The older I’ve become the more, it seems like I’ve lived many different lives, not reincarnation, but different seasons I guess. Apart from who I am, but they are me. Like before, when I lived in Pioneer, Village Kentucky….
I came across an essay I wrote in college while I was cleaning out my office Saturday. It was about my babysitter.
I loved that lady.
Some people are like warm hugs, and she was that for me.
Hanging from trees, warm blankets, and thick slabs of Velveeta cheese are memories I have of my time with Mrs. Rickets. The first five years of my life are filled with fuzzy glimpses of her, and I treasure those.
Mrs. Rickets lived just down the block from my parents in Shepherdsville, Kentucky; a sleeping suburb of Louisville. The cookie-cutter, 1950s neighborhood boasted of three bedroom ranches with one bath, and maybe a basement. My mother taught third grade and arranged for Mrs. Rickets to care for me while she taught.
I never remember meeting Mrs. Rickets. I just always knew her. Funny now that I think of it, I don’t even know her first name.
Children filled the streets, all about the same age. Joy lived across the street, and the Crumback’s, they had twin boys, lived two houses down. Then, there was Becky, Mrs. Rickets youngest daughter. She was six years older than me.
I adored her.
She was beautiful, with long blonde hair, and a loving personality like her mother. Often we played with paper dolls while we listened 45’s. Her room was pink and fluffy.
One thing in particular held my interest, their massive climbing tree. Its limbs hung low to the ground, making it easy for small arms to reach. Up we would go, until our feet dangled above roofs, and we looked out toward the empty corn fields. Mrs. Rickets didn’t like it much, and always shooed us down. The Crumback boys climbed the highest, but soon I caught up. Back then fear didn’t grip me as it does now.
While the kids were at school, I often went down to Mrs. Rickets’ basement to play. Being four, I can’t remember as clearly as I would like, but I do remember the wonderful assortment of dolls, baby beds, a play kitchen with pots and pans, and the best of all, an art easel. Not the ones like today, but one made of wood. She dressed me in a worn blue button down shirt of Mr. Rickets’ and set me up to paint. I spent hours creating landscapes of my grandfather’s farm. Paint dripped down the paper, but that added to the scene. Every image I brought her, she oohed and aahed over, and placed on her white rounded refrigerator.
After a long morning of playing, Mrs. Rickets stood at the top of the steps, in her pink polyester dress with shoes that always matched and say, “Sonia, time for your nap.”
I know most kids despised naps, but I never remember squawking, I guess we knew that temper tantrums never worked so we just gave in, or secretly I loved naps. I slept in her neat, brown bedroom. Everything was brown, the floors—hardwood brown, the dresser—dark cherry, the bed spread—Hershey chocolate. Above the bed, two oval framed portraits watched over me; a man and a woman, both dressed in the clothing of another time. As I curled up in a tiny ball with the blankets wrapped around me, I stared at the curves of their faces, their eyes. What were they thinking? An old pendulum clock hung over her dresser;
its beats, lulling me to sleep.
In a haze of almost slumber, the floors creaked as she tucked the covers around me, then the door slowly latched.
I knew all was well in the world, and I was safe.
Love lived in their house.
Every morning at their chrome kitchen table, with red trim, Mr. and Mrs. Rickets opened their care worn bible. They sat there discussing passages. I squirmed onto Mr. Rickets’ lap, and he told me bible stories while he drank his morning coffee. That time gave me a glimpse of how life can be calm and simple. They never hurried or rushed. Often she made my lunch while I sat at the same table, my feet swinging back and forth. She paused for long moments, looking out the window as she made my lunch. Fried bologna, apples, and a big hunk of Velveeta cheese. And to this day, it has to be Velveeta, not because it’s better, but because of that memory.
Many years later, I told my mom how much Mrs. Rickets and her family meant to me. She told me how she regretted having to find a new babysitter. We had moved to a new community many miles away and it was no longer convenient for her to watch me. I would still visit, but now, it was just a visit and not the same.
Becky grew up and married, and Mr. and Mrs. Rickets sold their home and moved closer to Becky in the city. I don’t know what happened to them or Becky, but I am glad they gave me such rich sweet memories. Their family helped make me the mother, wife, writer, Christian I am today.