“I’m watchin’ him!”

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‘The “Playdate”, back in Midcentury Modern Times.’

Last week I wrote about the Midcentury Modern custom of sending a high-school social studies class on a field trip to a maximum-security prison. I say “custom” because, frankly, I was astonished to find that many of you readers out there had done the very same thing. (And that’s not counting those of you who went to the very same high school as me.)

This week I’m curious to see how many of you grew up experiencing the Midcentury Modern version of the “playdate”.

“Playdates”, for those of you who don’t have, haven’t had, or don’t know anyone with children, are when parents or caregivers (what we used to call “babysitters”) set up specific times and places (“dates”) for kids to get together to “play”.

I just love that there is an actual Wikipedia entry for “playdate”. If you don’t feel like clicking, here’s what it goes on to say: Playdates have become common because the work schedules for busy parents, along with media warnings about leaving children unattended, prevent the kind of play that children of other generations participated in.

Hmmm. Just what “kind of play” was this? Continue reading

Alice’s Adventures in Babysitting

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‘Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t love this job’

Okay. Enough already with the Holidays. Everyone’s back at work. Even those of us who are, shall we say, ‘underemployed’, are working. See my riff ‘I love the smell of Soft Scrub in the morning’ for what I’m up to when I’m not writing brochures for Botox.

Like practically everyone where and when I grew up, I started working young. We were expected to do ‘chores’. Back in those days, these were sexually segregated. Boys did things like mow the lawn and wash the dog (harder than it sounds). Girls did things like peel potatoes and watch the little kids (much harder than it sounds).

Helping out at a very early age. I don't think I got an allowance then though

Helping out with the laundry. I don’t think I got an allowance then though

Of course boys and girls alike did things like wash and dry the dishes, there being no dishwashers (except children) till I was, oh, a teenager. Actually, I kind of enjoyed the old pre-labor-saving-device method. For one thing, it was companionable, since two of us teamed up, one to wash, and one to dry. (If the ‘dryer’ caught up with the ‘washer’, the dryer got to quit.) Continue reading

They didn’t do this for fun, you know

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‘Summer jobs I did not have. But I swear I did not make them up, either’

When I was a kid, a summer job was babysitting. Or working at the 5-and-10. Pumping gas. My best friend Norma had the coolest job of anyone I knew. She worked at the Dairy Queen. One of the perks was you could eat as much DQ as you wanted, which sounded pretty sweet until she told me she had a hard time even looking at a banana boat after the first couple of days.

But these jobs absolutely pale in comparison to the gigs scored by my personal family members in their respective college years. The Child spent one summer working with computers. ‘Yawn’, you say. Well, these computers were located here:

The Child's workplace one summer. She had her own apartment above the stables. Very Thomas Hardy-esque

The Child’s workplace one summer. She had her own apartment above the stables. Very Thomas Hardy-esque

That’s Wadhurst Park, a 900-acre estate in East Sussex. Which is in England, folks. It’s owned by the second-richest guy in Sweden. (Makes you wonder where the richest guy in Sweden lives.) Oh, and here he is, Hans. The Child said she was invited to tea with him and his wife once while she was there. The conversation was less than lively. Not sure if she met the dog.

Hans Rausing, The Child's Boss and the second-richest man in Sweden.

Hans Rausing, The Child’s Boss and the second-richest man in Sweden.

Incidentally, Hans’ dad made the family fortune by inventing the milk carton. Honest. Oh, besides owning that dog in his lap, Hans owned pigs. That’s one of them pictured at the top of this post making friends with The Child. (In addition to working with the estate computers, she performed various livestock-related duties. Including, sometimes, a bit of pig wrangling. And mucking.) Continue reading

That’s my Bob

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‘Your family is who you think your family is’

My favorite second brother Roger is many things: filmmaker, banjo player, wind miller, and maker of the best chili on the planet. Who knew he was also a trailblazer? Yes, Roger was a member of a ‘blended family’ way before ‘blended’ was a term stuck on the front of ‘family’.

See, back when Roger was just a tyke, my dad was transferred to Memphis for his job and our young family landed (somehow, I’m not sure how or why, I was only seven at the time) in a very large house near a university. To help pay the rent, my parents took in boarders — a couple of college guys, one named Bill Something-or-Other and another named Bob Sipowich. They lived upstairs, kept to themselves. Everything worked out fine. Except for the time we kids (there were three of us at this point) all came down with the measles over Christmas at my Gramma Peterson’s so we had to stay there till we got well and the boarders didn’t feed or water our parakeet Petey while we were away and he (gasp) died.

Anyway. That was traumatic. Just had to get it out.

Back to the story. Continue reading

Gone Baby Gone

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Mom Vase

‘The Nest. Is it half-empty? Or half-full?’

I think I can trace my rather non-involved mommy style back to a certain babysitting gig where I had to keep track of the kids’ poops on a chart. There were two of them (kids, that is), and a correspondingly healthy number of poops.

That, and a few other instances of dealing with what we now call ‘helicopter parenting’ put me off hovering. But I have to admit in all honesty that I was never destined to be one of those let’s-bake-a-zillion-cookies-and-then-whip-up-some-papier-mache-heads kind of moms.

The Dude (thank you!) was happy to handle Playground Duty. When the Child would say ‘Run, Mommy, run!’, I was apt to reply ‘Mommies don’t run; babysitters run’. And when well-meaning adults would exclaim Continue reading