One of my first memories from childhood was settling into the apartment my parents got when we moved to Virginia. (Before that, we’d lived in Connecticut, but I don’t remember anything about that, except for a vague sense of what the living room was shaped like.) The Rebel Manor Apartments (god, what a name…) When we’d lived up north, we weren’t that far away from my aunt and uncle, so when my mom needed a babysitter, she just called my Aunt Sue. Now that we were hundreds of miles away from family, my mom had to try out a few teenage daughters of people my dad knew from work.
We cycled through a few of them before my mom found the woman who eventually ended up being my babysitter until I was about 15 (not that I needed a baby-sitter for the afternoon by that point, but occasionally my parents went away for the weekend.)
There was Vickie, who was very tall, with thick black hair, and once the woman downstairs looked after me for a while (she was also the first person to give me a cup of coffee, which was more warm milk and sugar with a dash of coffee flavoring in it, but it was a start, and I wasn’t even four years old yet and I still remember wanting to ‘wheedle some coffee out of Mizzus Evelyn’). Then there was Jeannie.
I remember was being put into my crib for naptime. My ‘bedroom’ was the same room as the guest room. I could see the spare bed from my crib, with it’s white numbly comforter. You know, my dad still owns that bed, and it’s still got the same white numbly comforter on it. My mother always had pretty much the same rule about naps and bedtime that I do with Jess; I don’t care if you sleep, just go to your room, get in bed, and stay there.
So, frequently while ‘napping,’ I would talk to myself or my toys or hum or whatever. The babysitter, a curly-haired, freckle faced girl named Jeanie, yelled at me for not sleeping. So I stopped talking to my toys, but I was a little confused and upset. Her voice… sounded wrong to me, somehow. Angrier than it should have for what I considered to be a minor offense. I was an asthmatic as a child, which I outgrew, and then later got again in college, and because I was upset, I started wheezing. Jeanie yelled at me for that, too, because obviously if I was wheezing, I wasn’t sleeping. And it suddenly occurred to me that she wasn’t in the living room, where she should have been (and wouldn’t have heard me wheezing anyway). She was in my parent’s room and I couldn’t figure out why.
Several years later (I must have been sixteen or seventeen by this point) my mother is explaining to me about this diamond and pearl ring that she was supposed to have given to me that belonged to her, and to her mother, etc, etc, but that it was stolen when I was still a baby and while she was pretty sure she knew who did it, she couldn’t prove it, and it just didn’t do well to accuse people of things like that.
And suddenly, everything added up. “It was my babysitter,” I said, “wasn’t it? Jeanie something-or-other. With the brown curly hair and freckles?” My mother stared at me.
“How did you know that?”
“I didn’t, at the time. I just knew something was wrong. But it makes sense, doesn’t it?”