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After Work: Where's Mary Poppins When You Need Her?

...Thus came a parade of babysitters for our precious son. Each time I thought I might return to an open door, a missing pram and an empty crib. I always had a fertile imagination...

No missing pram. No empty crib. But Dona Gibbs tells of the worrisome night of the missing goldfish!

To read more of Dona's gloriously entertaining columns please click on After Work in the menu on this page.

“Oh, when I get stuck for a babysitter, I call the Wendy Agency,” a friend confided. She looked around the playground, hoping no one once else would hear this priceless city tip.

I took note and mulled this nugget over, pushing my little nine-month-old on the swings at Riverside Park. Yes, sometimes I was “stuck” when Ever-Enthusiastic Husband had to entertain a client and wives were a must.

So from time to time I called Wendy. I didn’t want to. I had to. Or, so I thought.

Thus came a parade of babysitters for our precious son. Each time I thought I might return to an open door, a missing pram and an empty crib. I always had a fertile imagination.

“Never you mine, we’ll get along just fine,” say the pigtailed, overall-attired woman adjusting one strap over her tee shirt.

It was 1971, a big year for hippies, I grant you. And it might be fun to have the pretense of dabbling in hippiedom for oneself, but it didn’t necessarily mean that I’d want to leave our son with one.

But we’d made a commitment to the Wendy Agency and we were trusting enough to leave our son with someone they’d “hand-picked.”

We had dinner and polite conversation. All went well business-wise. And we’d had no ominous phone calls.

We were back at the apartment well before the witching hour.

All was quiet.

Our babysitter eased herself out of the living room chair, tossing aside her book.

“He’s an interesting person,” she pronounced. “I hope you give him a lot of education because…” She lowered her voice to a whisper, “ he might become a hustler. I can tell.”


As first time parents, this was a bit unsettling.

Ever-Enthusiastic Husband was even a bit subdued as he counted out her payment.

“What makes you think that?” I asked timorously. My emotions at leaving my son were already frayed and I was hanging on each and every word Ms. Overall offered up.

“Yes, he was smiling at me and smiling at me while I changed his diaper (nappy). And I smiled at him back. He laughed and then he peed and hit me right in the eye.”

I was young enough then to blush. For me. And for my nine-month-old son. I didn’t know then that that is a not unusual phenomenon. Recently, I even saw little diaper changing “tents’ made especially for little guys.

However, I did put her down as someone I would not wish to have back.

The next woman who strode in one Friday night was a take-charge person. I’d left a home-cooked meal for her, which she promptly wrapped up and put in the fridge.

“I can look after myself,” she boomed, looking around the apartment appraisingly.

“Fine little fella, you got there,” she gazed at our precious son, asleep in his crib and bathed in the glow of the fish tank.

A couple of hours later, we returned; business done with smiles and nods around the table.

“Not a moment’s trouble,” Take-charge said.

Ever-enthusiastic husband doled out the bills while I went in and checked our precious son.

He was asleep, murmuring and cooing in baby dreams.

I then looked at the tank. What was this? There were two fish missing.

Could it be true? Two fish missing?

Wild thoughts raced through my brain. Had Take-charge taken charge of the fish tank and helped herself to sushi?

I could hardly sleep that night.

Next morning I counted the fish again.

Yes, two were missing.

I thought about calling the Wendy Agency. What would I say? There was no way I could sanely put it, “I think our sitter ate two of our gold fish.” We’d never get another sitter again, my husband would never get another client, our precious little boy wouldn’t get a good education and he’d grow up laughing and peeing on everyone—just like the other sitter predicted.

I didn’t call and later that afternoon when our precious boy’s bedroom started to smell, well, a little fishy, I was glad I hadn’t.

Seems those two missing fish had decided to bust out for new territory. They had both leaped out of the tank and died behind the chest where their tank was set up. It was an inglorious demise, but better than what I had imagined for them.

Now we did have some great babysitters -- bright, responsible, tidy—but somehow it’s the quirky ones that stick in your mind.

And that is why when my son and daughter-in-law suggested that I find a sitter for the two little guys so that the adults could go out one night while they’re here in Florida, I demurred. I said I’d babysit very happily, and they could go out. The only quirky babysitter I want for my grandchildren is me.


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