Every night before she leaves to go home, our nanny makes a joke about taking Spencer home with her. I don’t think these jokes are very funny.
Call me paranoid, but with each new joke I get a little more uneasy. It’s not in A’idah’s favor that she wears these thick-rimmed bifocals that make her myopic, and I hate to admit that it’s hard for me to trust myopic people. If you’re myopic, I apologize. Not your fault, but I just can’t trust you right off the bat. Whenever I can’t see A’idah’s eyes because the kitchen light is glinting off her glasses, and especially if she’s smiling vaguely without appearing to be actually listening to what I’m saying to her, I start to think she’s sociopathic, specifically, a kidnapper.
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest made me particularly sensitive to potential sociopaths. We have all these secluded places to hide bodies, so I can’t blame these guys for thinking rationally about their options. We’ve had the Unabomber, who lived for years in a little mountain pass town in Montana. That town has these amazing jalapeno cheese corn dogs at their gas station, and I always pictured the unibomber eating them in his little hut. We’ve had the charming Ted Bundy, who apparently offered my high school Psych teacher a ride when she was hitch-hiking in college. One of my high school’s former graduates was one of his victims. We had the Green River Killer, who I don’t know much about, and Spokane had its very own serial killer specializing in prostitutes. When I was 16 we had Christmas Eve dinner at a restaurant we remembered for its dumpster, where one of the bodies had been found.
I doubt I can blame the Pacific Northwest for my paranoia, but perhaps part of my lifelong fear of being murdered tracks back to our region’s rich history in the kind of crime that society least understands, which is a persistent and enduring urge to kill people.
I’ll give you a list of things A’idah has said to Spencer while I was holding him so you can judge for yourself, but first, a side note about talking “through” babies. I don’t mean literally, since I don’t think the logistics of that would work out very well.
By “talking through babies,” I mean directing comments at a baby which are really meant for someone else. You must use a high-pitched baby voice to make it clear that you’re just talking to the baby and not waging a passive aggressive war, though of course that’s exactly what you’re doing.
Me: “Oh my, Spencer! It looks like Daddy drank the last of the rum and didn’t get any more! Isn’t that mean of him, Spencer?”
Spencer: looks puzzled.
David: “Wait a second, Spencer. Now, didn’t Mommy have five rum and coke’s last night?” He makes an exaggerated face of surprise. “She did, didn’t she? That’s right!! Wouldn’t you have waited until Mommy was sleeping to make sure you got a little rum too? Wouldn’t you, Spencer?”
Spencer: looks puzzled.
A’idah does this also. At first, I assumed she was making the kind of cutesy jokes about taking him home with her that other people do when they want to tell you what a lovely child you have. But she says one of these things unfailingly, every night, and she continued to even once I made it clear (talking through Spencer, obviously), that I was becoming uncomfortable.
Monday: “Come boy! You’re going home with me, now get your things.”
Tuesday: “When will mommy say you can come home with me, eh?”
Wednesday: “Shall we give you a Muslim name, boy?”
Thursday: “Are you going to cry one day when I go home?”
Friday: “You’re coming with me, boy! We must get your passport.” (When I reached to pick him up) “No, he’s my boy!”
Or, one day when David was in the room:
“Daddy, I have to ask you a question. Every night I ask mommy to take Spencer home with me.”
“And it’s not funny!” I say to Spencer as I change his diaper.
“And Mommy says it’s not funny.”
“I would die!” I say light-heartedly, perhaps trying to remind her what it feels like to be separated from your children.
“No, you wouldn’t,” she says, and finally turns to me. “Remember life before the baby?”
David just laughs. Later he tells me that he’s convinced she just meant to let us know that she’d be willing to give us a night off sometime.
But if that’s all it is, why does she make these jokes Every. Single. Night?
I had started saying “That’s not funny!” in my high-pitched baby voice every time she made one of those jokes. No effect.
OK, reading over these, they’re not so bad. Perhaps I’m paranoid, and have nothing to worry about. Perhaps they irk me because I feel like a normal person wouldn’t say things like that, or at least, would only say them once in a while.
Lately, I feel as if A’idah is goading me, that she knows I don’t like her joking, and is doing it to get a reaction out of me now, and I hate it when people do that. I know I could just ask her, but the non-confrontationalist in me is resentful of having to go through the awkwardness of asking her to stop joking about kidnapping my son.
Just now as I was typing, she walked by and said, “We’re packing his bags, eh Mommy? You don’t mind being alone tonight, do you?”
I thought I saw her smirking, but I can’t tell for sure because of those bifocals.
I said nothing. I’m probably over-sensitive, but I’m still wavering about whether or not to fire her on grounds of distastefulness.