While working in the laboratory school I became very fond of a little girl named Sarah. I loved her voice. She was 3. I have never in my life then or now as a teacher had a favorite, Sarah was no exception.. but I did enjoy seeing her daily at the laboratory school. One thing I remember about her in school was the fact that she was so verbal and expressive. One day the teacher was doing voting to name the new class pet, a rabbit. All the children raised their hands to give a name. The teacher would then take all the names and put them in a hat and choose one. Some of the names they picked were spot, Thump, Oreo, and tiny. Sarah raised her hand, I couldn't wait to hear what name she would add- but she had a question... She asked," Why did someone say Oreo?" the teacher explained it was a good name because the rabbit was black and white and so is an Oreo. Sarah replied," What is an Oreo?" The teacher looked shocked and said,"you have never had a Oreo before it is a snack a cookie..." Sarah said "oh" and did not say another word till the next activity. I have told that story before and I wish I had raised my son to be like that... to keep sweets under raps until much later in life, but I am a bit of a chocoholic... so that was tough to do.
One day while on the playground a medium-height man in his mid-forties.. came walking into the playground...He wore a bandanna tucked into his neck and under his button-down collar. He had salt and pepper like longer hair and pants on. I recognized him as Sarah's father. Francis. If a sound could have been chocolate this man's voice... was just like that to me... it was smooth, rich and easy to listen too...
He asked me if he could have a minute of my time, I told him I was still on the clock for 5 more minutes, he said he would wait, so he let Sarah play a bit longer... Then he asked me if I ever considered being an Au pair, I was embarrassed to admit to the man that I did not know what that word meant, even though I was 19 years old. He told me it was like Mary Poppins without all the magic, a nanny. One that usually lives at the families home. He asked if we could set up an interview to discuss the possibilities of me working and living at their home and caring for Sarah. I agreed.
My grandmother and I wrote lists of questions I should ask and she was very nervous... she was afraid this would be too tiring for me or that they would take advantage of me. I was excited about the new prospect.
On a beautiful fall day I drove to their home in upstate NY. It was in an area I had been to once or twice before as my grandfathers family had lived in this area. I rang the chimes that were out near the door and they made a long bellowing sound ... this must be there doorbell. He opened the door and smiled... I entered the home and saw 2 flights of stairs that you could see thru... I have always had a bit of a scare with stairs especially with this kind, call it my depth perspective. I concentrated on not falling thru the open stairs when a picture at the top of the wall, caught my eye. It was a painting on canvas of a women's neck and chest and stomach, the breasts were the focal point of the picture and the nipples had a Hershey kiss facsimile glued to them.I was intrigued.
The interview went well and towards the end of it, an Asian women arrived. A petite woman with beautiful hair and a fun laugh. She introduced herself as Ida and she had a different last name than Sarah. This was one of the first people I had met that were married that kept their last name, once again I was fascinated... Sarah's mother was Chinese and her father I believe Scottish, but I can't be sure.
My eyes were busy scanning the cookbooks and the very extensive spice rack, almost 6 rows of spices... many of which I had never heard of before. I asked Ida if I would be helping her cook meals. She made that fun laugh of hers and said," Francis is the real chef of the house." Francis told me helping him get Sarah's dinner ready was part of the job, but that he would do most of the dinner cooking. I was relieved I am not sure I knew how to make much more than omelets, salads, pasta and chicken and by the look of the spice rack I would not be needing any of those things to make my 4 signature meals.
It was time for me to go home and they invited me back in 2 weeks with a decision and asked me to invite my grandmother to dinner. The offer to consider for the job was 6 days a week.. Sunday's off.. light laundry of Sarah's, getting and doing Sarah's bathroom and bathing routines, taking her to school and picking her up. In exchange for this I would get free room and board... and an amount would be taken to the bank to sit in a savings bank and a small amount would be given to me to use now. It was terrific opportunity and Sarah would be such a fun and creative charge, I had to take it.
The night of the dinner finally arrived. The aroma's inside came from pans bubbling on the stove and the smell was magnificence.The conversation was of politics, pets, the arts and NYC. I learned that Sarah's father had been a vice president of a well known bank and decided to step-down to pursue the arts. I was shocked but again... very interested. The meal was visually appealing like a picture taken out of a gourmet magazine or a 5 star restaurant in the city of Denver or NYC. I couldnt' believe how Sarah had an adult helping of the same spicy and rich tastes. Many homes that I had eaten in after babysitting the family would give the child something entirely different, chicken nuggets, plain chicken, or a sandwich. I always wondered why the kids could not have had the grown up food.. I was in love with a large photograph on top of the fireplace and I later learned it had been a photo that Mr. M. had taken while at college at Sarah Lawrence.
