When my daughter and I moved into our duplex, we were just a half block away from the local elementary school. Unfortunately, the school closed the summer my daughter was four, so she would go to another school. Fortunately, Miss Katherine opened a day care center in the wing of the school pictured on the right of this photo. As you can tell, the center had a huge ball field and a playground, both paved and grassed, for children to use.
Miss Katherine was very flexible about attendance, and allowed part time care, drop in care and full time care. One summer I used her center for full day day care for eight weeks; usually I just used her for a few hours. It was a perfect arrangement, close, affordable, well structured, with friendly staff. Alas, it was too good to be true.
One morning my neighbor from across the street whose two little boys also went to The Pumpkin Patch showed up at my door in great distress. “Miss Katherine is gone!” I agreed to watch his boys while he went to work, but we were both alarmed. What could have befallen her? Was she ill? Was her child ill?
She never returned. Apparently she had left “under the cover of darkness”(a little drama always helps) without paying the school district or her employees. We never found where she had gone. Sadly, no day care took over the spot. We were all on the hunt for reliable care once again.
When I was alone, very short of money and raising a small child, the county tried an experimental program. They had student nurses available to come to a home to watch the sick child so the mom could go to work. Needless to say, while this was a terrific idea, it was a short-lived project.
What this did accomplish for me, besides allowing me to go to work when my daughter was home sick, was to introduce me to the Good Samaritan Hospital School of Nursing, just a few blocks from our apartment. Many of the student nurses lived in a large dormitory near by. They became a steady reliable source of baby sitting. When one was busy, she would send a close friend. I had a rotating roster of great sitters for the two years I lived there.
Children get sick, it goes without saying. Someone needs to care for them so the parent can go to work. I am grateful for the help the county provided for a few months. And I am especially glad that I met that group of lovely young women who provided it in the years that followed.
I began this blog last July largely in response to the poisonous political climate that then raged. I had no idea that Donald Trump would actually become President. Nor did I foresee how contentious the last year would be. Everywhere people seem angrier than a year ago. Long simmering racism, bigotry, misogyny and ignorance seem to have flourished.
When I began writing, I wanted to have a direct rebuttal to many of the ideas then coming into play, from scapegoating one ethnic group to lying and calling it “alternative facts.” What has actually emerged, during my year of writing, is something quite different and surprising for me. I began to write about my life over the last 70 years. As I did, much to my delight, people from around the world started reading what I was writing and responding to it.
At the same time, I began to read posts from a wide variety of people from around the world. I have formed on-line friends whose writings I look forward to each day. I have learned about political conflicts in Kashmir, typhoons in the Philippines, books in India, graduate studies in social work, raising a child with a syndrome new to me, retired police officers and many more things. Sadly, some of the younger writers I most enjoyed have stopped writing. I don’t know what inspired them to begin with nor what caused them to abandon the enterprise.
As for me, this on-line community encourages me each day to remember that there is much good in the world, that the United States is just one part of the globe, and that hope is the best remedy for despair. Thanks to everyone who reads me and everyone who writes. I hope to continue to surprise myself with my next year of writing.
Sometimes you don’t know who is missing in your life until you meet her. Once I had moved into the city apartment with my daughter, I lost my young mother friends from the country. But shortly after moving in, I met my neighbor, Kathy, who lived in a house next to our apartment building. She was my age, a single parent, and she had a biracial little boy almost exactly the same age as my daughter. Our children hit it off immediately, both mischievous and creative, content to play a long time in the courtyard.
Kathy and I swapped stories about life, love, work and parenting. Our special late afternoon treat was a can of Olympia Light beer. I’m not sure how we settled on it, but it was cheap, low calorie and tasty enough. We would drink a can, sitting on the porch step and watch the kids play. Occasionally, we would go wild and have TWO Olympia Light beers. Neither of us had two nickels to rub together, so that was a big splurge.
