Growing up, our babysitter was Holly. She lived next door and was, perhaps, the coolest person in the history of ever. She would sunbathe outside and listen to KISS 98.5 FM, which was way more cool than Magic 102, don’t you know. She would give me her hand-me-down clothes and how awesome is it to get hand-me-downs from the coolest person in all of eternity!? I loved being babysat by Holly. I don’t remember much of what we did, or how often it happened, but I remember she was fun and kind and didn’t treat me like I was an annoying little shit. (Once Holly got too old to babysit, Denise from down the street took over. She was fine, but she was no Holly.)
Once I got to be 12 or 13, man, did I want a babysitting gig. I would rock the socks off that shit, because I had Holly to emulate. Plus I was a 7-years-older sister to my younger brother so I had practice with little kids. I hooked up with my first babysitting opportunities through a family whose son, Andy, was on my brother’s t-ball team. Two little boys, 7 and 5. They were ADORABLE. I babysat for them once or twice, their parents paid well (back then, babysitters didn’t demand a rate like they do now — or if they did, I was certainly too timid to do so! I took whatever people wanted to pay me and I was grateful for it, mostly. One family was really quite obscenely stingy and I didn’t sit for them again. I was conveniently unavailable – it’s amazing how timidity can translate into passive-aggressiveness, even as a 13 year-old.)
Andy and his little brother were a bit mischevious but nothing I couldn’t handle. I daresay we had fun.
Then, one time, I came over to babysit for an afternoon. As they were leaving, Andy’s mom mentioned that Andy said he was feeling a little “icky” earlier in the day and hopefully it would be nothing, and they would be back in about three hours.
About a half-hour into the afternoon, Andy says his tummy hurts. I get him a bowl, just in case. Ten minutes later, BAM, FIREWORKS. Ungodly amounts of vomit erupt from the nether regions of this child’s digestive system.
I am certain I inherited from my mother an innate ability to keep my shit together on the surface in the most disgusting of circumstances. I had a nasty bout of food poisoning when I was 13, the results of which, well, I’m just shocked my mom didn’t just say “fuck it” and tear out the whole bathroom. Is it a woman thing? I certainly can’t say for sure in a statistically significant way, but the fact of the matter is I’ve only witnessed men actually throw up when faced with disgusting crap (figuratively and literally). I have a tendency toward hysterics when faced with stressful situations but when shit gets gross, I get downright stoic. Puke and crap are literally my husband’s Kryptonite. They will crack his impenetrable exterior faster than a cold dish in a hot oven.
Regardless of how I came to have the ability, I kept on my big-girl pants and soothed this little person through his puking into the bowl. (Doesn’t this kid chew his food? I’d wondered throughout.) Once he’d finally wrapped up the pyrotechnics, he volunteered to take the bowl and dump it in the bathroom, because I think he felt bad for throwing up and wanted to help, sweet boy. I followed just behind him, far enough behind that he felt he was doing it himself, close enough that I could help if he needed it. Not close enough, however, to intercede in his cat-like stealth to dump this vast amount of very chunky vomitus into the SINK instead of the TOILET.
NO NO NO NO NO!! MOTHER OF GOD WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?!?! PUKE GOES IN THE TOILET ALWAYS IN THE TOILET!!!
That’s what I thought. What I said was, “Thanks, Andy. Hey, next time, dump that in the toilet, OK?”
“Oh. OK. Sorry.” He apologized and then I felt awful for even saying anything. We rinsed and dried the bowl and I sent him back to the couch.
But then I turned back and stared at the sink and dug my fingernails into the palms of my hand as I thought about how the hell I was going to clean that up. I certainly didn’t want to touch it. In the end, rinsing as much as I could down the drain and then getting whatever was left with paper towels was my chosen strategy. It worked OK, but I swore up and down at Andy and his parents the whole time.
This was the pre-cell phone era, and the parents were out running errands so they didn’t leave a number where they could be reached. So, I called my mom. “THEY LEFT YOU WITH A SICK KID?!?” my mom asked, rhetorically and disgustedly. “They better pay you double!!” She offered to come over and help me but I declined. This was my gig, after all. I didn’t need my mommy to bail me out. But it was nice to vent to her a little and hear that she had my back.
Andy threw up once more, and *I* took the bowl that time.
When the parents returned, they did apologize but they didn’t pay me double. But they did make me appreciate my mom just a little more.