As I was struggling with various ways to bring money into our household, one happy evening, Kevin came home from work smiling. He was talkative, loving, alive.
I was right, I immediately concluded, as I was placing the hot cassarole on the kitchen table. It was a stage! The man I first met and loved was back.
Over dinner, we spoke to one another and the girls didn’t get on his nerves. He even admitted they were cute and lovable. I was in Heaven, no question, a miracle was happening under my very eyes, he was back!
“I am going to Holland, on a business trip!” Kevin announced in between taking bites of the cassarolle.
“Excuse me, you… are going to Holland, as in Holland, Europe?”
“Yes, Neal has a huge deal and I am the one who has worked on it and he said I’ll go!”
“Congratulations… that is wonderful,” I managed to mumble, but I felt waves of anger raising to me head. So… it’s just the people who worked on the deal going? No families?”
“Oh, no, families are invited too, but I said you wouldn’t!”
“I wouldn’t why?”
He stopped eating and looked at me,
“What do you mean why? You have two small children, one nursing and the other potty-training! You can’t go to Europe!”
Oh now I was really, really angry. I couldn’t go? I had the children, I had to stay home, nurse and change diapers while he visited Holland! Oh no, this was NOT going to happen!
“Well, please tell Neal we are going, that means you, me and our kids, yes, our kids because we made them together!”
He stood up and left the room and we didn’t speak for the rest of the night.
The following evening he announced he told Neal, his boss, and they all thought it was a very bad idea but if I insisted… so be it, I was responsible for the girls, he had to work non stop while in Holland.
We packed light, but some items were essential: Natalie’s diapers and Eva’s training toilet seat, a smaller seat which went on top of a regular toilet so the toddler didn’t fall inside. The seat wouldn’t fit in the regular luggage, so I ended up carrying it secured on top of a back pack I carried all throughout the trip.
The flight from Philadelphia to New York was in a small, chartered plane, rented by Neal, who was a real-estate investor and multi millionaire for whom Kevin had worked on and off for years. Some years Neal loved and rewarded him, but others he hated and humiliated him. The time of the trip to Holland was one of the good times! We embarked on the small plane as a severe storm was being announced, but we couldn’t wait and miss our connection to the overseas plane from New York. We were going to fly at our own risk and as the lightening was targeting our plane and the thounder made my kids scream, I thought only a higher power could help us, and I should have probably stayed home and keep us alive! It was too late!
Soaked and scared we made it to JFK airport and miraculously to the overseas plane and surprise, our two small children were fine all through the almost seven-hour flight to Europe.
We landed in Amsterdam, the capital of Holland, and a limo, Neal, of course, ordered, took us to Hotel Europe in the heart of the city.
I stepped out of the limo, me, my kids, Natalie in a kangaroo sling on my chest, Eva on my back in a back pack, together with her potty-training seat, and of course, Kevin.
The potty training seat was going with us everywhere. I didn’t want to loose the momentum and the second Eva said “Pipi,” with the speed of lightening, I untied the seat, found a regular toilet and placed her on the seat! Yes, this was a minor invonvenience, but I wasn’t going to dwell on it, given all the perks of the trip!
Neal knew the consierge. Neal seemed to know everyone and heads were bending and teeth were showing in wide welcoming smiles as we were lead to the elevator and to our rooms. We were with Neal and the clout of importance extended to us.
Our luggage was brought upstairs and the door to our room was unlocked by a man in a sparkly uniform…
“Wow,” I exclaimed in my mind, but not aloud because I wanted to look cool, as if I was used to luxury!
The room was enormous, and the king-size bed was covered by a beautiful golden and red spread and wait… then we were shown the bathroom which had golden focets.
Golden focets! I had to take pictures of this place. Like a typical tourist, which I so despised in principle, I quickly produced my camera from under the toilet seat and before our children messed up the impecable room. I took pictures of everything, including the hotel toilet which had a golden handle to flash! I felt superficial but not superficial enough to stop taking the pictures, so that I’d have memories of this place, as I felt it was an accident that I, an immigrant had the chance to experience such beauty!
There was a crib in an alcove in the large doors leading to a balcony with a view in the square!
Everything was so beautiful, so impecable, I was afraid to sit down, but well, I wished I had such problems more often, to adjust to luxury!
The evening was approaching and Kevin told me, sorry, but when I decided to come along dragging the two kids on airplanes, I knew he would have to work! So, he showered, got dressed and left for a “business dinner.” It was only fair. Indeed I knew the rules. I went on the balcony to watch the people in the square, I went to the bathroom several times just because it was fun to flash using the golden handle and rushed Eva and her seat to the same golden bathroom before she articulated the word “pee!”
