The friend of the past re-creates the present

Posted on May 6, 2008. Filed under: Musings, Philosophy, Travel |

I saw an old friend a while ago. She was my babysitter when I was five and she was fifteen. We were both rather odd children, felt we didn’t fit in (I know, it’s an old story, but when it’s yours, it’s as if it were told for the first time.) We bonded in many ways; became like siblings instead of babysitter/client. At the time, my parents were working full time in their business, and I was convinced they liked the business more than they liked me. This was true on some level. I felt they needed this babysitter-person to keep me out of the way. I didn’t realize at the time, but my babysitter valued her time with me as much as I did mine with her. She had an older brother, but he was uncommunicative. This new child (me) was cute, inquisitive, and thought the world of her. As time went on our sibling/friendship continued.

She got married when I was ten and she was twenty. I didn’t much like her groom, a person I’d known almost as long as I’d known her. Nevertheless, I was pleased to be asked to participate in the wedding, even though I wasn’t the right age (too old to take on one of the little kid’s roles, not old enough to be in the grown-up lineup). I made friends with the flower girl, a charming cherub that refused to let go my hand during the entire reception. The pictures of this are among my friend’s favorites.

She had a baby when she was twenty-five and I was fifteen. I was asked to be a god-parent—again, not quite the right age for such a venture. We didn’t care. The baby seemed pleased enough. Both of us now have re-evaluated what it means to be a god-parent. Though raised within the same religion, we’ve traveled divergent paths since then. The little girl, my god-daughter, also goes her own way.

She got divorced when she was thirty and I was twenty. I can’t say I was disappointed, for myself, as her husband was my least favorite part of visiting her. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a decent, good person. I just wished for her so much more. My heart went out to her, as she was now something called a “single mother”. She had two more children by then, both boys. The five of them did the divorce dance: lived with the mom, saw the dad on weekends and holidays. Everyone remained cordial, the kids were fine, so far as we know.

She came by to see me a couple of years ago. She lives two states away, and as we’re in the west of the US, it was quite a trip. She travels a surprising amount, now. She’d discovered her birth family, and has a whole new set of cousins. I was shocked to learn that she’d never felt she belonged to her adoptive family, even though she remembered no other. She was raised to think—as I was—that the bonds of love in a created family are strong, and good, and sure. Oh yes, her little girl, my god-child: she was adopted, too. My god-child is being encouraged to find her birth family, if she and they wish this. There is open communication about how there can be many kinds of relationships in our lives. She is loved, and she knows it. She is special, and knows that. Her brothers are not adopted. She has come to terms with that, as have they.

During her visit, my dear lifetime friend told me of how her parents were so afraid of losing her, after waiting years and years to have a child, that they clamped down upon her every activity. She was not allowed to do the usual teenage things. Her engagement, at such a young age, was her bid for freedom—kind of amusing, really, as she married the son of her parent’s best friends—nevertheless, he was there, and willing, and took her to a different place in her life.

As she drove off, to meet more new cousins, I couldn’t help but think of my own first family. How I sometimes was convinced I must be adopted. (Do many of us do that?) My parents, like hers, were much older than the other kids’ parents, and being a sensitive child, this embarrassed me. They were so, well, uncool. They were my natural parents, though, and I spent my childhood in sort of a muddle, as I was the same age as my second cousins, rather than my first. My sister, my only sibling, is a lot older than I am, too; in fact I can’t remember a time we lived together in the same house. Her children are not much younger than I am. So, I really don’t fit in, age-wise, philosophy-wise, religious-wise. I go my own way. But when I reconnect with someone like my former babysitter, I’m glad.

She recently sent me an email, wishing me a happy birthday. Our birthdays are within a month of each other’s, and of course I know exactly how old she is. She now lives in two cities, and her children spend time with each of their parents. They’re very independent, yet know they are cared for. She and I live such different lives. But, we became the persons we are today with each other’s support, and understanding, and love.

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11 Responses to “The friend of the past re-creates the present”

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i enjoyed reading this post because it’s rare to read about you. πŸ™‚

in malaysia, babysitting is different than in the us. it’s more like a day-time nanny. we don’t have teenage babysitters to babysit a few hours a night while the parents go for dinner kind, we have old ladies to take care of babies while the parents go to work… there are those who take care of babies for the working week and the parents take them home for the weekend. babysitting doesn’t pay much in malaysia, mostly because those who pick up the profession are old women who are illiterate or are housewives; they up the income by taking care of several at once if they have offers.

anyway, my point is that i wouldn’t mind doing the western babysitting and i would’ve like one when i was younger! πŸ˜€

I know, it’s an old story, but when it’s yours, it’s as if it were told for the first time.

Very true, and it’s a story I can always relate to. Sure, the feeling of not quite fitting in is one felt by many, but knowing that doesn’t stop the feeling itself from going away.

