Friday, March 4, 2016

More About Research

I sent off Hooking for Trouble. I would have liked a couple more weeks to tweak it, but I had to send it in. I’ll have to do the tweaking when I get the edits. I’m already thinking about them and making notes. For one thing I have Molly’s mother’s name wrong. Thank you Linda for finding out that I named her Liza.

It isn’t giving much away to mention there are several nannies in the book. I was so busy writing, I forgot my own experience as a nanny. Maybe I forgot it consciously, but it was probably banging around in the back of my mind.

I was 17 and graduating high school and I got the idea of working at a summer resort before I started college in the fall. I even ran an ad in the Saturday Review. I didn’t get any interest from the ad, but one of my babysitting customers knew somebody who owned a resort in Michigan who hired a nanny every summer – though in those days I think I was called a mother’s helper.

I got the job and a week after I graduated my mother drove me there. It was just outside of South Haven, Michigan and right on the lake. It turned out a family owned it and I worked for one of the son’s and his wife. Some of the family lived in a rather grand looking house on the property. We stayed in a small cottage.

The grounds were very nice. Along with assorted guest rooms and cottages, there was a restaurant, a theater, a playground, snack bar and a pool. We were on a bluff above the lake, but there was a beach below. In other words, a great place for a vacation.

I was responsible for three kids, 10, 7 and 3. I had babysat so much, that taking care of them was second nature. While writing this, I remembered that I got my first babysitting job when I was 11. For a week, I took care of a 2 year old from 8 in the morning until 6.

But back to the nanny job. In the book there is a whole lot of intrigue with the nanny and there is a question if might have something going with the kid’s father or uncle. There was nothing like that in my experience. The kids’ father barely seemed to notice me, which I heard from other people who worked at the resort was a good thing. He only talked to you if you were doing a bad job.

The funny thing is that I would save up my days off and leave the resort to go back to Chicago. I would get sad when I had to go back. But I stuck with it for the whole summer. My pay was ridiculous even for those days and the fact I worked 24/6. The kids never called me mommy, but after I left, they kept calling their mother, Betty. Another funny thing, in some weird coincidence I met somebody who had worked in the resort restaurant years later and found out that all the rest of the staff thought I had it made and was being paid big bucks.

My nanny in the book has other goals than just watching over the kids. I didn’t. I dealt with temper tantrums and a 3 year old who was still in diapers. I had to overrule a mother who was more interested in style than comfort when getting them dressed. I ended up having extra kids dropped off by their parents. It was all on me, there wasn’t even a TV in the place for them to watch for a while.

It was also the summer I discovered I was no longer allergic to cats. I had been so allergic that even getting in the vicinity of one would make my eyes water horribly and me to sneeze uncontrollably. They had one who seemed to sleep with me and I didn’t sneeze once.

One particular memory – it was the kids’ mother’s birthday, so I decided we should make her a cake. My mother was always making birthday cakes for people, so it seemed natural to me. The 3 year old and I baked one using frying pans since they didn’t have regular cake pans. The frying pans were different sizes so the cake appeared tiered. I don’t remember what we iced it with, other than it was chocolate and like whipped cream. I didn’t expect the cake to be a big deal for the mother, but she actually cried when we gave it to her and said no one had ever done anything like that for her before.

And then at the end of the summer I left and never saw any of them again


Planner said...

What an interesting experience! I love the cake story--it just goes to show how small kindnesses can mean a lot to people.

Linda O. Johnston said...

It's always fun when a story's research can also be based on real experience. I admire you for being a nanny! And even if you didn't consciously think of it while you were writing, I'm a great believer in how the subconscious mind can tell us lots.

ldosborn said...

I always read your blog on Friday morning--and it is always listed as having arrived around 2 or 3 AM. Is that when you actually write, or is it just my crazy internet carrier ??? Anyway, your proof reader has a great job--finding things like the wrong name for Molly's mother ! Remember I reminded you that Mason's son and grandson had turned into a daughter in San Diego !

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Betty Hechtman said...

Planner, I was surprised at the reaction about the cake and was very glad we made it for her.

Betty Hechtman said...

Linda, Yes, I'm sure my subconscious was at work. And when I do the tweaking, my conscious will be at work.

Betty Hechtman said...

Idosborn, the posting time that shows up is eastern standard time and I'm on the west coast, so it's three hours earlier. I did put the post up after I got home from the seminar, our family business put on.

I laughed when you mentioned Mason's "other family." I had completely forgotten about them until you brought it up.

Monica Ferris said...

Love the story of the cake! It should be in a book.