Friday, January 05, 2018

adding years

Late last night, I lost myself in an internet chase. I'd read an article in the paper, and from there, I followed a link to a person whom I once knew, and this then lead me to someone else, who in turn was closely associated with the little girl I took care of when I returned to the US at age 18, acting as an au pair to her family.

I lived with the young girl and her parents for a small handful of years and it is no surprise that she was close to me and I felt a huge amount of affection for her as well. But when I left, moving away from New York to pursue my further studies in Chicago, I did not stay in touch -- with her or her family.

There are many reasons for it: they are prominent New Yorkers. I was just a glorified baby sitter. However fond we were of each other, it was a fondness not born of familial ties or even friendship. I was hired help. Once an employment connection is severed, you really need to move on.

I read about the family in the papers all the time, but they are who they are and I am elsewhere -- in my own orbit, which, as it turns out, evolved into a life that took me into other professions over and beyond being a nanny -- though some might argue that in my senior years, I have come full circle, returning to these duties that I once did well and maybe for that reason still enjoy doing -- at least to the extent that they involve now charges that are within my own family.

I write all this because last night, all those articles and family references lead me to wonder -- what is my former charge up to these days?

It's not hard to find out. It turns out that she was quite recently on FaceBook. I see that she has children of her own (I guess I sort of knew that) and those children are now older than their mom was when I cared for her.

And here's the really shocking truth: My charge was 7 when I entered her life. I was 18. I don't know why I never did the math, but it surely means that she is now herself nearing retirement.

Well that just blew my mind! I think of her as the girl I teased and hugged and laughed with at age seven, eight, nine. Somehow, she moved from that, to approaching senior status.

Today is Snowdrop's birthday. I am more excited by this than if it were my own birthday. And yet, I know (just as I knew with my au pair charge) that these young years of hers, where I am by Snowdrop's side for so many of her important moments, are just a jumpstart for what will surely be a grand and independent life -- one that will spin in its own gorgeous direction. 

We wake up to the coldest day yet. Thankfully, it is the last of the Arctic days. We've had far too many. We are so ready to move on.

Breakfast. Early for us: Ed has work commitments and I have a cake to bake.

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You'd think that this baking of a cake is a trivial deal, but it's not. I choose a Tartine cake out of their cookbook and it is damn pain in the ass recipe and of course, Snowdrop wouldn't care if I used a cake mix -- she doesn't eat more than two bites of any cake. Surely she won't notice that this one is thinly coated with home cooked caramel and delicately covered in deep chocolate genache, all in between four layers of bittersweet chocolate cake. (To give me credit, Snowdrop did request a cake that's chocolate and with penguins. I deliver on both counts.)

(Spreading the caramel...)

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And now it's time to pick up the girl. As luck would have it, Snowdrop had requested to go back to what she calls the "enchanted garden" after school -- the tropical greenhouse at our local Olbrich Gardens. It's a great day for it: it's steamy warm inside! I join up with her parents there.

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After, we retreat to the farmhouse. Presents!

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And dinner, which thankfully is only pizza, because the cake is ridiculously demanding. There, finally done.

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The evening is terrific. Snowdrop, despite the fact that she hasn't napped all week and has pushed her parents on bedtime for several day now, is in great form.

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We eat...

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Snowdrop has us all try on each others hats...

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We pause for some appropriate books, just to calm things down a bit...

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And then comes the cake...

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And shockaroo! She gives a puff...

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And I guess those lungs have grown, because the candles are out!

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What is there left to do but sing?

We cycle through many rounds of "Down by the Bay."

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Everyone is, by now, exhausted. Everyone.

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Except for Snowdrop.

She's happy to slip into her pajamas. And then resume her story telling.

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Later... The family goes home. I tidy up and sit down to write.

Happy birthday, Snowdrop! And keep that smile going, forever and ever!