“Looks like it’s Christmas morning,” said Cynthia, my infant son’s nanny. I was dressing Bobby for the day while she sat in the rocking chair behind me, waiting to cuddle him while I got ready for work.
I figured she expected some sort of response, but I was too tired to process her words. Why was she talking about Christmas on this warm September day? I was so exhausted from being up with my son every three hours that I couldn’t deal with early morning riddles. Besides, even if I’d been wide awake I might not have asked for an explanation. Cynthia had little concept of filters or boundaries and it was often easiest to provide only vague responses in return. Interaction only encouraged more elaboration on her part.
“The Shadow Government is a real thing. All the chaos in the world is about keeping us distracted,” she lectured me after working for us one week.
“Huh.” I said.
“You need to be less involved, more like a man,” was the unsolicited parenting advice she gave me because I was Bobby’s non-biological mother in our lesbian-headed family. “Hmm.”
“Time to put up the tree,” she said now.
“What fucking tree?” I thought to myself. Then to her, I gave a noncommittal “oh”. I made sure it was a falling “oh,” not one where my voice turned up in an invitation for her to say more.
I took a deep breath. Normally I dressed Bobby before she arrived, but Valerie and I had both overslept, only stirring when we heard Cynthia’s key in the lock. I had run into Bobby’s room as soon as I woke up, eager to give him a morning hug before I rushed to start work. This was my time with him and I was not going to let Cynthia ruin it.
I reminded myself that she was a necessary evil. Bobby was too sickly for day care so we’d launched a last minute nanny search as my wife’s maternity leave ended. Cynthia was our only applicant.
Bobby fell in love with her the minute she arrived for an interview, taking him from his anxious, hovering mamas and pressing him against her ample, grandmotherly bosom. Because she took good care of him and because we had no viable options, we lived with her annoying pronouncements
Sometimes I told myself that when Bobby was older, this is the sacrifice I would throw in his face if he worried me by staying out past curfew. I would remind him that I allowed this person into my house and tolerated her political musings and parenting critiques, all so Bobby could have all-day cuddles.
“My daughter got out the tinsel last week.” Cynthia interrupted my revenge fantasy.
What the hell was she talking about?
“Santa Claus doesn’t visit me anymore,” she said, bitterly spitting out the words.
A half-formed picture of Santa flashed through my mind. Not a clear portrait, more just a red flash storming out of the chimney of Cynthia’s house, vowing never to come back.
I turned to see Cynthia looking up and down my backside. My tired mind finally solved her Christmas riddle.
My face flushed as the truth hit home. Without answering Cynthia I shimmied my rear end enough to feel that yes, my underpants were stuck to me in the back, bound by the period blood that must have started overnight.
A red flash?
More like a bloody smear.
In my adrenaline rush of having overslept, I hadn’t noticed. Instead I had presented my blood stained rear end to Cynthia, who of course was not polite enough to ignore it or straightforward enough to just spit it out. No, Cynthia insisted on trapping me in her awkwardness with her extended menstruation-as-Christmas metaphor.
I got it. Her daughter didn’t REALLY get out the tinsel. She started her period, an event that post-menopausal, non-Santa Claus hosting Cynthia didn’t live with anymore. Normally, I dreaded the arrival of my period but in that moment Cynthia was the only visitor I wanted to get rid of.
I drew in another deep breath, attempting to leave the room with as much dignity as I could muster. Walking out, it occurred to me that I would probably not wait until Bobby was a teenager before I used this against him. After all, I would be reminded of Cynthia every month when I hung my Christmas stocking.
About the author: Anne Penniston Grunsted writes about parenthood, disability and LGBT issues. Her work has been published in The Washington Post, Brain, Child Magazine, Mamamia! and RoleReboot. Find more of her writing at annepennistongrunsted.wordpress.com.