My friend Christy has been posting childhood pictures of herself and her sister Cymbre on Facebook. And these pictures (like pretty much everything else) REALLY take me back. You see, I know Christy and her sister because way back when they were little girls (around four and six years old), I was their babysitter. I babysat for a handful of families when I was a teenager, but Christy and Cymbre are the source of my very favorite babysitting story. They are the reason that every time my friends and I would trade babysitting horror stories I would ALWAYS win. See, Christy and Cymbre were really sweet and well-behaved little girls, but somehow the planets just seemed to line up against us.
Flashback to 1986 or so: Christy was probably about six and Cymbre was about four. My job as babysitter for that night was to watch a little TV with the girls, make sure they got a bath, put them to bed and then read on the couch until their folks got home. Easy peasy, right? Yeah…not so much.
The evening started out okay-ish. We watched the taped (this was WAAAAAYYYYY before DVR) episode of Pee Wee’s Playhouse they hadn’t seen yet. In case you don’t remember Pee Wee’s Playhouse, during every episode, Pee Wee would give a “word of the day.” When you heard the word of the day, you were supposed to scream. I’m pretty sure the word of the day was “THE” because Christy and Cymbre pretty much giggle-screamed for an entire hour. And then it was bath time.
The girls didn’t argue or cause any problems when I told them it was bath time, which should have told me something catastrophic was about to happen. They jumped in the bathtub, washed and giggle-screamed some more and then got out of the tub. They didn’t actually bother to grab towels and dry off; they just went straight to their bedroom and started digging out pajamas. And this was when things got fishy. Literally.
See, the girls shared a dresser. A dresser with a fishbowl on top. Christy opened a drawer to get out underwear and a second drawer to get pajamas. Cymbre opened a third drawer to get out underwear and a fourth drawer to get pajamas. Neither girl, however, actually closed a drawer. Can you see where this is going? Four open drawers caused the dresser to lean forward. And the fish bowl slid right off and spilled into the open drawers that were full of previously clean and dry clothes. And the girls went bonkers.
The giggle-screams changed to terror-screams. The girls started running around, totally freaking out. And they were still wet. And still completely naked. It was pretty much every babysitter’s nightmare.
Finally, the girls calmed down enough for me to figure out EXACTLY why they were freaking out so badly. It wasn’t the fish water that spilled all over their underwear (which would have been MY particular problem); it was the fact that the fish itself was nowhere to be seen. So I had to paw through layers of wet clothes while trying to talk the girls into getting dressed in order to save a $1.99 goldfish.
Finally the fish was found, and by some miracle it was still alive. I am eternally grateful for that, because I was in no way prepared to have a fish funeral at that point. I put water back in the bowl, tossed in the fish and turned around to smile at the girls and assure them that everything was okay. I expected them to be happy; possibly even look at me with a little hero-worship going on at that point, but no. They weren’t smiling. They were BAWLING. What the hell? Cymbre informed me that the fish was going to die because her mom gave him “magic water.” Magic water? Once again, what the hell? (Laura or Preston, if you read this, please know I didn’t say “what the hell” in front of your kids, but I was certainly thinking it.) I assured the girls that the fish would be fine until their folks got back and their mom could hocus pocus the water. I don’t think they believed me. I probably wouldn’t have believed me either if the tables were turned.
Finally Christy and Cymbre calmed down and got in bed. That little “emergency” must have worn them out because they crashed hard. I didn’t read (as planned) until their parents got home because I was just too frazzled and a little worried about trying to explain the events of the evening. Preston and Laura were pretty cool about it and just laughed at me. I mean, they laughed with me. No. They laughed at me, because I wasn’t able to laugh about it myself until a few years later.