When I was in elementary school, my mom went back to work. I remember walking over to the daycare house with Mom to meet with the sitter for the first time. Both my elementary school and the daycare house were in walking distance, but in opposite directions from one another. Why couldn’t they have picked one closer to my school?
We stood on the front stoop, and Mom let me ring the doorbell. Shrieking children and thumping sounds filled the air, and a plump lady named Melanie answered the door. Her curly hair was b-i-g, and a little scary to me. I was 10, and older than all of the other children I saw tumbling over one another and sticking their fingers in the kitty litter box.
Despite her better judgement, Mom sealed the deal with a check, and we walked home. As we passed the neighborhood pool, my heart sunk as I saw the lock on the gate and the tarp over the empty cavern. The days of summer fun were over, and I would soon be spending my mornings with Melanie big hair lady and “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?”.
A few weeks later, Dad started taking me to Melanie’s. We played the same game every day while we walked to her house. Dad would squeeze my hand once, and I’d squeeze his twice. He’d squeeze mine three times, and I’d squeeze his four. Back and forth, back and forth, it was our way of silently saying “I love you”.
I adjusted quickly to Melanie’s care, though I was still the oldest child under her not-always watchful eye. I was usually bored out of my mind. Too old and much too big for the “Sit-N-Spin,” I twirled it around with my foot, watching the colors collide. “I’m booored,” I said, to no one in particular. Melanie was in the other room, fussing with a baby. “Go sit at the breakfast bar, and I’ll make you some waffles.” I didn’t have a choice, so I dragged myself over to the tall breakfast chairs and climbed up. As I sat with my chin resting on my arm, I heard someone saying “Hello? Hello? Melanie? Are you there? Hellooooo?” I spotted the phone off the hook, and picked it up. “Hello?” My little voice said. A woman’s voice replied, “Hi sweetie, can you put Melanie on the phone? She must have forgotten she was talking to me.” I trudged over to tell Melanie she had a phone call, and she said “I didn’t hear the phone ring. Oh, I must have set the phone down again.”
Melanie chatted on the phone while she made my waffles and toast. No protein, just two forms of carbs. I slumped in my chair and watched her. I could hardly hear her conversation because Barney blared on the kitchen television. The hard wood floors didn’t absorb the sound one bit. I glared at the television, annoyed that no one was watching the purple fatty as he sang his “I love you” song. “They should stick to squeezing hands,” I thought, sighing.
The plate clattered on the tiled breakfast bar, and I looked down at my cartoon covered plate. It looks like she had served me a plate of melted butter, with a small lump of bread floating helplessly. Soggy. Really really soggy. Every day the waffles were like that. Sogged with butter. Barney in the background. I didn’t like butter waffles. I wished Barney would just eat my waffles for me. Then he could sing about that. I didn’t like Barney, and I was too old for Mr. Rogers, but that’s what I had to watch. Cartoons aired on Saturday mornings, because there was no such thing as the Cartoon Network.
No, I’m not emotionally damaged from my daycare experience, but I sure was bored in the mornings before school started. Fortunately for me, Mom’s work schedule changed the next semester, and I was no longer one of Melanie’s. To this day, I’m not really a fan of butter on my waffles.