After the debacle of Chaco Canyon we went to Aztec. Well, maybe it wasn’t entirely a debacle. We did get to see several views of the eclipse. Some telescopes of different types were set up for general use, and we saw the whole of the eclipse in a landscape entirely prehistoric. It was a beautiful evening, and if I wasn’t facing the prospect of the road out, I might have had a great time.
When we arrived in Aztec, Brian met us to lead us to his new place. I asked how the fight was with Heather (his wife). He said, “We don’t fight. You know that.” That’s when I knew there had just been the rush to clean and the cursing. It’s not fair to show up a day early, but at least we didn’t spring completely without warning. By the time we got to their place, Heather was ready and entirely gracious.
I noticed something unusual in Heather’s dining room. She has these huge, built-in china cabinets, but they don’t hold china. They hold stacks of clean children’s chothes sorted by size. The cabinets have lights on the inside, so the display made me feel like we were eating in a Baby Gap. There was also a toy dining table set up in the living room. These signs began a nostalgic echo in my mind.
When did they start calling it day care? When I was little, I went to day care, but we didn’t call it that. We called it the babysitter’s house. That was years ago in Carrizozo, New Mexico. My mom was working for the Lincoln County News, and during the day I was at Mrs. Hobbs’ house, the babysitter’s. Mrs. Hobbs kept the Saddlers, the Curtis boys and me. There was a total of seven regulars in our day care. Mrs. Hobbs had us play outside in the mornings, then she would serve us a home made lunch, then we all went into the “nap room” for at least an hour after lunch, then sometime in the afternoon our mothers would arrive and take us home. Most of my memories of those days are pretty dim, but I do recall that we were often fed beans and cornbread for lunch. Most of us were not fans of plain, old pinto beans, but Mrs. Hobbs allowed us to put ketchup on them. To this day, I think all of us who had her as our babysitter eat beans this way. It irritates our families no end. Why does this dim vision of Mrs. Hobbs return?
At 6:30 the next morning at Brian’s house, I woke to the sound of kiddy TV. When I stepped into the living room, the first members of Heather’s Day Care had arrived and were eating breakfast at the toy table. A little later two more sleepy-eyed toddlers walked through the door. The little girl was delicately weeping, and Heather asked her, “Are you feeling bad?”
“Go sit in Papa’s lap.”
At this point the little girl went and climbed in my brother’s lap. He patted her back and said, “It’s all right.”
Her tears immediately dried.
When the five children of the day had all arrived and had their breakfast finished, Heather, with the staunch tone of a field marshal commanded, “Come get your sun screen.” The crew lined up, and as they stood before her, they extended their arms and closed their eyes. “Now, go out and play.” Out they went–five children followed by as many dogs. Heather began working on the lunch she would eventually serve them. The kids played noisily and happily, and they are about as healthy and well made as any group of children I have ever seen. About thirty minutes into their morning play time Heather called out of the window above the kitchen sink, “Victoria! You get in here and pee pee in the potty.” That’s when I realized why I had been thinking about Mrs. Hobbs.
When Heather spotted the particular walk that indicated a child needed the bathroom, she gave this imperious order, and in almost every case, she was immediately obeyed. However, one child missed the window and had an accident. She came in weeping delicately with wet drawers.
“Get in there and pee pee,” Heather scolded, then she went in and took the soiled clothes. She came out and opened her Baby Gap display and picked out a cute little outfit, all clean. Moments later the child emerged.
“What’s going to happen if you pee pee in your pants again?” Heather asked.
“I’m going to get a swat,” said the child.
“That’s right. Now, go outside and play.”
Those children played, then they had lunch, then they had a nap, then their parents began arriving to take them home. I was totally impressed with the way Heather babysat. The kids like each other, and they like her and Brian, and they eat well and are satified. They don’t spend hours in front of the television, and because Heather likes all manner of animals, they learn about chickens, cats, dogs, and even goats. They will probably all know how to milk a goat before they start elementary school. That’s as good a distinction as eating beans with ketchup.
I loved Heather’s Day Care. I’d stay there anytime.