My parents were busy people. They both worked full time all year as teachers. They also worked church jobs, my mother as a Soprano Soloist and my father as a Choir director. They also sang with a well known choral group. In the Summers we went to Northern California so that they could sing with the Carmel Bach Festival.
I had a lot of caregivers. The earliest one I remember was very sweet, but I was petrified of her husband. I can remember him pulling me into his lap and not letting me down. I can remember trying to avoid him. The next one I remember was horrible. She hated people, especially children. What she was doing caring for them, I'll never know. Her home was miserable. I could expect to be called a liar at least daily. I could expect spankings for any, all, or no reason. I could expect to be mistreated in some way on a daily basis until either my parents came to get me or her husband came home. Her husband was a nice man, and when he was there, no one was mean to me. He smoked cigars and I still love the smell because for me it meant safety. When my parents would come she'd give me a hug and tell me how much she loved me. I can remember thinking that she must have changed her mind and she'd be nice the next day. I was always wrong.
In those Summers in Carmel I went to a day-school. But in the evenings when my parents had rehearsals and performances, I had another caregiver. My parents have kept in touch with her for years. They actually went and saw her today since they were in town. I was a scared kid, eager to please, and easy to bully. I think I was a nice kid, but I had trouble finding where and how I fit in places. I think it was Providence that my parents found my caregiver in Carmel.
I'll be 30 this month which I've realized isn't nearly as old as it sounded even ten years ago. But I'm certainly old enough to look back and see the impact that was made on my life by certain people. And the woman who cared for me in Carmel made on hell of an impact. And I'm sure I'm not the only one.
She loved kids. She loved them so much she adopted and was a foster parent. But she wasn't Betty Crocker. She was strong and independent, but with a good and tender heart. If you were doing something stupid, she'd tell you so. And she didn't mince words. She had a way of saying my name that let me know right away if I was in trouble. I don't think I was in trouble too often, but if I was, I knew it pretty quick. She was also stable, and safe. And I was a kid who desperately needed to feel safe. I was afraid of so much, but I was never afraid of her house. I'm still grateful for that. I always thought she believed in me, and thought the best of me, and I never wanted to let her down. I'd still hate to let her down, come to think of it.
Looking back I can see how she impacted my parenting. Probably because I'm not Betty Crocker. I'm not all that demure, and I'm never going to sit around baking cookies in my heels and pearls. I'm pretty sure I have a way of saying my kids' names that makes all the hairs on the backs of their necks stand on end. But they also know that I love them fiercely and that with me they're safe. They know that there's nothing I'd rather be than their mom.
I know with everything in me that my children are gifts, and that I am damned lucky to have them. I can be who I am and still be a great mother. Which isn't as bad as it sounds, really. There's not much I ever wanted to be besides a mom, really, and I think I'm pretty good at it (better some days than others). My mom saw children as a job, so did one sitter whose home I was in for years. She viewed children as a burden. Yet, this caregiver taught me that they're more than that. And she knew. She had suffered the loss of one. I wonder what she'd tell me if I told her that I still cry at night for Sarah who should have just turned two last month, and how much I miss her still even though she died two years ago. Somehow, though her loss was so different than mine, I think she'd get what an impact the loss of my daughter has made on my life. Which reminds me, I probably need to write a new post on where I am with my grief journey. Not that it's terribly different than it has been. I do fine for a while and then, sometimes out of nowhere I'll miss her so much and all I can do is take her new flowers, which hardly seems enough.
In the end (because a good post should wrap itself up eventually) a good caregiver can make a lifelong impact on a person. I'm glad that I was blessed with this one and I'm so glad my mom got to see her today because she's been on my mind a lot lately for some reason.