My babysitters
came from Mars

That's the only explanation. It's a mystery how my parents ever found my babysitters. Back then in the late 1940's and early 50's my father's first job was carrying bricks at a lumberyard. My mother found work at a sewing factory. Thus an inexpensive babysitter was a necessity, not a luxury.

My first babysitter was so ancient I didn't think she even had a first name. We respectfully called her Miss Somertime (not her real name). She was a retired schoolteacher. I can't imagine what she taught.

 I wanted to please my first babysitters

She told me to practice making small circles on lined paper. I was enthusiastic - at first. This activity was something different and I wanted to please her. Sitting on my usual spot on the floor at my babysitter's feet, I made a whole page of O's while she knitted.

And then I proudly presented her with my work. But instead of praise or the encouragement I timidly hoped for, she said, "That's nice, just keep going." It was only a way to keep me occupied. To keep me seen and not heard.

Me and my little brother. He became an orthopedic surgeon.

She always brought
an apple

Miss Somertime had asthma. When her breathing became wheezy, she would fumble around in her purse and retrieve a contraption which sprayed when she squeezed it. She would spray into her mouth and then her breathing got better again. This happened several times a day.

Miss Somertime was allergic to apples. Every day she would bring an apple with her. It didn't occur to me to wonder why she would carry an apple in her purse if she was allergic to it. Sometimes she would ask me, "This apple is so beautiful. Should I take a bite? Just one little bite? It will be so juicy and delicious. Shall I?"

I learned my babysitter's routine

After the first few times, I knew the routine. Wide-eyed and frightened, I shook my head very slowly from side to side, but eventually my babysitter gave herself permission. After her first bite of the apple, she would inevitably start wheezing badly. It never occurred to me that Mrs Somertime was unbalanced. Most grown-ups didn't make much sense and I never thought to question them.

I love my baby brother. He's trying to get away but I'm holding on tight.

At last my first babysitter moved away

After several years, Miss Somertime told my parents that she was moving far away and could no longer babysit. My parents pressed her for anyone who could take her place. But she could think of no one.

Finally, she said she met another lady on the bus who mentioned that she was looking for a job. Miss Somertime gave my parents Mrs. McWitch's number. (obviously not her real name) No references. Not even Miss Somertime really knew her except for that one meeting on the bus where they had exchanged phone numbers.

He'll always be my baby brother. I wonder what I'll always be to him?

From the frying pan…

Mrs. McWitch didn't just passively ignore us. She yelled at us.
Once she called me a "dirty little Jewess". I stared at her, in stunned shock. She immediately realized the possible consequences and pleaded with me to not tell my parents. Did she actually apologize? I only remember that she didn't want to lose her job. I had a different reason for not telling my mother. I didn't want my mother to be upset. Years later I now know that this is typical of children of the holocaust. We want to protect our parents. We want to shield them.

There was a little girl my age, who lived across the road.
Once when she was visiting, Mrs. McWitch yelled at both of us. My friend tearfully ran back home. Why was she so upset? She wasn't even Jewish. Maybe she wasn't used to being yelled at.
Meanwhile, Mrs. McWitch escalated her verbal attack into a frenzy. "I'm not staying here a moment longer!"

And then Mrs McWitch left.  Just like that. She stormed away. I ran across the road to tell my friend who sorrowfully said that she wasn't allowed to visit me anymore because of Mrs. McWitch. I happily told her that my babysitter was gone. We hugged each other and jumped up and down together.

Two little girls joyfully singing "Yay". My friend's mother said something in a reprimanding tone, and they exchanged some words in Ukrainian. Then we hugged some more and jumped up and down some more and yelled "Yay" some more.

We never saw my babysitters again. From then on, I took care of my little brother.