1974 cut from the book.
“I can’t raise the children by myself,” said Mother, her eyes fixed on Father.
He barely looked up from his papers, “Let’s get some help. Maybe my mother could move in.”
Mother raised an eyebrow. “That’s not going to happen.”
We were at our home on Tennyson Street in Chevy Chase D.C. The house was basic, two floors with a basement and a front and back yard. It looked like every other home on the block except for the white wash paint on the bricks on the front side of the house. Mother did it herself but never stripped off the old paint so now it was peeling. Our front lawn was covered with flakes of white paint.
Sister was 4. I was 5. The nanny was new and watched us during the day. The nanny was German and believed in a stern approach when dealing with children. Her face was long with a sharp nose and a chin thrust prideful into the air. Sister was made to sit in a chair with her back kept straight. “It’s good for your posture,” said the nanny in a thick accent as she braided Sister’s hair, winding it into rolls, just like her own hair. When the nanny left the room, Sister’s gaze held mine. She said in a little voice, “I hate her.”
“I hate her too,” I said.
“She braids my hair so tight it hurts.”
The nanny came back into the room and we stopped talking. She was carrying bowls and placed them on the table in front of us.
“It’s time for dinner, children.”
I sat at the table but my eyes were barely able to see over the edge of the bowl. The food was green with bits of something black that looked like beetles and worms blended together.
“I don’t want this,” I said.
“There will be no argument. Eat your food.”
“I want Mommy,” said Sister.
“There is nothing wrong with your eggplant soup. Now eat, children, before it gets cold.”
I scooped up a spoonful and slowly brought it to my mouth. It tasted terrible, but I kept eating. I was scared of the nanny.
When Mother came home that night, we pleaded with her not to leave us with the nanny, but the next day she was back.
“Anastasia, after I fold the laundry, time to do your hair.” The nanny walked into the basement to tend to the laundry.
“Let’s go find Mommy,” I said. I led Sister into the living room where my toys were. I was wearing one-piece pajamas with feet on the bottom. Unzipping the front, I stuffed all my toys inside, filling my legs and arms first, then my belly. Sister started to cry again, “I don’t want my hair braided. It hurts.” We walked out the front door and started down the street. I didn’t know which way downtown was so I just walked. Mother was driving home when she saw us walking up the street holding hands. She squinted, not sure she was really looking at her children. She slowed the car down, pulling next to us. “Where are
you two off to?” she said and smiled. “We’re coming downtown to find you,” said Sister. Mother put us in the back seat and drove the two blocks back home. Looking in the back mirror, she wondered what I had stuffed in my pajamas. The next day,
the nanny was gone. I had thought out a plan and carried it out. By doing something, I had changed my environment. I wouldn’t forget it. For the moment I was happy. I didn’t want anything to change. Who needs a nanny anyway?
-Ethan H. Minsker