I needed the money, so I accepted the request. The two little Beemer boys were hellions, but the good news was that Dr. Beemer and his wife didn’t need me until 7 o’clock. I’d let the kids watch their favorite show – Gilligan’s Island – feed them some cookies, and then get them to bed by 8.
I walked over to their house at 6:55. Hard to believe that that they lived right next door. Once I went inside that house, it was if I were miles away. Mrs. Beemer came to the door a second after I rang the bell. I was sure she couldn’t wait to get out of there. She was not in control of that household. Neither was the good doctor.
Even though it was May, 1968, Mrs. Beemer dressed like 1955. She wore a lime green shirtdress that was tight at the waist with a thin belt, and the skirt billowed out to two inches below her knees. Her brown hair was cut short and rolled into tight curls.
Her husband, a Ph.D. psychology professor, looked even odder. He was a small man, but his bald, shiny scalp made him look taller. His thick, stubby body was covered in a suit two sizes too big. His brown leather clown shoes emphasized huge feet, and his round face was highlighted by pale blue eyes enlarged behind clear spectacles.
I looked at husband and wife as they struggled to calm down their two sons, 8 and 7. It was obvious they were late-in-life parents, and they didn’t have a clue about how to raise children.
Worse, Dr. Beemer was a child psychologist so he spoke knowingly to me after each of my babysitting nights about the way to rear children: never raise your voice, never discipline, never disagree with your child. I had ascertained at the young age of 15 that I would do the opposite when I became a mother.
Just as Mrs. Beemer finally got Jimmy down in front of the T.V. with a Tastycake – I guessed blackmail was on the “to do” list of childrearing – the telephone rang. As she ran into the kitchen to answer it, Dr. Beemer looked at me with a tilt of his head and asked, “Have you ever read Erickson’s work?” As I shook my head no, not surprised by his question since this was how our conversations generally went, he continued, “I left a copy of his newest book here for you,” and he pointed to the living room coffee table, dirty with stains from the kids’ latest finger-painting project.
Mrs. Beemer returned from the other room, looking stricken. “Aunt Maude is in the hospital. I have to get there immediately.”
“Yes you do,” Dr. Beemer agreed, nodding his head. “I’ll call and cancel for tonight’s event. He dug into his pocket and brought out a five dollar bill, handing it to me as he said, “We’re sorry. Now your evening is ruined.”
I was immensely relieved. The house seemed stranger than usual. “I can’t take this,” I said, not accepting the money. Considering I was lucky if I made $3.50 when I watched the kids for three hours, $5.00 was exorbitant.
He kept the money out as he walked me toward the front door. “You know, Pam, I saw this coming in my dream last night. Well, not my dream exactly. I disassociated while in my light stage of sleep. Have you done that yet? I leave my body with just a thin string attached to my soul, for a want of a better word.”
“Um, no, I don’t think I’ve done that yet,” I answered, grabbing the five dollars from his hand and dashing away from the door, away from the front yard, and back to the safety of anywhere else.
Ah, babysitting memories – what’s your favorite one?