As I was having fun with these activities, there was a knock in the door…
and as I was still debating whether I should open, a small pleasant woman stepped in…
“Who are you? …and how come you have a key to our room?” I asked her, but I wasn’t afraid. She was much to frail and small to be afraid of her.If she attacked, I could have taken her any time! I felt confident.
“I am sorry, you didn’t put the “Do not disturb” sign on the door and I thought I could come in and turn the beds…I could come later…”
She was going to “turn the beds…” why would anyone want to turn the beds, the beds were just fine! I thought. Perhaps some strange Dutch custom… to turn beds.
“Oh, no, please come in,” I said aloud, and decided since I really didn’t understand how was such a frail woman going to turn the king size bed, I was just going to watch how was she going to do it!
She came in and fluffed the pillows, took off the fancy spread and revealed the impecable white sheets underneath. She even lifted a corner of the sheets, so that we could jump in bed without having to make the effort of lifting the corner of the blanket to slip under the covers. At the very end of this amazing process, she placed a few chocolates on both sides of the bed, on the bed-side tables…
“I’ll give you a few more for the girls,” she said.
She told me she was from another country and very grateful to have this job in one of the best hotels in Europe.
She was so nice, so delicate and more importantly, she was now holding Natalie who was crying but stopped when she kissed her forehead…
As we spent time together, a thought was starting to be birthed in my mind… she was working for the hotel, which surely meant she went through security checks to get such a job, and she loved my girls, and they liked her…
” So… after you are done your regular work, would you be allowed to say, baby-sit my kids for a few hours a couple of times this week?”
Of course she could, she would be more than happy to do it, as she loved children and mine were the best. She had never seen such angels! I was thrilled, she was confirming what a good job I did raising my kids, just what I needed to hear.
It was a done deal, she was going to come over the following night and Kevin and I were going to go out for an hour or so, to first test if she was okay with our angels.
The first night of the trial went well. We went to a near-by coffee-shop and to watch the boats on the water, to experience a glimpse of night-life in Amsterdam.
At home, at the hotel, all was well when we returned. The girls were already asleep and our baby-sitter, calm and smiling greeted us at the door.
There was a God after all, to send me this wonderful woman. I was grateful, more than grateful, I felt undeserving of such luck!
“Tomorrow night,” Kevin said,” There is a very important business dinner and spouses are invited too. We were told it would be desirable to come with our spouses … so do you think we could ask her to babysit again? It would be longer, the restaurant is in a suburb of Amsterdam.”
I was right to come along! I thought. Of course, spouses were invited, yeah… it was desirable to be with your spouse, and thankfully I was with him, to support his business! My instincts never failed.
” Do you think you’d be able to baby-sit them tomorrow night again? My husband and I have a business dinner?”
Of course she could, she was thrilled, it was the dream of her life to be with my well-behaved, nearly perfect daughters!
We convened she was going to come to our room at 5:00 PM.
Kevin was supposed to come back at the hotel from the day meetings around 4:0 P.M. Shower, change, and at 6:30 PM we were to meet the other members of the delegation in the lobby and go to dinner.
During the day I loaded my kids, Natalie in the kangaroo sling, Eva on my back, and walked with them everywhere, taking in the beauty of the tulips in flower in the month of May, the chic shops everywhere and even dared visit a museum and thank God Eva said “pee” while we were inside the Museum, so we had a chance to use the training seat in such a cultural place. On the other hand, as I stared at the famous paintings, I secretly wondered if during our stay in Amsterdam I’d have a chance to see the famous Red Light District, where I had heard “ladies of the night” stood in windows and sold sexual favors, a business illegal in most parts of the world. I had mixed feelings about wanting to see degradation of womanhood, yet, in a strange way, I wanted to see it. Of course not when I was without my children, if such a time ever came…
At 2:30 PM, exhausted by sightseeing, I went back in the boosom of luxury, I went back to Hotel Europe and turned on the golden focets and took a shower and got dressed and put on make up and waited. And waited…
4:00 P.M. Kevin was late! 4:30 PM He was nowhere to be seen and no phone calls…
My make up was running on my cheeks. I was sweating. I turned on the air conditioning. Eva whimpered. She was cold! I turned it off!
5:00 P.M. No trace of Kevin, but the baby-sitter wasn’t showing either!
The girls were screaming. I took off my fancy dress and nursed Natalie who calmed down at last. Eva was not happy with the pea soup, so I had to order French fries from room-service. I wondered if Neal was going to pay for it! I wondered if there was a McDonald’s in Amsterdam, but if there was one… didn’t do us much good. Both girls seemed happy and by 5:45 P.M. the baby-sitter showed up.
