david sedaris and babysitters

Last night Jon and I went to hear DAVID SEDARIS (tix were bday gift from my sweet sis) and it was, as one would expect, incredibly hilarious.

My favorite story was the one he read about the scary, white trash baby sitter - Mrs. Peacock - whom his parents hired to watch him and his four sisters one week while they went away on a vacation. Mrs. Peacock was hugely fat and had long, wavy hair the "color of margarine." Her skin, which she required the Sedaris children to scratch incessantly with a "plastic monkeypaw on a stick" was "the color of vaseline...an UNcolor."

The story got me to thinking about some of the weird babysitters my parents employed during summers when we were young. My mother and father worked long hours at their jobs as reporters, located many, many miles away from the extremely remote, ramshackle farm where we lived. It wasn't so easy to FIND a babysitter to care for three children all summer miles away from the nearest real town.

One summer we were care for by the sweet but strange *Clem and Eunice Shiflett (*pseudonyms), who lived on an even more ramshackle farm just down the road from us. Each morning we would either be dropped off at their farm or Mrs. Shiflett would arrive at ours for the day. I preferred the latter because at least we had loads of books at our house to keep me entertained during the nine to twelve hours my parents were gone.

At the Shifletts' house, there were only stacks and stacks of dated Readers Digests to while away the hours. Worst of all, however, on the days we spent at the Shifletts', mid morning, Clem would catch and kill one of the many chickens running around their yard, and then Eunice would fry it up for our lunch. I always imagined I could still taste the feathers. I think I lost weight that summer, even though I was 10 or 11 years old and should have been growing.

My mother LOVED Mrs. Shiflett and as a working mother myself now, I can appreciate that it must have been very nice for her to come home to a tidier house and a crockpot full of supper that she then would not have to worry about cooking herself. And she insisted that we, too, loved Mrs. Shiflett, but in fact, I didn't. her constant praying made me wildly uncomfortable and guilty all at the same time ...and then there were the dead chickens.


Anonymous said...

The 'Shifletts' don't sound THAT bad. When I think of the poor women that my mom hired to keep us, I wonder how much they paid them to watch us, clean house, and start dinner. Probably not a whole lot.
And hey isn't free range chicken all the rage now? The 'Shifletts' were before their time: free-range AND sans packaging in that lunch!

Mr. Booni said...

One of the great things about that story was how it revealed the snobbery of Sedaris and his siblings through their view of the sitter. He deftly skewered both the odd woman and himself.