May. 15th, 2010

Reliable

May. 15th, 2010 03:17 am
verity_forsythe: script: I tolerate this century, but I don't enjoy it (Default)
Mrs. Hutchens was our daughters’ favourite babysitter. She must have been in her seventies when my husband and I moved back here and she started sitting for our girls. She’d been my babysitter, once upon a time, whenever my parents returned to their hometown in the summer months; long before that, she’d babysat my own mother. So it felt immensely comforting to have her show up at seven every Saturday night, leaving us free to enjoy “grown-up night,” knowing the girls were perfectly safe and happy.

There were a few mutterings from friends of ours, who felt compelled to tell us she was too old and too forgetful. Admittedly, she sometimes called our girls’ by other names--but given the dozens upon dozens of children she’d cared for in her lifetime, that was hardly surprising.

What mattered to me was that she genuinely loved children; that she was quick to set aside her knitting to read a story, or kiss a bruise, or cuddle someone who’d had a nightmare. She was gentle, and her slow pace and soft voice made our girls settle with her easily, right from day one.

When she died, I was shocked and upset, and had no idea how to tell our children. My husband and I went to her funeral without our girls, and stood by the graveside in the rain, watching as she was buried. I’ve never been good with loss, but this filled me with particular horror. To think of that warm, kind body, now cold and stiff; to think of that beloved, huggable figure, being abandoned to the dark and the dirt and the rain. It was unspeakable.

I kept delaying the talk I knew we’d have to have with our daughters, because I had no idea what to say. Should I claim she’d gone to heaven? I didn’t even know what that was supposed to mean, so I doubted I’d be able to sound convincing. I couldn’t begin to raise the whole issue of bodies and burial; I was too sure my own distress would communicate itself to my daughters, contaminate them, scare them. They were five and three; what words could possibly work?

So I said nothing, and days after the funeral, they still didn’t know poor dear Mrs. Hutchens was dead.

Which is why, when she knocked on our door on Saturday night, our eldest daughter let her in.

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