She looked nervous and told me she was upset because they made her work after 5:00 P.M and she was sorry she was late, but she had a present for Eva.
From her large purse, she took out a package wrapped in red tissue.
She called Eva closer and asked her to unwrap:
“Christmas! Christmas!” Eva concluded and slowly, taking her time, teared the red tissue to reveal a stunning dress!
“Try it on, try it on!” The baby-sitter encouraged her. “I hope is the right size… I am giving it to you, sweetie, it’s a present, to remember me.”
Quickly, I estimated the dress must have been at least five times more expensive than the baby-sitting money I was paying her. Oh, something was drastically wrong!
“Did you buy this dress for my daughter? Really, it’s too much, much too much, we cannot accept…”
“Christmas, Christmas!” Eva kept dancing, holding the dress in her little hands.
“I didn’t buy it, it’s an expensive dress!”
“I used to have a shop. I was selling kids’ stuff: Toys, dresses, equipment…everything for kids. It didn’t do well and I had to close it. This dress is a left-over from my business, so please let her have it, it would mean so much to me!”
She cried. I was teary.
The poor woman, lost her business, she loves Eva…
” I am so sorry. And you have no children of your own?”
“I do! I have a daughter, Eva’s age, but… something happened…”
Now she was sobbing. I was frozen.
“And, and… what happened?” I encouraged her to continue and held her hands.
“They took her away from me! All I remember is I bathed her and I was putting her in her crib to sleep, and kissing her good-night… and next thing I remember, I was in a hospital!”
“A hospital? What kind of a hospital?” I dared ask.
She looked at me surprised:
“What do you mean, what kind of a hospital? A mental health hospital! I had a black out! I couldn’t remember what happened! So… they took her away from me, they said I was endangering my daughter, but I didn’t! I love her!”
She continued to cry. Eva danced. Natalie wanted to nurse again. My head was spinning!
Kevin showed up in the door:
“I am late! We need to be downstairs in 20 minutes! Hurry up!”
The baby-sitter wiped off her tears. She looked calm and normal but I didn’t feel either calm or normal.
I was about to leave my treasures, the very reason of my existence, my children, with a woman who had black-outs and who was just out of a mental health hospital!
I felt sorry for her, but even more so for my children. Knowing what I knew I couldn’t leave them in Hotel Europe with a mental patient, no matter how much I liked her. I trusted her no longer.
Oh, I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, yet I didn’t, couldn’t risk the welfare of our daughters!
Kevin went to take a shower and I sneaked in the bathroom and whispered the story…
“What do you want me to do?” he said.
“Tell her we don’t need her and stay home with the kids, but you will have to explain to Neal because wives are expected!”
He was upset and wanted to have no part of solving the problem. It wasn’t his problem, I wanted to come on the trip… He was right.
In a corner of the enormous room, the baby-sitter was playing with Eva while lovingly holding Natalie in her arms. I opened the door to our room quietly and went to the reception desk. I called Neal from a house phone and explained.
I don’t think he fully understood my agony, the questionings going through my mind, but he said:
“You are coming to the dinner and I will have the consiarge go to your room and check on your kids and the baby-sitter every half-hour!”
The boss had spoken! I had no choice, I couldn’t japordize my husband’s future, the future of this very important “deal.”
We left for the business dinner and as aperitives were served I made a first call to the hotel. The baby-sitter answered and she seemed calm.
“We are fine,” She said, but I don’t know why the consierge came over to say hi…”
Drinks were being served, people were louder and louder. The second course was fish. The fish was presented whole and I remember the glassy eye of the dead fish staring at me: “You are a bad mother!” the eyes seemed to say.
I called the hotel again:
The baby-sitter sounded annoyed:
“I don’t know what’s going on but the consierge keeps coming in every half-hour and the kids are asleep but I can’t take the pressure of someone just showing up every half-hour! I don’t know what’s wrong with him, or why he is coming in but you better come back immediately. I am getting upset and… I know the signs, when I feel threatened it’s not good!
Not good! My God she was going to harm my children and black out! No, worse, she was going to kidnap them and we were never to see them again. Oh, we were going to lose our children in Amsterdam, we will have to hire private detectives who probably didn’t speak English. I should have stayed home…
We left the business partners and the fish who continued to stare at me til the very end and fetched a taxi back to Hotel Europe.
When we got there, the consierge was just at the door of our room, ready to check on our kids again.
We tipped him:
“Thank you, this was very helpful, but we are back, so, we’ll just go in…”
I unlocked the door. The babysitter was standing by the door, tense. When she saw me, she sighted and smiled:
“Oh, thank God it’s you, if it were that damn consierge again, I’d have poked him in the head! I don’t know what was wrong with him… I think he wanted to kidnap your daughters!”