The Sitter…

What’s a budding pre-teen girl do when she finally wants some of her own spending money? It’s the early 1960’s and there’s only so many job oportunities in Rock Valley, my small town in northwest Iowa. Let’s see, there’s life-guard, but I’m not old enough, and the season’s too short. A new fad has finally hit northwest Iowa. Just 22 years after first being introduced in California. Think it got here by a covered wagon on 3 wheels. It’s called a Drive-in. Girls wait on you in your car. Well, who doesn’t want to eat in the cozy confines of their car? The eating part sounded good, but I don’t want to wait on people. No, that’s not a good fit either. If I were not totally-clueless-about-absolutely-everything-involving-farming, I could pick weeds, run along side a combine, cook sweetcorn or something.

Neese in my room, 1961…

Around this time I discovered babies. My sister Mona just had her firstborn, a baby boy named Brian. What a little heart throb! Oh, I was smitten bad. I even wrote a poem about him. I’ll try and remember it before I’m done, though it was pretty lame as I recall. Hey, maybe I could take care of adorable babies like Brian. That’s the ticket to the-none-of-my-own-money-problem. Once word spread that you’re “available” I had no trouble lining up work. The going rate for my expertise in early childhood development was 50 cents an hour! Watch out Beverly’s Apparel, here I come!

Neese with nephew (ha) Brian, 1962…

There were several families that either liked the way I treated their rug rats or I was so far down on the list of possible babysitters that it was either call Neese or stay home. They never said, I never asked. One such lucky couple to engage in my totally qualified services, we’ll just call the K-family. They were probably in their early 30’s and parents of 3 very rambunctious boys, not at all like sweet-little-baby-Brian. They were 7, 5 and 2. The 2 older boys liked me. They were busy conniving what they were gonna get away with while under my “constant care and supervision.” The toddler was still on the fence whether it was a good idea that I was there instead of Mommy. Unless I grew a third eye, it was almost impossible to watch all 3 hooligans at the same time. My eyes were not those of a real mom’s yet and I hadn’t acquired the ability to swivel each one of them individually-every-which-way. When I tried this maneuver, all I got was a blistering head-ache. Plus, it would be years before the mom “eyes in the back of my head” was fully developed.

Those little shits recognized my shortcomings and were busy honing their invisibility-cloaking skills whenever I blinked. Once the toddler hit the hay and I brought in the artillery from the garage, the 2 older ones knew it was time to call it a day. You see with the ladder, even though I couldn’t walk on the ceiling with them, I could grab the little buggers and haul ’em back down.

After they collapsed in a heap from utter exhaustion, I’d lug them to bed, slide down the steps on my butt cause my legs had lost all feeling, take one look at the kitchen, and as God is my witness, had to fight the urge to walk straight out of the house (kids or no kids) and NEVER come back. No, it wasn’t the kids, they only wrecked the rest of the house. The kitchen had been trashed long before I got there. Now that I think about it, if Mrs. K was not holding down 2 full-time jobs, I’m royally ticked. What a slob! I swear she never washed ONE SINGLE STINKING DISH from the time I babysat until the next week when she’d pick me up and hog-tie me in her car. Come to think of it, this might be part of the reason I was asked every week. I’ve been snookered, huh. Honest, there were stacks of dishes on every available kitchen surface, and they were evil, nasty stacks. 50 cents an hour. Are you kidding me? What on earth ever compelled me to do the dishes? I NEVER did them at home. Mom’s kitchen was absolutely spotless. I’ve said all my married life you could eat off either one of our kitchen floors. Hers because it’s that immaculate, mine cause there’s a 3-course meal on it. Still, I needed to move forward on this gross mountain of dirty dishes.

I’d limp to the living room, over to a stereo the size of P!NK’s limo, only to find records of some old dudes I’d never heard of. What? Yes, Neese it always could get worse. The K’s were COUNTRY WESTERN FANS. This had to be a joke and I’m on Candid Camera, right? I wish. Well, I had to listen to something during my weekly 2 hour stint of dish duty.

At some point in my life I’m going to have to retract all those “mutterings under my breath” about the K’s and their horrible music choices I suppose. I listened and enjoyed, who knew? Though it was not my kind of music, I grew to love a couple of their records. The singers? Johnny Horton (In 1814 we took a little trip, along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip) and Johnny Cash (I keep a close watch on this heart of mine, I keep my eyes wide open all the time).

Adorable Brian playing my piano, 1963…

Ok, listen up, here’s my little poem:

“Brian Lee”

Handsome you are with your eyes so brown,

Cute when you smile, cute when you frown.

Your eyelashes long, are as black as can be,

You’re a heartbreaker lad name Brian Lee.

Even my mother is smitten with your charm,

She’d buy the moon or maybe a farm.

If I were older, I’d marry you,

But I’m not of age and you’re only 2.

You’re my dear little nephew and I am your aunt,

So marriage is out, you know that we can’t.

A quick little hug and a shy little kiss,

Is what I call the height of bliss.

Author-Neese, 1964…


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