Back in the Dark Ages, when I was a teenager, babysitting was the best way to earn extra money. I was always busy and exclusively sat for one family; occasionally if they didn’t need me, there would be another family who did.
This special family, the Levys (names changed to protect the innocent!) lived in a lovely Tudor home in an upscale White Plains neighborhood. Mr. Levy, a quiet and self-assured man, owned an export/import business in Manhattan; he always tuned into classical music on his car radio. Mrs. Levy, born in Paris, was a charming and beautiful woman, a stay-at-home mom for their two boys. She was impeccably dressed and wore exquisite jewelry; her soft, French accent was the finishing touch. They were a magnificent couple especially when they were dressed for a black-tie affair.
The Levy boys were seven and five, good looking, intelligent and well-mannered. They loved when I read to them; even better, they giggled when I made up some of my crazy stories. Frequently, I prepared dinner; we’d sit at the table and talk and get a little goofy. You might say this was preparation for my own turn at Raising Boys 101!
Mr. and Mrs. Levy took a kind interest in me: How was I doing in school, how was my family and what were my friends and I doing for fun and excitement? When I was accepted at Katharine Gibbs School, they congratulated me and gave me a handsome fountain pen (I had mentioned that ball-point pens were not permitted at the school). I remember sharing with Mrs. Levy how my first Gibbs prom was going to be held at The Waldorf Astoria. One evening, she asked about my gown and accessories. She quickly disappeared from the room. When she returned, she was carrying a fur cape and beaded evening bag.
“You must wear these. The cape will keep you warm and the evening bag will be perfect with your gown.”
Needless to say, I felt like Cinderella at the ball. My folks were misty eyed as I left with my date.
One afternoon, I babysat a pediatrician’s two boys—the third and last time I did that! The youngest boy was a sweetie: Big blue eyes and a smile that lit up the room. The older boy was the opposite: He’d stamp his feet and yell and scream, especially at his mother.
“Now, Petey, we mustn’t scream like that.” Whaaat?
He shouted “no” and threw toys when I asked him to pick them up—I got really good at dodging flying cars and blocks. On this day, he was particularly bratty and my patience was wearing thin. He ran out of the room when I asked both boys to pick up their toys and put them in the toy box. Suddenly, he raced back into the room waving a wire hamburger holder and coming straight for me.
“Oh, no you don’t, kid.”
I was shocked and shaking as I grabbed the holder from his hands and locked him in the bathroom where he proceeded to kick the door.
“I am going to tell your mother!”
Within minutes, she arrived home. Upset and still shaking, I told her why Petey was locked in the bathroom. She apologized and opened the door: A screaming Petey came barreling out and punched his mother in the stomach.
“Now, Petey, that wasn’t very nice.” Again, whaaaat?
I was trying to be strong and calm as I told Petey’s mother I would no longer babysit the boys, that she needn’t drive me home, I would call my dad—no way was I going in the same car with this unpredictable kid. It wasn’t worth 60 cents an hour. Can you believe that—60 cents an hour? If I’m not mistaken, the going rate today is $15-plus.
I wonder what became of Petey.