Monday, February 9, 2009

Buttonwoods Part II

I had a little house.
But it was actually quite a big house.. Palatial by California standards. Two bedrooms and I shared it with a roommate only two of the seven years I lived there.  
It was a guest house next door to the family I nannied* for. I lived there, rent-free, for six years while I got paid to play with the cutest little kids in the world. Nice, huh? I'll forever be grateful to the family I worked for. Not only did they let me live in the guest house (even after I accidentally put my hand through the window) but they treated me like family. I don't know if I'd be able to be as adventurous as I have been in my thirties if I hadn't had those 7 years of peace and stability in my twenties. 

I loved everything about that house and neighborhood. From where I was standing to take that picture, if I'd turned a quarter circle to my right I'd have been facing the bay.
In the other direction was a dead end street with only two other houses on it (plus the two on the corner, facing the main road- one of which was my place of work, the other of which was long uninhabited and underwent exciting episodes like a fire, and the death of the eccentric, elderly owner, and faraway relatives buying it and then camping in the summers while they fixed it up.) 

It was an incredibly, breathtakingly beautiful place to live.
The only traffic was the occasional car meandering down the main road along the water. The neighborhood is tucked away at the far end of a residential road, not on the way to anywhere else, and besides the rare sightseer, most of the cars belonged to neighbors. Hardly ever was anyone in a hurry. It's a road that makes you want to slow down, roll down the windows, breathe in the salty fresh air, and drink in the scenery.I had a garden. I spent hours clearing a patch in the backyard- a vegetable garden in a long-forgotten past- and filling it with flowers and the occasional tomato or lettuce plant. I rigged up grow lights in the laundry room, and started things from seed and collected pots and filled them with flowers too, and generally had a wonderful time mucking around in the dirt. I miss gardening so much.
People used to ask if it was a drawback living next door to work, but I loved that the kids could come over and pester me even when I wasn't working. I'm not being sarcastic, I adored hearing their voices at the door. When they were younger, I couldn't hear their voices outside without wanting to go out & see them, and it was great when they got old enough to come over on their own. There wasn't anything I wouldn't drop to invite them in and snuggle on the couch with them telling stories (most of them involved Bunbun, a very naughty bunny modeled on the wooden carved rabbit I had on my mantle) or go outside and race them up and down the streets on their bikes. I couldn't get enough of mah babies, even though I was certainly glad to go home at the end of a long day. Their parents were kind enough to share them, after a short term of scolding, "leave Jess alone, she's not working!" they gave up and only asked occasionally, "Are they bothering you?" No, never. 

One particularly hilarious morning my doorbell rang when I was getting ready for work. It was a two-or three year-old, pajama-clad Danielle. Recently freed from the tyranny of a crib (which she'd been prone to climbing out of no matter how low the mattress was set) and relishing the freedom of a big-girl bed, she awoken before anyone else and decided to come over on her own and pay me a visit. She was very matter of fact about it. "Hi, here I am. Aren't you going to invite me in?" 

I'm not trying to infer that I was some kind of supernanny saint. God, no. I had my moments of grouchiness and frustration with the kids that even parents** experience. Plenty of them. I was so exhausted when Danielle was an infant that I had a hard time bonding with her and probably spent more time in a stupor on the couch than playing with 3-year-old Will. I think Will picked up on my resentment of the baby and it became the basis of some of his antipathy towards his sister. There are plenty of things I regret. But overall, I hope that the thing they remember is how much I loved them. And still do.

Will, a few years ago, almost as tall as me. The last time I was home he was at least the same height as me if not taller. Thus the plight of a short nanny, they all tower over me eventually.
Toothless wonder girl. I've no doubt she's probably passed me in height too since the last time I saw her.

*Spell check is conflicted about whether or not "nannied" is a word, I know it is though. How else do I describe the last twelve years of my life if not using "nanny" as a verb?

**Just rereading and wanted to clarify. It seems weird to have used "parent" in that sentence rather than, I dunno, childcare provider, since that's what I was, but I used it because I've learned to be easier on myself over the years because of discovering (thank you momblogging world) that even parents have their moments of suckiness because caring for kids? Is hard. 

I still wish I could go back and redo Danielle's baby-hood and appreciate it the way I wasn't able to then, but I've let go of the crushing guilt over the fact that I did not, in fact, enjoy it the way I did Will's. 


COMomma said...

Love the pictures, I don't believe I had seen some of those before. Truly New Englandy (that is an adjective, right?).

Amanda in RI said...

Ahh, memory lane! One of my customers lives right on Buttonwoods (in the private section). I think of you everytime I deliver something.

l i s a said...

AHHHHHHHHHH. How does one communicate the sensation of melting in writing? As one of the roommates lucky enough to live for a time at the carriage house by the sea, those pictures and descriptions brought up some memories! There was nothing like driving along the bay on a warm summer's eve after coming home from work.

Hoping the first day of the new job went well (and that you didn't feel like saying fuckit or shoot.

B.J. Porter said...

He's got you by at least two inches now Jess.

jess said...


Jocelyn said...

This tribute to a time and a place and the people makes my heart swoony.

NannyGarcia said...

I feel like that with my kids too! Only, sometimes, I'm like, ok, y'all really have to get out of my bed now. Nanny has to go outside and smoke a joint.

jess said...

Thanks everyone. I've loved writing about B'woods. It really takes me back to those days. There's plenty more I could say so I expect this'll be an ongoing series.

Nanny G-I can't say I ever uttered those exact words. I hate the smell of burning plants. All kinds. Except for tree trunks. And pipes, whatever ya put in those. I guess its also tobacco, huh? But insert, "read a book" or "watch an X-Files episode" (Yes, I. Supernerd!!!! at least in 2002ish) and I'm right there with ya. I mean, I really was always glad to see them, but that doesn't mean I didn't kick their cute little butts out when they wore their welcome out. ;)