Friday, April 15, 2005

Who Raised Me

There’s a lot of talk these days about “strangers raising our children.” A lot of piousness and self-righteousness is getting thrown around toward people who allow “strangers” to impart “values” into children. Well, I guess I was raised by a stranger. I had a Nanny.

When my mother found herself pregnant with me, her fourth child, she had already committed herself to going back to social work. She’d already given up a full scholarship to graduate school when her first child was born in 1957. My mother was 29 at the time and had been the first in family of either sex to go to college. Being a 25 year old divorcee and “fallen woman,” I guess her only option was college.

Mother found Nanny through a mutual acquaintance. I guess they were technically strangers in the beginning, but we still keep in touch to this day, nearly 35 years later.

Let me tell you a little bit about Nanny. Her house was neat as a pin. She had a family room, where I recall spending my time playing. And a “living room” that was dark most of the time where sheets were kept on the furniture. I remember one Christmas when I got old enough and was allowed to sit with the adults in the living room while they had coffee. What a treat. Nanny really didn’t have any toys around. I’m not sure what I did all day, but she did take me on errands. Getting the car washed in the automatic car wash was always a treat. And when we were at the mall, she held me above the potty so my but wouldn’t touch it. Nanny had a pantry with “just” enough food in it. You could see the back shelves. Nanny had one drawer in her house that was full of “junk.” But you could still see the bottom of it. Nanny was Catholic. I’m sure she was ‘for life’ and against a woman’s right to choose, though this never came up. Nanny would take me to Catholic mass on occasion and instruct me to stay in the pew while she went up for communion. Nanny has several grand children around the same age as me. From what I can tell they live a traditional life. They married and have wives who stay home. They are prolific breeders.

Let me tell you about myself. My house is full of stuff. I’m a packrat and I married a packrat. Creativity reigns. I have a family room and a living room, too. But the living room sofa has cat stains and cat scratches on it. My house is littered with plastic toys that light up and go beep. I consider myself “frugal” and once a year I indulge in the luxury of getting my car washed by a machine. My parents were 70 year-old retirees before they had ever gone through a car wash. My pantry is a tribute to Sam’s club with industrial-sized spices lining the deep back and jars of baby food that haven’t been needed in over a year. My kitchen drawers are packed with broken ice cream scoops, disintegrating spatulas and gadgets only an actual cook would know how to use. My mother’s daughters all went to college and enjoyed productive careers. We all voted for Kerry. Two of us have had abortions. Mother was the first person we called in crisis. I belong to an open non-denominational church that performs same sex unions.

Now, you tell me who raised me? Who’s values did I gain? Who’s habits were instilled in me?


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