Ma has just dumped the last pail of wash water out at the edge of the woods. It takes a long time to empty the big tub and her fingers are red from the scrubbing on the wash board. I can’t help her with the scrubbing, but I do help carry the water from the well out back in the brook . When the wash is ready to hang, I hand her the clothes pins and grab the poles for her to steady the line so it won’t all go down to the ground and we have to start all over. So Ma heaves a big sigh as she watches the last sudsy water trickle into the ground. There that job is done, she says. I figure now is as good a time to ask as any, though Ma does look pretty tired. I take a deep breath and ask, how come we have to have a baby sitter some times? I swear I see Ma’s eyes roll way back in her head and she says, you are just full of questions, young lady, aren’t you.
Well, it seems today is Saturday and for once Dad has agreed to go to Abner’s dance hall in Albany. Ma loves to dance and usually she has to go with one of her lady friends if she gets to go at all. I think her going to a dance is a reward for sitting at a machine all week at the mill, but it doesn’t matter. She just loves to dance. How come Dad is going tonight, I ask as she bangs the pail down in the corner. Because he promised me. Who is going to be our baby sitter? Tink is old enough to stay with us. Tink is going to be out, she replies.
Oh, great, I think . Ma looks at me and says Helen is coming. Helen, oh, great, again. Last time, Curt sat at the kitchen table coloring all evening and I played with my paper dolls and Rex was reading while Helen, the babysitter, was out in the front yard in her boyfriend’s car. We didn’t say anything as it was more fun with her outside anyway. I guess I should be happy that Ma is happy Dad is going with her.
Baby sitters have not had a great record at our house anyway. There was this one who really was a wretch. She came while Dad and Ma were working and we were pretty little. She went up in the attic, on my side, mind you, and got prowling around and fell through the attic floor. Broke her leg. Yup, she broke her leg. She kind of hobbled til Dad and Ma came home and then Dad took her somewhere to have the leg tended to and we never saw her again. I was sorry she broke her leg but as Ma said, what on earth was she way over there in the attic for anyway.
We like it when Winnie Hanscom comes and sleeps over so Dad and Ma can go out. Winnie sleeps with me on my side of the attic, and one night she decided to get a drink of water. I rolled over and she climbed out of bed and I heard a clunking noise and heard Winnie say a word I’d never heard HER say before. Well, come to find out, Winnie stubbed her toe on the side of the chimney and broke her big toe. Made her forget about her thirst, I guess, but we all felt bad because she was our favorite person to come and stay with us. That attic is cursed for babysitters.
Sunday morning and we have had our night with Helen again. We had a fine time entertaining ourselves and we went to bed when we felt like it and I guess Helen must have come back in the house before Ma and Dad got home. Ma doesn’t seem too pleased this morning.
Did you have a good time last night, Ma, I ask. Yes and no, she replies. Yes, because I like to dance and your father did do a couple polkas with me, though he practically threw me through the wall on the corners. He doesn’t take corners well at all. I couldn’t comment on that because I have never seen Dad do any dancing except a clog in the middle of the kitchen floor. So what about the no, Ma? You’re full of questions this morning, aren’t you, she says and pours herself another cup of coffee. Well, your father was hungry, so he bought a hot dog and at intermission we went to the car to eat it. All he did was complain, complain, complain. Said the hot dog was awful and that it was so dry he could hardly swallow it. Well, I turned on the dome light and your father had eaten the hotdog but he ate most of the napkin with it. No wonder he thought it was dry and I told him so. Then he says if I am going to get picky, he isn’t going to go dancing again.
Well, I want to laugh but figure I had better not even crack a grin. I imagine Dad had a bottle of Old Narragansett and even that did not wash down the napkin. Ma takes a sip of coffee and says, by the way, how was Helen last night? She was about the same as always, Ma, I answer.
No point in making her Sunday any worse than it is already…