The post itself is very beautiful, by the way. I really don’t know how else to respond to it.

Aw, thanks, sulz! You’re right, I’m not usually this personal. I’m in a reflective mood at the moment. Well, you would make a great western-style childcare worker. I didn’t like all my babysitters, but this one I wrote about was the best! You would have liked one like her.

Deirdra, I’m touched by your comment, thank you. I still don’t fit in, but I’ve met others that don’t, so I sort of fit in with them. As it were.

How I sometimes was convinced I must be adopted. (Do many of us do that?)

You bet ya do, Muse. I did so many times I can’t count. I have always, or so I thought, been the odd one in the barrel.

Muse – I agree with sulz. Thanks for giving us a glimpse of your life. I think it is wonderful that you have remained friends even with long periods of time between visits. That is a true sign of a lasting friendship.

I used to babysit for years when I was young and I love to see the children I watched. The fact that they love seeing me is great. I couldn’t have been that bad of a sitter then. LOL

But it sure does make me feel old when some of them introduce me to their little ones.

As for feeling like the odd one out. I was definitely the black sheep in the family. I still am, but we are much closer now than when we all lived together.

Thanks for sharing and take care.

This was a very nice post. I love learning about what people think and feel.I never wondered whether I was adopted or not. I looked so much like my mother it was uncanny.
When I lived in RI I used to babysit for a young couple who had just had a baby. I was about twelve. Shortly after they moved away. I moved to Cape Cod about 35 years ago and I found out about 15 years ago they live right in my town. She ended up shopping at my store all the time. It made me feel old though, because the child I babysat for is now 46 years old. Where did all that time go?

nice post πŸ™‚

Will, the odd ones seem to find each other, though, don’t they? πŸ˜‰

Wow, bead, that must be something to see your sit-ees (oh, that sounds like some kind of furniture! πŸ˜‰ ) with little ones of their own. I never really took care of little children much, but I sure appreciate those that do! Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed reading this.

Joan, time passes amazingly quickly. I suppose it would bring you up short to find her now possibly considered “middle-aged” by some—doesn’t mean YOU are, though. I have it on good authority that babysitters are immune to middle age! πŸ™‚ Thanks for enjoying my unusual delve into my past.

kaylee! I’m thrilled to see you! Thanks!

And I am thrilled to be here. How are you?

So I am not the only one who thought themselves adopted? I actually told my mother when I was in my twenties ….she was so insulted that she brought it up for years, saying how strange I was….rather than trying to find out why I thought that way. I had it all worked out in my teen years…there were so few baby photos of me compared to my siblings and then there was the obvious lack of affection compared to the others. Teachers found it hard to believe my sister and I were from the same family etc etc.

I found it very interesting that you said you have found others who did not fit in either…I have found it really hard lately with some friends as they are so into respecting of one’s elders and parents that they encourage me to accept unfair treatment from my parents that I would not tolerate from anyone else. I always thought when told when I was young that you should respect your elders… “Why, what have they done that I should respect them”? When CJ was growing up I told him that respect is earned not given….

Maybe there is something in that old term… a foundling …that is how I felt within my family and am guessing something like that with you too Muse. We find our own way with our own kind, but it is great catching up with people from the past….it shows how far we have come. You have come a long way in your life journey and it is an honour to know you.

kaylee, thanks for asking. I’m very well. I wasn’t feeling too good last weekend; stress from work and not enough rest, I think, but I’m lots better. I’m so glad you are recovering well from your surgery, hon! I’ll come and see your blog, soon.

The “wondering whether I was adopted” thing seems to go along with feeling we don’t fit it, I think, Magik, as we start to wonder *why* we don’t fit in. It amazes me your parents haven’t been thrilled to have you! In my case, I think my parents loved me, because I was their child, but I don’t think they liked me much, at least, not while I was growing up. Although I was more “interesting” than my sister, in some ways (sorry, sis), which sometimes amused them, they’d tell me “Your sister never challenged us!” (Like that was a good thing—hah!) I did come to some level of peace and understanding with each of them in the end. I understand your friends, as we’re all taught to respect our elders, but agree with you that respect must be earned. Just because someone fed you and changed you doesn’t mean they’ve earned undying devotion. Of course there’s always a chance to turn a relationship around, but it’s also wise to realize when ones efforts are not met reciprocally, and to walk away to spare oneself. I’ve spoken with several childhood friends whose parents, I thought, were quite nice at the time, but it turns out there were dark and mysterious secrets. Every single time, I’ve been shocked, because I’d thought my parents were the only ones who were polite in public, but not always pleasant at home. There’re more of us than we think. I’m pleased my friend cj doesn’t have to go through this. I’m sure you all have your moments, after all we’re only human!, πŸ˜‰ but overall it sounds great, and you are lucky to have such a fine family, even if sometimes it’s only the three of you. Thank you for the wonderful compliment! It means so much to me, as does knowing you, as well.


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