Well, apparently I didn’t give Sally a raise fast enough. She left us. A week after she returned from Belize, Sally vanished. It was a Monday morning and I was sitting on the train heading into the city when I got a bizarre and disturbing message on my cell phone. “Wendy, I can’t come to work today, I have to go to court. I may not be released. I’ll call you later.”
May not be released? What had Sally done? Was she a witness? A deportee? A murder defendant?
Shocked, I called my husband at home. “I think Sally is in trouble. Maybe she wasn’t allowed to leave the country, even though she told me that she had the proper papers,” I speculated. After Michael finished cursing and I reassured him that I would come home so he could go to work, I called Sally. In fact, I called her all day. We all did. Michael called, even my mother, an attorney, called Sally to say that whatever legal trouble she faced, we would help her. Sally was our glue. We’d do anything for her. But she never called back.
When I got home, I went into Sally’s room. It was empty. She had cleared it out before she left for the weekend. She knew she wasn’t coming back, but she never said a word. After one full year of living in my home and taking care of my children, she left without even a goodbye to my kids. I was shell shocked. I felt betrayed, empty, nauseated, pissed.
The nannies in my ‘hood are notorious for their tight knit, Caribbean cabal. I imagine it’s a nice sorority if you’re a member, but it functions with a code of silence that baffles us mothers. Because of the code, none of the nannies would tell me anything about Sally’s whereabouts or what had really happened. They claimed to know nothing. A few weeks later at my son’s end-of-the-year school fair, a nanny who I didn’t recognize approached me on the playground and quietly told me that she knew where Sally was. She was not in jail, but working for another family. She had been poached by a mom in my town, offered a lot more money and fewer hours. Shockingly, she was working five minutes away.
Sally left me for another mother. I was heart broken. But worse, my kids were truly miserable and anxious. The theory that kids are resilient and rebound quickly from these sorts of things just wasn’t ringing true. For weeks, my children asked when Sally was coming back and why she didn’t say goodbye to them. I had no good answers. I made up stories. I wound up taking a two-week leave of absence from my job to find a new nanny. And then I found Samantha.
Samantha was a sweet Vegan, Yogi with amazing dreads that ran down past her waist. I hoped that she would bring calm to the chaos of my house. She oozed positive juju. It felt right. Wanting Samantha to feel at ease in my house chockfull of turkey bacon and steak, I hustled out to Whole Foods the night she arrived to stock the fridge with soy milk and raw veggies. But before the carrots could grow sprouts, Samantha too had disappeared. She hadn’t cleaned out her bedroom the way Sally had, so we were truly worried when she didn’t return to work after her first week with us. Scared that something horrible had happened, we called her former employer and the police. Three days later detectives found Samantha in her apartment. She was apparently surprised by the officers, but otherwise fine. She told the police that she told us that she wasn’t coming back. Given that she left all of her things in my house, this, of course, seemed absurd to everyone including our local detectives bureau. We still don’t know why Samantha never came back to us, although I intercepted strange and vaguely threatening cell phone messages from her boyfriend. So maybe her life wasn’t so centered after all.
A week after Samantha went AWOL, we hired another nanny.