain, spiraling off the page. even how to execute a K-turn, when it’s t-t-time to teach driving 101.

in my house there is that someone. and curiously, uncannily, she is the same someone who plied these tricks on me, when i was the one with diaper rash, or wouldn’t eat my peas. or crashed the old ford wagon into a bush.
i broke her in, i’m sure she’d tell you. and so did my four brothers.

we must have exercised her like a race horse. thrown every trick in the book in her direction. turned her, unwittingly, into the super-est nanny money could not buy.

she is my lifeboat, my salvation, and my answer-gram, to boot.

yup, she’s my mama. and she’s grammy to my boys.

of late, though, she’s upped her standing here in ways i’d never ever imagined, or dreamed. nor wished for.

you see, i’ve been expunged from my house, more or less. hauled back to the mothership of my old newspaper. told to sit and type where all the other grownups type.

and so, for the first time since birthing children, i am now the absent mother.

i’m not there two days a week when my boys bound in the door (the other workdays i race home in time to beat the schoolbus).

i’m not there when the dishwasher goes kerpluey and makes like a raging waterfall.

and, nope, i’m not there when the one in high school–the one who plays a double bass so big it won’t fit in one of our old cars, not unless you remove the lid (of the car, i mean, not the double bass)–i’m not there when he calls and coyly mentions that he needs a ride home from school at the precise hour that his little brother is being visited by a teacher who has him plucking up and down the ivories.

and this poor supernanny–who is getting darn near 80, for crying out loud–smoothly takes it all in stride. tells the big one to wait. mops up the flood. and when the little one gets to middle C, points him toward the bass-retrieving-mobile.

(she does though ring me on the workphone, drop her voice to a whisper and ask, furtively: “where’s the scotch?”
hmm. note to self: remember to pick up a fifth of scotch for the sitter.)

it’s not merely that she covers the basics. oh, no. we seem to have selected nanny-plus, the premium model.

in just the last few weeks, a stint in which she signed up without a whimper for two not one dinners-per-week, including grocery shopping, she has miraculously nudged our resident picky eater to down these heretofore-untouched morsels: lamb patties, hamburgers, why even mashed potatoes, a form of spud that had never crossed his little lips.

and, by jove, he likes ‘em all.

this nanny should be cloned.

she has melted my heart a time or two when she reported in that she’d picked up child A from point A to deliver to point B, and thought to pack, why, cookies and ice-cold water, so the little dear could sup in leisure and not be forced to gulp and swipe—or go without, had it been not-so-strategic mommy in the driver’s seat.

but that’s not all: this nanny package we seem to have won in the state lottery, why she’s been spotted in recent months teaching grown boys how to iron clothes. imagine that. i walked out the door to work, and came home to a child now fully equipped to zap my wrinkles–or at least the ones on my pants. whether she can prod him to keep up such skills remains, of course, to be seen.

if anyone can whip this house in shape, it seems to be the one who’s stepped in in my stead.

heck, i’ve come home to find my garden rearranged; the lovely big-leafed hosta that suffered regular beatings from wild basketballs–the hosta i’ve been intending to move for, oh, the last five years–she up and popped it from the earth, plopped it down in just the right shady spot.

she even sorts the mail. empties the recycling.

there is nowhere on the planet the brand of love she pours: all-encompassing, all the time. she is clearly heaven sent, and heaven-bound, i guarantee.

she told me once, in a whisper, that when my papa died she’d turned her life to God. her every breath, then on, would be in the service of others. we seem to be among the winners.

there are, in so many houses around the world, souls who keep the walls from falling down. who keep the kiddies scrub-faced, and the mommies from exploding.

at my house, it’s my mama. and with all my heart and soul, and all my achy bones, and my head that pounds some days, i thank her. upside down and sideways. through and through. and then some more. times two, doubled. to the nth power.

my only question now: can she fit us in on the days when i am home? i do need help. clearly.

i’m not the only one i know who has someone to thank for getting me across the finish line each day. or at least on the days when we’re at wit’s very end. i am blessed that i’ve my mama to be the one who’s here for me and my boys.
feel free to write along, and tell the tales of those you love and couldn’t live without. especially when it comes to those who live inside your home. or maybe in your heart…