Around my ‘tween years, my dad became involved in the planning, building, and birth of a housing co-op. I spent summers here until I was 11, when my sister and I moved in with him full time. My dad was an aging hippy, and many of the other co-op board members were too. The co-op was filled with an eclectic mix of creative types: musicians, artists, photographers, crusaders. There was drama, and at times it was a bit too close-knit of a community, but for the most part, it was a pretty cool place to live.
I fell in love with a small boy. Not romantic love … I was getting my firsts taste of how badly I wanted to be a mother, and this little boy and I had a connection. We would play in the yard and when his parents brought him inside, he’d cry for me, reaching back as they carried him away. I was young, and his parents did not feel safe having me babysit yet. So I waited. And to my delight, his mom had more kids!
When I was old enough, I spent many weekends babysitting those kids. I loved it. The drool, the feeding baby mush, the pee-soaked bed sheets … all of it. It was gross but it was exactly what I wanted. Because it came with the drooly smiles, the grins and giggles, the splashing bedtime baths. (And making some money along the way helped!)
It wasn’t all about the babies, either. I loved the parents too. My relationship with my own parents was difficult, and I was not very connected to them. But I would visit this family on afternoons when I wasn’t babysitting, have tea, hold babies, and feel like I belonged.
When my sister’s best friend was killed in a car accident when I was 13, I ran to their house for my cry. I didn’t feel that anyone else would understand, and I knew exactly where I could go to feel safe. That afternoon as I faced mortality, they let me cry, made me tea, talked about death, and put on stupid television to distract me.
As I got older, I had a boyfriend on weekends and my babysitting time faded out. Looking back, I feel like I let myself down, letting that boy replace those kids I adored and the family I connected with. I remember them begging me to keep babysitting but I would not. My connection with them faded. When I graduated from high school, I moved out of the co-op and my father moved soon after. I completely lost touch with them.
She was British. She swore a lot, which I thought was cool in a ‘forget social rules’ kind of way. She cut the necklines and sleeves off her t-shirts so they didn’t look so mainstream. She often had bright red hair. She made jewelry that was big and bold. Once, at a local craft sale, I bought the same shirt she bought even though I didn’t like it, because I was attempting to be as cool as I knew she was. She could get mad, and I remember her storming out of her house to confront someone who upset her. But she was also surprisingly compassionate in situations where she had every right to be furious. And she loved her babies fiercely.
He was quiet. Often there, not often saying much. He had a soft chuckle. I knew he was a punk musician but other than his clothing he defied every stereotype my young mind held about what it meant to be ‘punk.’ He was gentle, he was quiet. I don’t remember him ever getting mad. He was kind.
He died yesterday. Unexpectedly and suddenly, of a heart attack. I read it on Facebook.
And I’m once again confronted with mortality. I loved his family, his kids, so much. They were young kids, they don’t remember me. I can’t comfort them. I can only sit and imagine how bereft they must be feeling.
He younger than my own dad. He was not that much older than me. Than my husband.
Life is so fleeting.
I was deeply affected by him as a teenager. I am deeply affected now.