And They Will Rise Up

          Rally 1


 I had a plethora of nannies growing up.

Never did I think I would use the word plethora in this context; it sounds a bit absurd – I shall explain.

My father was considered an older dad back in my youth. While all my friends had dads in their mid-thirties and forties, mine was at least 20 years ahead of all of them. He was born in 1928 and though he was a man who moved mountains, entrepreneurial, independent and self-sufficient, he was raised in the generation where men literally did not know how to boil an egg nor did they have any idea how to use a washing machine. Then came our situation; the two of us alone, somehow supposed to know how to navigate the next stage(s) of life. Trust me, we did not. With the help of my bubbe and Aunt, who was and still is quite the wunderkind, we managed for a while.

I do not remember when or how this conversation started because all I know is that my ears began to ring and I saw only white light (drama queen, hence this conversation) – my dad hired an Au Pair from Germany, Anya, and she was coming in a week. Also please, let us not get mystified by the French word Au Pair – it is a fancy word for nanny and my dad could have said he was hiring a rainbow unicorn – I knew what it was.

As an aside, many people have suggested I could write a story or book about this particular time in my life. Maybe someday there will be a sequel to this very abridged version, though believe me I bet one of these poor women has written about their experience with me in a knock off version of the Nanny Diaries; my name may have changed from Jessie to Jackie to avoid a lawsuit, but I bet it’s out there.   “Oh no! You seem so sweet, I bet all your nannies loved you!” Some would say. Well, not the nanny whose lavender tinted shampoo with a hint of sweet grape came out green and stinky one morning in the shower. Not that one; she ran. I think she was the one who left her right shoe, like an insane Cinderella, on our driveway. She never came back for it.

Like a carousel my house dropped one off and brought another onboard.

Anya came from Germany. She smoked with her bedroom window slightly cracked open and almost killed us both by having me sit on the bar frame of her bike so she could see her boyfriend. Anya did not have an American driver’s license. There was a shoelace in the spoke issue (my shoelace); and though I recovered concussion free, she left.

Then arrived Rosa from El Salvador; her lips were always chapped and she could not speak English. She loved to snuggle and make tortillas but she decided to go back to college. She left.

Ohhh la la….Here comes Catherine from France. She taught me all the best French swear words and met a dopey guy who always came over; she sucked face in front of me a lot. She could not cook. She left.

Shireen. She lived on the rough side of Milwaukee. I guess my dad was done with international childcare. She made ribs that could take off all the papillae on your tongue. She taught me about civil rights and about being fair and equal. She never came back after one of her days off. She left, I guess.

Oy. The arrival of Debbie. She was the shampoo nanny. I say no more. She left.

Finally Paula. My favorite. I was eleven by the time she came. She introduced me to her friends, she was beautiful, she talked to me and she listened, she was a competitive speed skater and always wore the coolest jeans – always perfectly worn in and soft. I actually began to love her a lot. As time always does it moved on and its hands pushed Paula on to a better, more productive life with more opportunities. I cried like a maniac when she left. She got on her knees and hugged me around the waist and said, “I will always be here for you even when I am gone; everyone who loves you gives you all the pieces you need to be okay. You will be okay.”

So here is where I bring this train back into the station. Yesterday was March 14th, one month after the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Thousands of students left their schools to protest the lack of gun reform in our country. I joined a group of parents at a coffee shop that sidelined the march of students so we could show support. Soon we could see the image rise from a distance – a mirage of bright colors and strong voices slowly heading in our direction. Before they arrived the host and co-host of this event came together to thank everyone for coming. The main host said this, “This March is created by the kids, because of the kids and for the kids. This is their March, this is their day. If we want to support them please let them pass first and stay in the background so they can have this day as their own.”

There were not many dry eyes in this particular crowd of parents for a plethora of reasons (had to use it one more time!) What this man said was meant for that moment; however what he said was a metaphor and symbol of our job as parents and caretakers. I think we all knew it too. That moment represented why we parent; so our kids can have the courage and strength and self-assurance they will need to succeed and speak their mind.

It is true that some of these pieces, influences, may have failed us and our children. Some extra pieces may bring out the worst sides of our personalities and make us do unfortunate things (aka…green shampoo). Our children have front row seats right now to a show quite like the epic Spaghetti Western – The good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Parents, teachers and even nannies – whoever we are -our job is to give our children all the essential and valuable pieces they need to rise up.

“And I’ll rise up
I’ll rise like the day
I’ll rise up
I’ll rise unafraid
I’ll rise up
And I’ll do it a thousand times again
And I’ll rise up
High like the waves
I’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
I’ll rise up
And I’ll do it a thousand times again
For you
For you
For you
For you…”

Andra Day