I was living in government subsidized housing, I had just moved in. I had a wooden picnic table for a kitchen table...... a couple of beds, a toy box, a sofa I bought from my girl friend, Pam, for $25 and a child.....almost 2 years old.
Olan Mills hired me and I could have not been happier, after all I was making $4 and hour PLUS bonus if I met my weekly goal in sales. My passion for photography combined with enough money to make a living for my child and I ...without collecting any money or food stamps from the government and NO child support either... I could do this.
My pinto was shiny red with chrome rims and a good sound system. My friends (who I thought to be good ones at the time) lived nearby work..... there was a daycare across the street that I could put my daughter in on Fridays for $25 for the day..... because my schedule was 9-6 on that day....Tues-Thurs was another story ...I had to work 11-8 I had to find another source ...
A girl was recommended, about my age, that lived in the "complex" Town & Country. She had 2 children of her own and was charging $40 a week. I immediately hired her. After 2 days of my daughter not being happy, crying when I left her and when I picked her up and being extra clingy .... I knew I needed to find another sitter as she had a sitter since she was born and this had never been the case.
I inquired in the office..... well yes, there was an elderly woman....her name was "mrs. spence." She loved to watch children, she was watching 2 toddlers right now. She was in her seventies.
I knocked on the door and was greeted by this grey haired, medium build woman.... with an apron on. She smiled widely as she opened the door and let me in. The apartment was tidy and CHOCK FULL of furniture and knick-knacks. There were two smiling toddlers there ...playing in the floor but I didn't see any toys...they were playing with empty wooden spools....like blocks...they were stacking them. There was a smell. I did not know what it was, could't quite put my finger on it. It wasn't the"old people" smell...... that I would recognize.... it was another .... ammonia like smell... that was faint but there enough for me to recognize. My daughter was potty trained already .... the cost? $5 a day and ABSOLUTELY she could stay until 9 so that gave me plenty of time to get home. She was hired.
It was only a couple of days later that Rachel, my daughter, excitedly wanted me to meet "baby" Mary. Mrs. Spence "had a baby" she told me. I was visualizing a doll ....mrs. spence must have a doll that Rachel called her baby. I was led to one of the bedrooms. There was a hospital bed ... I could see the rails from the door...as Rachel turned that corner into that room. The smell was overwhelming as I entered. There she was.... on her side and all drawn up. There was Mary.
Rachel hopped on a stool beside Mrs. Spence. Both of them were smiling. Mrs. Spence proudly introduced me to her "50 something" year old daughter. She "never had any bed sores" and had been bedridden since she was 3 months old.
Rachel had a previous sitter whose husband was a parapalegic so she had been introduced to the world of "different people" prior to this and was not intimidated or withdrawn from Mary .... she was "right in there" feeding her, rubbing her arms and talking to her as if nothing was wrong at all! But there was......
Mary had a stroke as an infant. She was blind and drawn up. She went through all of her stages of life in that hospital bed...never saying one word of English...never potty trained ...but developed and grew like an adult. Mrs. Spence had other, normal children that were grown and her husband passed away and she lived in a tiny apartment making ends meet ... her and Mary ...for the rest of her days.
She kept Rachel for over a year. She did it very well....without ever leaving the apartment .... and taking care of Mary too.
One day ...she made me a pie.... she told me on the phone while I was at work. A french apple pie! My mouth watered as I conjured up images of this delicacy. A luxury that I would not have bought or made for myself.... I could not wait to get home and eat it! I picked it up , when I picked up my daughter.... it was beautiful.. A hand rolled crust , crimped edges and little slits in the top that mimicked the center of an apple ... the way the seeds were laid out ..... I could not wait to get home.
I tucked Rachel into bed.... and brewed a cup of coffee. I sat down on my worn out couch and looked around. I can remember the blanket on the wall made from tans .... that I had hanging ...depicting horses to cover a large blank white wall that I was not allowed to paint. I had tried to bring some warmth into my sparse surroundings. I was happy that night, I cut on the television and dug my fork into the pie and saw raisins were in there.... and smelled cinnamon and nutmeg...I closed my eyes and put a huge bite into my mouth.... BLECK.... WHAT IN THE WORLD? Mrs. Spence.... Bless her heart ..had made my French Apple Pie from what she had... Mary's baby food jars......... I was never to order, eat , or dream up visions of French Apple Pie AGAIN without gagging....... I threw in in the trash..... and went to bed and cried.
I cried not because I didn't have a french apple pie....but I cried for mrs. spence and her love and what she had to teach. She was a gift to me and my daughter for over a year. This woman...was dealt a rough hand..... no not a rough one...but almost an impossible one to bare..... and she played that hand as if it were perfect.....I had much to learn from her.
Mary died five or six years later and Mrs. Spence didn't live long after her. At her age I thought she would take a time for herself and "get outside" and rest. I thought she would explore and adventure the best she could with her remaining days , as she wasn't able for so long.... Her other daughter said she died of "loneliness, almost in no time at all." She missed her babies; Mary and the one's she kept....