This week’s Remember The Time theme is about Last Days. It’s one of those phrases that seems to encourage deeply emotional and beautiful stories. There have been a lot of great submissions this week so click on Emily’s blog to find the link-up and start reading. I may or may not have cried in the writing of this post.
It started off like any other day, I got on the 70 Division bus heading east to downtown Chicago. I got off at that last stop and I walked my ten minute path through the ridiculously tall buildings and fancy stores. I crossed Michigan Ave and arrived at my destination. I took the elevator up almost to the top and knocked on the door.
I was a nanny for six years with the same family, but on that last day, it seemed impossible that so much time had passed. I was never supposed to be a nanny, but it was one of the best decisions of my life, and just another affirmation that there is a force at work in my life that is out of my control.
On my last day of work, my boss opened the door, looked at me, and said, “This is it.” This was it. Their condo was under construction so their entire (gorgeous) home was in chaos. The kitchen was being renovated so the kids sat on the floor in the hallway to eat their breakfast, making my last memories seem a bit surreal.
After double checking they had their bags and lunches packed for the day we headed to the car to drop them off at their respective summer camps. Big C is old enough that he doesn’t need to be escorted in, he just jumps out of the car with a wave and I call out, “Have a great day, see you at 3!” before the door shuts. I remember when he used to get nervous going to camps and would ask me to stick around for a while even if it was outside the building because just knowing you’re not alone is powerful assurance.
Our next stop was Littlest C’s camp. Walking her into class and greeting her leaders, all I could think about were the numerous “mommy and me” classes we used to attend together. Music class where she insisted on being carried during the dancing numbers and where that girl bit her arm once, kangaroo dance class with all the hula-hoops (she LOVED those hula-hoops), art class where she cultivated her creative side and showed her independent steak, and finally, that first gymnastic class where she was big enough to go all by herself. That was my first time sitting in the waiting area with the other care-givers, anticipating her return while hoping she was having a good time.
I cried that last summer day as a nanny. Even though the first time it hit me was months earlier. Littlest C was complaining about boys at school (yes already!) and I was listening intently, so intently that I became aware of how many after-school rants I was going to miss in the future and suddenly I couldn’t control my emotions. I couldn’t be strong for her anymore. Being the sweet soul she is, Littlest C dried my tears, hugged me, and told me we would call each other and we would visit often. That’s the thing about children, they may get a bad rap for thinking of their own needs most of the time, but they’re so much wiser than we give them credit for. She was six and I was 29, and after years of holding her, she was holding me.
When I picked her up from camp we were driving back to her house and I looked at her face through the rear view mirror to see she was crying. I told her if she was going to cry I was going to start crying again, and so we cried together. We cried because change is hard, because saying goodbye is never easy, and because it made us feel better.
The rest of the day was lovely, or as lovely as it could be under the circumstances. After camp and snack we headed to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Big C in particular and I love to learn new things, and we had a wonderful afternoon exploring the exhibits, asking questions, and experimenting. After that the three of us we met up with Boss Lady and Boss Man (their parents) and met The Scottish at a restaurant for a celebratory goodbye dinner. We exchanged cards and letters and stories and that’s how I came to sob openly in a Big Bowl over my stir-fry.
I cried so much that one day, that week, that month, but it all needed to come out. I was grieving. There’s lots of talk surrounding Mom guilt, but what about Nanny guilt? How do you justify moving on, and making a selfish choice when if affects the children you love that are technically not even your children??
I still see their family every couple of months, I send letters, and we Skype… a lot. They both miss me and have lots to tell me about their lives when we chat, which I treasure greedily. The everyday “job” portion of my role might have ended but I remind both C’s that they are stuck with me forever. I made the decision years ago to enter their lives, to care for them, to love them no matter what, and I plan on sticking to that all the rest of my days.