Who says you can’t find a lasting, meaningful relationship on craigslist? It was New Year’s Eve 2007 when I answered an ad that changed my life for the better. It was titled “Fun, creative person seeks kids to play with!”. There was a picture of a nice lady sitting on a bear statue at the local zoo. It was love at first sight. I needed a part-time nanny for my 18-month-old twins and she needed a way to spend her time since she was new to the area. A match made in heaven. Lou has been with us ever since. Well, there was a brief hiatus between the ages of 3 and 4. A sabbatical if you will. But other than that, she has been with us through potty training, the “terrific twos”, and the first day of Kindergarten. She has taken my kids to every park in town, every McDonald’s with a play structure, and the mall playground more times than I can count. I never worry that the children will be bored. On rainy days, she used to take them to thrift stores and let them cram as many toys as they could into a sack to bring home and play with until the sun came back out. Lou is a professional musician and introduced music to the kids when they were all spongy.
One time I came home earlier than expected and heard them performing an opera they composed earlier that day. A couple of times she has recorded Charlie and Poppy singing – in a real recording studio. (Great Christmas presents, by the way.) She puts on plays, coordinates dance contests, and often comes to work in character. Chip Chip the Penguin is an all-time favorite. Because of her resourceful nature, I don’t have to worry about every little detail. In fact, during her very first day on the job, I somehow left her alone with twin toddlers and not a single diaper in the whole house! I realized this when I got to work. When I called to panic, she calmly replied, “Well I just used a hand towel and some safety pins. We’re good here.” I fell more deeply in love. More recently, she was on call when I was great with child. I was two weeks overdue with Baby Bug and we were all waiting as hard as we could for some change in my status. When the time finally came, Lou was my first phone call. I was using all the tools I learned in my Hypnobabies training classes (thanks Julie!) when Lou arrived. It was not immediately obvious to any of us that I was this close to transition. For some reason, I thought it was a good time to be baking cookies for the nurses when my “pressure waves” were right on top of each other. I remember Lou putting a gentle but firm hand on my back and instructing me to “Get thee to a hospital…now.” She stayed with the twins and I delivered Baby Bug 25 minutes later. Lou was one of the few people who predicted Bug would be a girl. She welcomed Mary Hazel to the fold and has been helping me take care of her since she was a few months old. Lou was a hero again last summer when we got the dreaded diagnosis. During the helter-skelter rush of that first day, she stayed at my house all day with Charlie and Poppy while we rushed to the hospital with the baby. She held down the fort and maintained her composure so well, the older kids never knew anything was amiss. She is a rock. I could go on and on, but the point is that she deserves lots of kindness. I don’t take her presence for granted one second. I know taking care of other people’s kids can be a tough gig – even on the best days. Taking care of them on the days when they are tired, hungry, argumentative, inattentive, lethargic, and less than angelic is a true testament to her dedication (and stubbornness). If this were a marriage, she would definitely get credit for the whole “For better or worse, In sickness and in health” bit. If money were no object, I would have booked her the first flight to Austin, Texas for the SXSW music festival last week. Or maybe I would have sent her back to Liverpool for some more Beatles worship. Or maybe I would become her full-time patron so she could just write her music, play her bass, and sing her songs. Alas, the only kind things I can do for Lou are mostly symbolic of greater gestures.
Today I mostly just wanted Lou to feel appreciated. I left her a gift card for her favorite local coffee establishment (and a lottery ticket). She found the little package before I could scoot out of question-asking distance. I told her it was for her as I walked away. Wouldn’t you know that when I got in my car later today, that rascal had left the gift card there. Just to be sure that I one-upped her with kindness, I took her car to the gas station and filled it up and returned it to her without letting her know. I think the sneaky acts are the most fun.
Thank you, craigslist, for bringing Lou to us. Couldn’t imagine our family without her.