Kathy watched my daughter when she had to miss school for an illness. I watched her son in turn. She shared the house next door with a lovely man, but they were truly just friends, she being as reluctant to jump into another relationship as I was. Eventually though, proximity won out, friendship turned to love and they married. They remained together until her recent death from cancer, a disease she had struggled with for at least 20 years.
She came into my life at the perfect time, and I like to think I did the same for her. “I know I’ll often stop and think about her.”
When my daughter and I moved into the city apartment, I was very nervous because I had a family member who was quite unstable. I was concerned about being bothered and unprotected since I now lived alone. Fortunately, the manager of this complex was excellent, much more suited to the task than I had been in my manager days.
“Bob the manager” as my daughter called him was my age and immediately reassured me about my safety. He had a mentally ill sister, so he was familiar with dealing with the cycles of stability and instability that often come with the territory. He assured me that at any time I could go out the back door, come over to his apartment and get his help. I never needed to do that, but it was terribly comforting.
“Bob the manager’s” other great quality was a calm spirit around my 2 year old daughter. He was the one person I could rely on to go out to dinner with the two of us and not be bothered by her antics. Once we sat in a trolley car at a restaurant and noticed that she was dropping food on the table below our seats! We just broke out laughing.
“Bob the manager” introduced me to Bruce Springsteen, a debt I can never adequately repay. Most important of all, “Bob the manager” didn’t push me for a romantic relationship. I was newly separated and the last thing I needed was a romance. Instead he provided steady male assurance, company at restaurants and help with minor repairs. From time to time, I ran into him after we moved. He would always ask after the little girl who had called him “Bob the manager.”
Once we moved onto our five acres, I became friends with the woman next door, Mary Ann Mock. She had a baby Ricky the same age as my daughter and a son, Scott, two years older. The Mocks had sold us our home, formerly owned by his grandfather, and built a new one on the adjacent land.
The highlight of our weekdays was the soap opera “Ryan’s Hope.” It aired at lunch time, for just half an hour, so it was conveniently on while the kids were awake and just before we would put them down for their naps. After a morning of infants and toddlers, we were both ready to lose ourselves in the drama of Mary and Jack. We both were well past the honeymoon stage(as are most women with infants!) and their romance was a great distraction.
My daughter received her first injury while we were visiting. Once she had fit under the dining room table, but she had grown a few inches. She ran headlong into the edge of table and bumped her head. I think she was as angry as she was hurt, but I was in a panic. Mary Ann calmly got a wet washcloth and some ice and showed me how to hold it against my daughter’s forehead to reduce the swelling. I learned from Mary Ann that my calm would calm my daughter, something I would use for all the subsequent bumps, bruises and fractures to come.
Here’s to friends and soap operas. They both eased the stress of those early years of parenting.
When my daughter was three months old, I had a chance to take a course towards my master’s degree. My husband was in school himself, so he wasn’t available to watch her. Fortunately, from my work in Head Start, I had made friends with a county worker, Donna, whose little baby was almost exactly the same age. So we made a trade to swap mornings watching each other’s babies.
I had the easier time of it, since I could drive up to Donna’s house with all the paraphernalia that infants require. She had to haul the play pen, bottles, diapers, toys and baby down the walkway to our houseboat. Amusingly, after the four hours that each of us was away, we were bursting with the milk that our hungry babies had been denied for that time. When I got back to her house. I would just plop down with my baby and a cup of coffee and catch up with Donna. When she returned to my house, she did the same.
One of the things that writing this series of posts about “cookie people” has done for me has been to remember the kind and helpful neighbors and friends that were in my life, often for just a short time. Each of them made a significant difference for me. Donna allowed me to take a class knowing my daughter was being well cared for. Watching her son allowed her to work very part-time as a social worker. I lost touch with her after I moved into the city. She was very important for a very specific time in my life, as are many of the people who help us carry on. I wonder if I have ever been a “cookie person” for someone. Have you?