My grandmother always tired to well round me and tried to keep me in the loop culturally. but I was hearing phrases, vocabulary and names I had never heard before.I was afraid I would look simple or stupid around this family. Ida gave me a tour of the upstairs, so I could see my "new" room and the bathroom I would share with Sarah. Sarah showed me her room and introduced me to her best friend and stuffed animal... NOODLES. He was a bunny. He had a yellow flower permanently sewen on his head near his ear, but he was very handsome for a white bunny. On her bed she had a white swan, a brown dog and a kangaroo with a pouch. Later on she would introduce me to her plush turtle she named Plod.
I took the job.
Sarah was like my son in one way only.. she loved dinosaurs and she knew many of their names and facts.
One Christmas she got a game called dizzy dizzy dizzy dinosaurs.. we played that a lot.
One weekend night it was bath time and I had turned Sarah's bath a orange color and this was before the selling of bath tablets. She asked me to come in with her. Her parents were out... I told her I would have to check with them and then maybe next time. Well, the very next bath night, she remembered and asked me if I was coming in. I had asked Mr. M and he has said... It was up to me. So I went in my bedroom and came out with my one piece swimsuit. She looked at me and I know she wondered why I was wearing a suit and she was not.
One day Sarah wanted to create a party for Noodles so we spent the morning making invitations and then we set the table and then we created... play dough to look like spaghetti.. the invitations were to say: You are invited to a tea and spaghetti party...Mr. M took photos of the event, as he was home, he was often home while Sarah and I played.. I was there as just a playmate and helper, I liked it this way. Later Mr. M gave me a few of the pictures he had turned them into slides.. I still have them.
I was going to be graduating from my community college in 2 months and one of my professors had wanted me to apply to go to Vassar College for the Summer. I would have to live on campus, and would not be able to care for Sarah. I really did not want to apply but when I mentioned it to Mr . M. he encouraged me. I did not think it was a good idea.. as I doubted that I could do the caliber work that would be required of me and I was afraid Sarah would miss me or I would miss her. Turned out the family was going to Paris for the summer and I decided to just write the essay... on a whim... Mr. M... read my first draft and helped me tweak it and after several other drafts I summited it. Then I forgot about it for an entire month, until the mail came one day. I was one of 6 students selected from my community college because of my essay.
The first day of summer classes of Vassar was exciting, scary and hot. I remember calling to say good-by to Mr. M as they would be leaving for Paris soon. I was crying I did not want to stay at Vassar .. the work load was to difficult. We were asked to read 1 novel in 1 night and 2 chapters out of a text for just one class. I had 3 classes.. I remember him encouraging me to stay. I had spoken to my grandmother that night and she had told me if I couldn't do it to come stay with her for the summer. I chose to follow Mr. M's advice. I made it thru the entire summer and I got 3 B's.
While living at the M's home.. I learned about things culturally that I had never heard before.. I watched Mr. M make chutney... I learned about sauces, fresh spices and fresh garden vegetable growing. I learned a bit about politics, theatre and I saw the African Queen and Out of Africa with the family when Sarah went to bed one night.
I believe my brother was a Mets's fan and if my memory serves me correct... so was Sarah and her family.
The first year I worked for Mr. M on my birthday he and Ida purchased me tickets to see Phantom of the Opera.. this was when tickets were hard to get.. I was ecstatic... and it was me and my boyfriend... The show was amazing and thus began my love for theatre. I still have the ticket stubs to this day.
I graduated from community college... and Sarah went to cheer me on... 510 graduates May 20th 1989... all doing the sheepskin stomp... and later when she graduated from her high-school I went to cheer her on... I tried to stay in touch with them over the years.. but I am afraid... I did not call or write as much as I wanted... mostly because I felt I failed them.. they had prepared me for a full life.. one of traveling, college and a great teaching career... and all that happened for me was graduating from a 4 year college and never a career. I was just a pre-k teacher making a little more than minimum wage for over 10 years... but I enjoyed it...I invited Sarah to be in my wedding as one of my bridesmaids... and I am so glad I did... She has turned out to be a beautiful combination of both her parents- quirky, smart and what a talent for writing.
10 minutes after this ... when Sarah and I left the room.. HE passed...
I think about him when:
I think of how my first encounter with one of my girlfriends telling me she was gay spooked me.. and he asked me why? Do you have fun with her? do you like her?then who cares if she is "gay" she is still your friend, and they were important words to hear... and he was very right.....
I make a kick ass meal with fresh spices
I listen to music from Out of Africa or Phantom of the Opera
When I see a man wearing a bandanna like his
When I drive into his "town"
When I hear the stones sing " You cant' always get what you want" he told me a few times
you cant' always get what you want but you might find.. you get what you need.
When I go to the power house theatre at Vassar College
and other times.... too...