A little while ago I told you about a friend of mine who was staying with us until she got herself back on her feet. I am happy to report that she accepted live-in nanny position a little over 3 weeks ago. I am equally amused to report that both her charge and her employers embody everything you would expect from an Anne Hathaway movie gone awry.
Annabelle*, a Kenyan national, came to this country to get her degree (which she did) and to work in corporate America (which she has). Never in all her near 40 years did she expect that the culmination of her education and life experiences would end her up here: as a glorified domestic servant to a wealthy yet miserable Buckhead family of South East Asian descent.
Readers, I give you The Hue Violet. Move over Celie – we got women’s oppression for the new millennium on LOCK.
Annabelle began her first day as the Rajwani’s nanny with high expectations for herself. After being in the ranks of the unemployed for over a year, she had decided to make a career change and give in-home care a try. She had made ends meet by taking on baby-sitting jobs for friends to supplement her income, and had come to the conclusion that it wasn’t that bad. Since she had been forced to break her lease on her apartment, a live-in situation made perfect sense. She would have the benefit of saving a little money while not having to pay for lodging.
Anitha, the woman who had hired her, was in her early 40’s. She was a dietician/stay-at-home-mom/property owner who was always pressed her time. Her husband, Ravi, was a cardiologist at Emory Hospital. He was an enormous man who never spoke much. His work took him out of town for most of the week, and when he was home he made up for his absence by creating a mess to match his girth.
The couple had a 3 year old daughter, Serena. They had been trying to have a baby for the duration of their 11 year marriage and after rounds and rounds of fertility treatments, were blessed with a little girl. Serena greeted Annabelle at the kitchen table with a scowl.
“Annabelle I have to leave,” said Anitha, “but Ravi is going to show you the ropes around here.”
She kissed Serena and walked out of the door.
Ravi walked Annabelle through the house, showing her where they kept the cleaning supplies and Serena’s toys. He ended the brief tour back in the kitchen where Serena sat in her pajamas.
“For breakfast she eats either yoghurt and bread, or banana and peanut butter. And she must eat one egg,” he informed her limply.
“Ok!” Annabelle said with more chip than he was accustomed to in the morning.
“And before she can put on her clothes for school, she must eat all her breakfast.”
Serena scowled harder at this utterance.
“I don’t like eeeeeeeeeeeeeggggggggggggssss!!!” she howled.
Her father handed her an iPod for her to play with while he attempted to place the food in the corners of her mouth. She instinctivle forced it back with her tongue, negating all his efforts.
“If you have difficulty feeding her, try distracting her with the iPod,” he advised.
Feeding her? She’s 3 years old! She can feed herself! Annabelle swallowed back the words she was thinking. This was only Day 1. No point in stirring the waters so soon.
After only succeeding in getting Serena to take a few bites of her food, her father carried her upstairs to her room. Annabelle dutifully followed, asking mundane questions to fill up the heavy silence. Ravi responded with either a grunt or a nodding of the head to each query. He seemed weary as he placed Serena on the bed.
“I don’t want to wear that!” she screeched, smacking a dress he’s held in front of her out of his hand.
At that moment, Anitha materialized in the doorway. She and her husband conversed quickly in their own language before she addressed Serena.
“Sweetie,” she began. “I can see you’re upset. Would you like to wear another outfit?”
She offered her another set of garments.
“Noooo!!!” Serena wailed.
Her mother suggested another set of clothes, and another, until Serena had screamed her displeasure for so long that it was time to go to school.
Annabelle went to buckle Serena in the back seat, glancing at her watch. Serena was to be in school by 8 am. It was 7:52 and they need to be on their way. Anitha stopped her.
“No, no,” she sweetly scolded. “Serena takes great pride in buckling herself up. And no matter how long it takes her, just wait and let her do it.”
After what seemed like eons, the child succeeded in strapping herself in and her mother took off. They reached the door just before her teacher was preparing to shut and lock it. Annabelle raced up the stairs with the child and was greeted by the cold blue eyes of the Pre-K instructor. She did not seem pleased with what she saw.
“Miss Margaret,” Serena began, “these are my princess pajamas…”
“I’m not interested,” her teacher said, cutting her off. “You need to come inside and change.”
She then turned her gaze to Annablle.
“And you need to leave.”
Annabelle gathered that this was not the first time that this set of events had occurred.
She went back to the car and relayed all that had transpired with Anitha, who gripped and ungripped the steering wheel quite fretfully.
As they drove back to the house, Annabelle wondered what she had gotten herself into. She shook her head and replaced her doubts with optimism. It was just the first day. First days are always rough, no matter where you start. She whispered her gratitude to God and prepared to face the rest of the day.