Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Nanny at My Brother's Wedding

The nanny didn't come to my wedding and neither did our 3rd-4th grade teacher, but they both made it to my brother's wedding seven years later...

Reading this provocatively titled essay by Mona Simpson in the NYT didn't bother me one bit because long time readers know that my children never stayed with anyone that wasn't me, my husband or my parents (except for a few nights with close friends of the family). Their very first day with a baby-sitter happened earlier this year, when they were 10 and nearly 8. I know this is rare and that I'm spoiled, privileged, or whatever, but that's how it was and that's what K & I wanted for us and our sons. That is not how my husband and his brothers and my brother and I were raised, though, and Simpson's article reminded me of that, particularly the ending about the nanny in the girl's wedding.

We always had household help growing up here in Brazil. My husband actually remembers a brief time when his parents had two live-in nannies because his youngest siblings were very young and only one year apart. Most nannies in Brazil aren't merely nannies (unless you're a bit richer and can afford multiple domestic helpers), they cook and clean, wash, iron clothes, etc. (I only saw the very beginning of The Help, but I think it was/still is up to a certain point similar to that). Nowadays nannies/domestic helpers generally commute to their jobs, but when I was growing up it was more common for them to live with the family.

In Brazil in the 70s and 80s these young women were generally from poor rural families and they moved in with middle class families in towns and cities so they could go to school in the evening and try to ascend socially. Many of them lived with the families they worked for until they found a good steady boyfriend and got married.

Loide (Lois in English) was the nanny who lived the longest with our family. She was replaced by her younger sister Alice for a brief period, but she came back. One of the reasons why my parents eventually let her find another job and hired another person who studied part time and lived/worked for us, was that Loide & I didn't get along very well. She was pretty bossy and I rebelled against her authority (I don't think you would know it from reading my blog or even from knowing me in person, but I have a really strong rebellious streak in me, I just don't look at all rebellious. ;) In the end, she was the first and last of the young women who lived with us for a long time, since the next ones were only with us for one or two years.

I think Loide came to live with us when my brother was 2 or 3 and when she left he was 8 or 9, so she got really attached to him, so she came to his wedding, though she couldn't stay until the end of the ceremony because she had to catch a bus to travel back home to her family (a 7h bus ride). The most important thing was that my brother remembered her and made sure she received an invitation to his wedding... I'm not sure I invited her to mine. I did invite our 3rd &4th grade teacher (who was also my language arts teacher in 6th grade, an excellent teacher whom I admired), though, but she only came to my brother's wedding... (OK, I think my wedding coincided with commencement at the academy where she taught, so she couldn't come, but she did like my brother best, anyway... I don't think he ever rebelled against her authority they way I did! ;)

anyway... the article reminded me of the nanny at my brother's wedding.

And I really liked the photos of the nannies and children/babies. I wish I had time to listen to the interviews, but I have to go to bed to go to... a wedding tomorrow morning! No nannies in this wedding, since our cousin was raised in Germany! ;)


Anonymous said...

A friend of ours just took a trip back to the country where she grew up (and the child of missionaries) and visited their Ama. She took care of the children and cooked and cleaned etc as you describe. It's much more common in the part of Asia where my husband and his family lived.

Anyway, this friend was visiting after twenty years. So lovely to see photos of her with her Ama.

Some of these women are mistreated--poor, immigrants, sometimes employers take their passports and essentially hold them hostage. It comes close to human trafficking at times. It's complex because there are also stories of families who treat their domestic help well and develop positive relationships with them.

Neil Ickes said...

Maybe the reason why your brother is too attached with his nanny, Loide is because she took good care of you brother. It is also possible that your brother treat your nanny as part of the family, considering the years of her service in the family. In any case, inviting her in the wedding would surely bring a lot of good memories to the family.