Babysitting and a Sphynx

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A number of my blogs cover my adventures as a youth and this one does also. Most of my friends got their first opportunities to babysit when they were 12 or 12 years old. I did not get my first opportunity until I was 14, despite my efforts.

As soon as I turned the age of 12, I began advertising for a babysitting job. Anytime I would encounter the neighborhood parent with young children, I would say, “Hello Mr. or Mrs. _____, any time you need a good babysitter, please remember me”.

When I answered the telephone or a neighborhood parent would stop by asking for one of my older siblings, I would volunteer to do any babysitting job before the parent could say why they were asking for my older sibling.

I finally got my first babysitting job at the age of 14. On a Saturday afternoon, I answered the telephone and Mrs. Jones proceeded to ask for each of my older siblings by name and each time I gave her the same answer, “Not home”. Finally, Mrs. Jones told me that Michelle could not babysit this evening because she was ill and she needed a babysitter, so could I babysit?

“I will babysit for you. My rates are the same as my sister Theresa’s”

“I am glad you will. I need to know if you can take care of children Marty, so can you?” Mrs. Jones implored pleadingly.

It was well known in the neighborhood that I attended a different Catholic Church than the rest of my family. I blogged about it in my blog “Explaining my “You’ve heard him sing” Status”.

My Father used to attempt jokes about it to anyone who would listen. Some of poor attempts were:

“Why don’t I go to church with Marty? Have you heard him sing in the choir or attempt to altar boy? If you had, you wouldn’t be asking me that question.”

“I don’t believe in tempting fate. One of these days the good Lord will see Marty entering the church and have the whole thing crumble rather than let that little devil in.”

With these poor attempts at humor from my Father, it is amazing that it only took me to age 14 to get my first babysitting job. I also blogged previously in the blog “My Gift or Curse for Those Who Must Endure My Attempts -” about my gift of humor. Note: I have never mentioned that my Father has the gift.

If my Father used the second attempt at humor, it meant that I had something go horribly wrong recently. “Go horribly wrong recently” means I was caught doing something.

For example it occurred to me that when I had to spent my time doing altar boy service for someone’s wedding or baptism, the Catholic Church and the Priest were compensated, so we altar boys should receive something also for our time.

I explained my thoughts to the other altar boys and suggested that at each wedding or baptism we approach the Groom or new Father and state our case with our hands out.

I taught all to say, “I am happy to be here for you (wedding or child’s baptism). I could be (doing something else such as; going to the movies with friends, playing sports, etc.)” and then extend their hand, palm up to the Groom or new Father. This worked every time.

I thought of myself as a young labor organizer looking out for the good of all. When the Monsignor (head Priest) found out, he told my parents I was the leader of an altar boy ring that shook down Grooms or new Fathers for money.

After promising to not ever do it again and to tell all others to stop, write a letter of apology to the Monsignor taking full and sole responsibility for my actions and presenting it to him prior to confession, I explained to my parents that I never “shook down” anyone and that all donations were a simply good-hearted gestures.

I don’t remember what the punishment was this time; however I am sure that it was just. I do recall my Father standing there shaking his head and pleading, “Lord, why can’t Marty be more like his brothers?” This is another example of my Father’s poor attempts at humor that he used often.

These poor attempts did not help my efforts to change the neighborhood perception that mischief was a constant companion of mine.

So I finally landed a babysitting job, the Jones, my neighbors who lived down the street with 2 kids ages 6 and 8 and my first babysitting job. The first of many opportunities to earn easy money!

The evening started off great. We played a board game in their basement playroom, and then watched TV in the family room. About an hour before bedtime, I read them a story. They were very well behaved. They asked if they could play in their playroom before bed, and I said, “Sure, go ahead.” I stayed in the family room and watched TV with the basement door open so I could hear them.

About 30 minutes later, I called for the kids to come upstairs for bed and they did. They went to bed with no complaints. This was easy money!

I returned to watching TV and waiting for the Jones to return so I could collect. This would be a babysitting job done well and the word would spread.

A few hours later, I went to close the basement door and a creature like nothing I had ever seen before scampered through the door before it closed. I looked at it closely, bent over and picked it up and it purred. This was a cat. A cat with no fur. A completely hairless cat!

The kids had shaved all the hair off a cat! I started to go head toward the basement to see the furry, hairy mess downstairs while thinking to myself that I should never have left them out of my site, when the front door opened and Mr. Jones exclaimed, “We’re home!”

Mrs. Jones headed directly to the bedrooms while Mr. Jones did a quick walkthrough of the house and then asked, “Was everything OK?”

Before I could respond, Mrs. Jones entered and said that the kids were asleep in their beds.

As Mr. Jones went to pay me, I said, “I need to tell you about the cat. The cat is bald! I let the kids play in the playroom by themselves and I think they shaved the cat!”

The Jones started to laugh. I had a horrible feeling and the Jones laughed.

“Shaved the cat”, Mr. Jones bellowed, followed by more Jones laughter.

I started to cry! I knew I was going to be in real trouble for this.

“Tom”, Mrs. Jones said while starting to hug me, “Tell him now and pay this poor boy double!”

“Marty, we just got the cat; she is a special breed of hairless cat. The kids begged for a pet and Mrs. Jones is allergic to pet hair, so we got Friskie”. (NOTE: Luckily for the Jones and me I was not presented this comment a few years later. I know I would have said, “OK, you have hairless cat. How does getting friskie result in a hairless cat?”)

I went home that evening happy and told my parents what had happened and went to bed exhausted. The next morning my brothers and sister asked how it went. I told them I did such a great job the Jones paid me double and placed the money on the kitchen table for all to see.

“No way” they all mumbled. They all thought I was trying to play a trick on them.

“He did a good job and the Jones paid him double” my Mother told all, while smiling a me.

They all continued to mumble things like, “Lucky” and “Wow”.

Because I wanted to know, later that day, I opened our set of encyclopedia books to the section on cats read about a hairless breed of cat called a Sphynx. That evening at dinner I casually told all the Jones have a Sphynx and asked if anyone knew what a Sphnyx was. Of course my brothers and sister thought the Sphynx is in Egypt and the Jones must have a model of the monument. I smiled and began my lecture on cats……
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