Springing

There’s a man who sits on his stoop next to Dmitri’s, right on my corner of third and Catharine. He’s there every day, wearing those old school headphones that hug his ears and connect around the back of his head. When it rains he holds an umbrella; when it snows he sits in the driver’s seat of the pick up truck that’s parked right in front of his house. A stack of books a foot high rests on top of the console. He’s probably in his early forties.

I walk past him at all hours of the day, no matter if my work day starts early in the morning or late in the afternoon. He sees me ushering the boys out of the house in their karate uniforms and watches them race to their front door once they let go of my hands crossing third street. After a few months of nannying, I started waving and smiling at him. Just little nods, or a “good morning!” type exchange. Neighborly, curiously, kindly.

Two weeks ago I was offered a full-time job at a Philadelphia start up company called TicketLeap. Everything happened so quickly- I applied for the position Monday night by sending a tweet to the CEO, corresponded with him on Tuesday, interviewed Wednesday morning and was hired Wednesday night. I can fully apply my finding a job is like finding a relationship theory to the hiring process at TicketLeap. No games, no messing around. “I like you and you like me, let’s do this thing!”

After I got off the phone with TicketLeap, I burst into tears. This is what I had been waiting for for almost a year and a half. A job that matched my skill set and personality perfectly.  I moved to Philadelphia in November of 2010, worked a part-time job for a non-profit, interned for Yelp for 9 months (“It’s like we made a Yelp baby!” my boss said to me at my last event as an intern) and nannied for nearly as long. I had applied to countless jobs, went on over a dozen interviews and had a quarter-life crisis every two weeks or so because of it. My time had come. And now I had to tell the boys’ mother that I was going to leave.

I called my parents first, barely able to speak through my tears.

“I always knew you were emotional,” my dad said, “but you have to calm down. Where’s Zack?”

“Sitting next to me.”

“Is he wondering who this crazy person is he’s been living with?”

I hiccuped, then smiled. “No.”

“This is what you’ve been waiting for. Cheer up and go celebrate.”

Before we could enjoy a fancy cocktail at Southwark, I had to run down the street and tell my “family” about the job I was so excited for. At this point my face was red and puffy, especially below my right eye (you can always tell if I’ve been crying by looking at the beauty mark). I passed the guy on his stoop but barely made eye contact.

“Is everything okay?”

I stopped in my tracks. I’ve never heard the man say more than two words.

“Yeah, I just,” deep breath, “I finally got a real job and now I have to tell the boys I can’t be their nanny anymore.”

He smiled sympathetically. “Ah, I see.”

“Yeah.”

“You’ll be alright.”

I nodded.

***

This is what I will miss about nannying (in no particular order): greeting the boys as they get off the school bus, perfecting the toasted bagel with butter and cheese, M’s serious thoughts from the bathtub, A’s self-confidence, hearing A ask to be tucked in to bed, mid-day trips to the bookstore and Mama’s Vegetarian, being constantly flabbergasted by M’s level of intelligence, the look on their faces after they earn a new stripe on their karate belts, making friends with the other Queen Village moms (they don’t recognize me unless I have the boys by my side), my #nannydiaries, the fudgey brownies their mom bakes every week without fail (I will probably lose three pounds by not having one of them each day), Shabbat hugs, brushing up on my Hebrew while helping them with their homework, sleeping nine hours a night, spending my mornings at Bodhi drinking tea and writing (the one place I can truly call myself a “regular” at), catching M in the middle of a nap, introducing A to some of my favorite childrens’ authors (Judy Blume, Julie Andrews Edwards), listening to M ask questions about life, love and my relationship with Zack. He is truly the most insightful and adorable kindergartner I have ever known.

***

This is what I’m looking forward to (in no particular order): having a “regular” schedule, interacting with real adults, Tweeting for a living, planning events, working on a MacBook Pro at a desk in an office with green and brown walls in the heart of Center City, making new friends and contacts, putting everything I learned from Michelle C to good use, blogging and learning more about WordPress, using my brain and being proactive, wearing clothes other than leggings and a t-shirt, “evangelizing” the company (how many people did I convince to sign up for Yelp? I’m confident in my abilities), and finally, managing an online community. This job was made for me.

Pack Rats

I used to save everything. I think that’s why I love boxes so much. Everywhere I go, I seem to fall in love with another decorative tin, another brass or wood box. It’s a habit that takes up a lot of space.

