So we’ve moved from Manhattan to the Boston suburbs. A few days ago we loaded up the sedan with toddler, dog, cat, and whatever possessions we couldn’t entrust to the movers. I packed the trunk tighter than a crab’s ass.
Mercifully, Fox’s nanny came along too. Maria agreed to join us until we were installed in a temporary apartment. (We move into a house later in the year – long story.)
We were concerned the move would be traumatic for our son, who’s not quite two. But he’s proven surprisingly adaptable. It would appear Fox just thinks we’re away on vacation, albeit having seriously over-packed.
Our immediate priority is finding a new nanny, stat. It’s not clear how we’ll replace Maria. She’s the only caretaker Fox has ever known. Plus she has some next-level nanny superpowers, like sewing torn blankies. Also the ability to produce pacifiers from her bosom.
A native Colombian and devout Catholic, Maria has a classic nanny appearance: heavyset, mountainous bosom, long skirts, and deceptively dexterous when the situation demands.
She speaks to Fox solely in Spanish with a solicitous voice that trills through the scales. She is fiercely protective of her charge. She will stare down nasty girls on the playground – and also their huffy mothers.
As with all nanny arrangements, there was a lengthy adjustment period. In our case, it lasted roughly until last Tuesday. This was due largely to my wife, who is about as trusting as a feral cat. Case in point:
When Maria leaves the apartment with Fox, Sarah runs through an exhaustive list of instructions, contingencies, hypotheticals, and emergency directives. NASA has sent people into space with shorter checklists.
It’s all a bit comical to overhear because Maria always nods her understanding, despite having deplorable English skills. (Maria: if you’re reading this, “deplorable” means muy bueno.)
When Maria and Fox return from orbiting the neighborhood, the door barely closes before Sarah requests a debriefing: How long did he nap? How much did he eat? When was his last bite? Did he poop? What did it look like?
The grilling always makes Maria tense. Like when you see a cop and you stiffen; and even though you’ve done nothing wrong, his mere presence makes innocent behavior feel fraudulent.
Maria has a tendency to overindulge my son. She scurries to meet his every demand. I’ve looked up from my desk to see Fox sitting in Maria’s arms, facing forward, with an outstretched finger imperiously pointing in the direction she must carry him. He’s like a boy emperor whose feet must never touch earth.
But since spoiling my son is her biggest fault, I tend to ignore it. Who else would patiently sit with Fox as he arranges his animal figures? And no one but Maria would indulge Fox’s obsession with carefully inspecting every parked motorcycle in the neighborhood.
I freely accept that Fox and his nanny share some deep intimacies to which I’ll never be privy. Maria probably sneaks sweets to Fox, even though I don’t allow him juice, let alone candy. And while Maria is bizarrely secretive about hygiene, she is out and about with Fox for hours. Odds are good my son has seen heavy action behind enemy lines.
Maria is extremely emotional. She cries easily and often, whether from happiness or despair, or possibly heartburn. I can never tell.
As she has known Fox since birth, their final days together have had a looming sorrow. Each night after I give Fox his bath before bed, I bring him out to say goodnight to Maria and the pets.
The last two nights were too much for Maria. After Fox said his usual “[Buenos] noches,” and “[Te gusta] mucho,” Maria has fled in a Trail of Tears. Sarah and I exchange silent cringes and helpless shrugs, then hustle Fox to his crib.
This morning I put Maria on the train back to New York. I gave her a hug and told her how much we all love her. She thanked me through tears and responded in kind. I fought back some tears of my own. Because despite the amazing influence she’s had on my son, we both knew he’ll never remember her.