June 14, 2016
One of the hardest things about moving away is leaving our incredible nanny Claire. She has been with us since Colette was a tiny baby. It was sort of love at first sight. We knew within ten minutes of meeting her that Claire was really special. She has a magnetic presence. Over the next 4 years Claire became a co-parent with us. We trust her as much as we trust ourselves with our girls. Being disconnected at work, I would breathe my children in through Claire. I came to understand parts of them through her.
When Claire would recount stories at the end of the day, her eyes would light up with pride or her expression would be masked with worry the same way a parent's would be talking about her children.
I have flashes of Claire in mind: baby carrying African style - little versions of the girls wrapped around her back, delicately sewing up Romy's precious bunny, giggling sounds only she could provoke from the girls, endless sidewalk chalk drawings, getting thrown up on and hardly flinching - just rubbing Colette's back in comfort, weekly trips to the library for story time - no matter how cold or rainy, singing songs in Malagasy, walking up the hill to the park - moseying along, taking 20 minutes if they felt like it - a child's pace and diversions never taxing for Claire. Every day outside.
Claire taught me about accepting my children - their emotions, their form of expression - and how to celebrate them. To look deep in their eyes when they tell a story - nodding her head, under their spell, repeating back the best parts of the tale to their delight. How to let them scream and cry and demand nothing in that moment - but to circle back to talk it through once they could articulate words again.
Claire became a symbol of our neighborhood. She knew everyone on our block - all the dog walkers, the superintendents, the woman who adopted feral cats at the end of the block, longtime Harlem residents, every kid and parent, the park rangers at Hamilton Grange. Over the years we felt luckier and luckier - hearing parents and neighborhood friends ask on weekends "where did you guys find your nanny? Your nanny is extraordinary." We wholly agree. Xavier and I would often find ourselves looking at each other in wonder, thanking the stars for such a person in our lives.
The reality is I feel daunted to be without her. I sobbed when we were saying goodbye. The girls didn't understand then. I think I will cry for a while thinking of our Claire. Of course we will stay in touch, but not having a daily dose of her feels like a brutal rupture.
This morning Little Romy chirped "Claire? Where's Claire?”
And Colette on the way to the airport: “I miss Claire.”
My heart winces.