I was given a “treasure chest” as a young child that still sits underneath my bed. It’s pretty big– maybe two feet wide and a foot and a half high. That’s where all my class pictures are, diaries I started and left incomplete, felt flags signed by all my camp friends at ESF, pieces of a Princess Jasmine Halloween costume that I put in there because I associated the tiara with a kindergarten friend who died when we were five. Drawings from an imaginary world, marble notebooks filled with stories. Over time, the treasure chest lost some of its innocence. I hid bottles of liquor there in high school, and buried deep are print-outs of high-lighted medical journals from a time when I thought a close friend had an eating disorder.

The two little boys I nanny for have similar boxes under their beds. Instead of a flowery treasure chest, complete with locks, they have plastic bins, like the kind you’d keep under your dorm room bed for extra socks or notebook paper. In these boxes they keep their “Precious Things,” which I learned about when I was asked to go through their closets and pick through the clothes that were too small for them. “A” is 8, “M” is 5. If you follow me on Twitter you’ve probably read my #nannydiaries hashtag and gotten to hear some of their quips and phrases. These boys are wildly intelligent. “M” is especially emotionally mature, often asking me questions about life, death, and relationships. He asks about Zack a lot.

Anyway, as we sorted through their closets they insisted on keeping some of their favorite t-shirts and putting them in Precious Things even though they had grown out of them. This I understood. My closet in Devon, Pennsylvania is home to my Bat Mitzvah dress, my prom dress(es), my favorite pink cotton dress from when I was four with the hearts on it (my yia-yia lovingly sewed a layer of lace onto when it got too short), my favorite zip-up hoodie from high school, and strangely, a few of my zade’s suits which are stored there for reasons I do not know.

However, this morning, as I was scraping dried up bright blue toothpaste from the boys’ bathroom sink, I took a look at the two large plastic cups on either side of the faucet. Toothbrushes, at least a dozen of them, each encrusted with fluoride, sat awkwardly in each cup. Collections, the boys had insisted when I first started sitting for them. No. These were bacteria breeding grounds, and it was grossing me out. I started channeling my neat freak Aunt Tammy and summoned “A” and “M” into the bathroom with me.

“These,” I said slowly, “have got to go. Pick the one that looks the cleanest and we have to throw the rest away.”

“A” looked at me fearfully. “NO!” he cried, tears immediately sparking from his blue eyes. “No! You can’t.”

“Why?”

“Because I love them. You can’t take them away.”

I had each boy bring their handfuls of toothbrushes to the kitchen. I boiled water, poured it into a measuring cup, and swirled each toothbrush until all the dried paste and spit and mold had dissolved and fallen to the bottom.

“Look,” I said, holding the glass up to the light. “That’s bacteria. That’s yucky. These toothbrushes will make you sick if you keep using them. You have to throw some away.”

“A” started crying again.

“A, M, you understand what I’m saying, right?” “M” nodded. “Pick one to use, throw your least favorites away, and the rest we will put with your Precious Things.”

“A” lifted his head. “Okay.”

This attachment to, of all things, toothbrushes.

“Do you not want to throw them away because they remind you of being little?” I asked.

“A”  nodded.

I understood this, too. I once cried into Sara’s shoulder in the bathroom at a sixth grade YMCA Carriage House dance because the DJ was playing Savage Garden and “Truly Madly Deeply” reminded me of the fourth grade and “being young.” I shit you not.

And with that, one by one, after inspecting the characters on each colorful handle- Spiderman, Batman, Cars, Yo Gabba Gabba (these were deemed “too babyish” and discarded)- we disinfected and bagged the most Precious, to be kept under their respective twin beds.

I went through a phase in middle school where I kept every note my mother left taped for me on the side door because I was scared she was going to die and I wanted to have everything that she had written or touched or thought. This included post-its that said things like “pls empty d/w” and “went to yoga, be back at 4” and “love you, have fun at kelly’s” scrawled inside giant heart. I still have these, amongst many other notes and letters, pictures and invitations, in boxes, under the bed.

“M” asked me about dying today. “Can you die if you’re a letter or a number?” His face looked puzzled. “What about metal or glass? What about food? Food dies, because we eat it, right?”

I explained to him that only the animals that breathe and the plants that grow can live or die.

I wonder, if years from now, the boys will look through each of their Precious Things and remember why they believed them to be so precious.