Mommy Musings- The Runaway Nanny
Three hours later, I am still shaken. My hands feel weak and my fingers lifeless as I fumble with the keypad trying to type away a harrowing experience that shook me to my core. At around 6.00pm, I had just got back to the office from an investor briefing at Kencom. KCB Bank had announced its earnings and I was getting ready to put together a brief analysis. But not before I set the mood right.
I like working late. When the office is no longer bustling with activity. When the aura is somewhat forlorn but the empty seats distantly smell of ambition and untapped potential. I like to own that entire space and bury myself in my work, with my favorite artist playing an inspiring track in the background. Earlier in the day, my colleagues were going on about this artist who has done an amazing cover of Circle of Life. So I whatsapped one of them to get his name.
“Alex Boye” he responded. “And don’t forget to check out his Frozen cover too.” I aptly cued the tracks and got down to work at 7.30pm.
Barely two minutes later, I receive a call from the mister. He is breathless, and speaking unusually fast.
“Have the watchies called you?” I can feel the anxiety in his voice.
“No they haven’t, I doubt they have my number. Is everything ok?” I ask as panic starts to trickle in.
“Apparently, the house help was trying to exit our court with her travel bags in a trash can but they stopped her in her tracks.”
“Jesus! The kids?”
“I don’t know. Call Brenda as I call back the watchman back. On my way to pick you up”
Immediately my head starts to spin, my entire body goes numb and I start to question my priorities in life. Why could I not be home with my kids like other normal people?
Brenda, my small sis who lives with us had sent me a text about five minutes before the call. She was at the movie theater with her friend and would be getting home late. The mister was also supposed to be home early but decided to wait up on me since we were sharing a car. Whenever I work late, he always gets home early. Always. But today for some strange reason the kids were with the house help with no trace of family. Bloody hell!
I get off my seat with a wobble and lean on my desk. The most frightening thoughts cross my mind. I try to push them away but I can’t. Why would she possibly abandon the kids and attempt to run off at night? Could she have accidentally dropped the baby and crushed her skull and thus did not want to bear the brunt of my rage? Or did she read my previous post on “The Stranger In Your Home” and get ideas? Was she mad at me for making fun of Luhya house helps?
I wonder if the mister has managed to get more info from the askaris, so I call him. He picks up and I can almost hear the car skidding and the debris scattering as he drives out of the parking lot. He says the number is suddenly not going through.
Suddenly, I recall sending MPESA to Julius the daytime askari a week ago so I scroll through my Safaricom texts and find his contact. I dial the number while pacing up and down the office and he picks up on the second ring. Phew! I ask him to urgently give me all the night watchmen phone numbers and he says I call him back in a minute.
Meanwhile, I go through my phone frantically trying to figure out who else to call. A friend in the neighborhood who can drive there fastest. I can’t think. My mind is blank. I cuss at myself for not having my next-door neighbor’s phone number. A graceful fifty something year old Ethiopian lady, expat wife, always wearing a smile whenever I meet her on the staircase or at the parking lot. Two Saturdays ago-when I had just touched down from the Mauritian work trip at noon-my kids were having their birthday party and the entire household was at the venue. I dashed home to freshen up only to discover I did not have my set of keys.
So, I humbly knocked on my neighbor’s door and asked if she could allow me to change into a more party friendly outfit. I was in shorts and a T-shirt, exhausted from my four-hour flight and a night of partying. She was gracious enough to allow me to use her bedroom and even urged me to take a shower and offered me her Guilty by Gucci fragrance. I pleasantly declined because I had learnt the art of French bathing in boarding school and I had my new floral Dolce by D&G scent which I could not wait to wear.
To think after such an escapade I did not find the need to exchange contacts with my neighbor worked me up even further. I had no one to check up on my kids and could only say a prayer and hope to find them in one piece.
I call back Julius and he reads out three phone numbers. I hang up on him as he is trying to ascertain that I got them right. The first one has this gospel song ring back tone. It’s answered almost immediately.
“Ni mama Xena. Watoto wangu wako sawa?” (This is Xena’s mom, are my kids ok?)
He is Kisii and very animated in his speaking. He starts to recount what happened and I cut him short.
“Watoto wangu wako sawa? Enda juu na unipigie ukishawaona” (Are my kids ok? Go upstairs and call me back when you see them.) All this time I am staring at the driveway that winds up to our office. Its dark and eerie. A second later, a speeding car finally appears. I flip my laptop and throw it in its bag, grab my handbag and literally run out of the office, switching off the lights on my way out.
My phone rings as I head towards the lift. It’s the watchman. He explains that both kids are ok, Xena is issuing instructions to her toys in the living room and Xia is in her cot. I breathe a sigh of relief. I ask him if he retained the house help at the gate and he says that she is upstairs with the kids. My head starts to spin again.
The 12-minute drive to our house is longer than the drive to Mombasa in those hastily driven Coast Buses.
I can’t sit still. My hands are hugging my knees and I am leaning towards the dashboard. I wish I was a coast bus driver. The mister is meticulously going over bumps, carefully observing his distance from the cars ahead. I should take over the wheels. Tailgate and overtake at every given chance and test the limits of the gas pedal.
We finally get home and I jump off the car before he can park it, leaving all my baggage behind. You would think I am a trained retinue. Two flights up and I burst the living room door open to find Xia crawling aimlessly on the living room floor and Xena speaking into a toy microphone that she has just unwrapped. They both excitedly head towards me, calling out my name and hugging me. As they always do. They look happy. Dirty, but happy. Half empty plates lie haphazardly on the dining table, a sign that they have just had their dinner. I am reminded of a scene in The Help where the maid used her poop as an ingredient for her master’s pie which she delightfully consumed, oblivious to its contents. I pray that this is not the case here.
I take a deep breath and pick both my daughters up and step outside the house for a minute. I am still worried that the house help will go kung-fu on us, so I wait for the mister to come upstairs.
She is standing at the kitchen counter, all dressed up with her bags lying next to her feet. Words fail me as I try getting her to help me make sense of all the drama. I am incoherent. The mister demands to know why she was taking off and she says she needs to leave immediately. Was there anything that informed her decision to break free at 7.30 freaking PM? She declines to answer.
Her arrogance irks me to my core. Suddenly, I find my words and ask her to make a hasty exit. She grabs her bags and almost skids out of the house, but not before I rummage through them. I flip the travel bag open and pour all the contents on the carpet, and out flies Xena’s old shoes (ngomas and two pairs of sandals- one without a partner), Xena’s old sun glasses, two of my old purses that I no longer carry, Xia’s cot sheet and old face towel, Xena’s Barbie doll, an unused set of crayons, a few of those For-You Chinese restaurant plastic kiddie toys. She had picked all this stuff – most of which we did not need-with her kids in mind. At this point I am ambivalent about her actions. Sorry for her as she clearly is missing her kids and has seized this collection of goodies for them, but mad at her for attempting to abandon mine when nobody was at home.
Next, I pour out the contents of her backpack. Wrapped neatly with her long black trench coat are two GAP plaid shirts and denim pants from my online store Mykidscouture.com that she picked from the stock that sits in my bedroom! I shoot her a disdainful look and she says she bought them at the Toi Market. Wow! Just wow! I grub deeper in her bag, pulling out the remainder of the clothing and find four toilet soaps, half a bar of soap and two sets of earphones. I take a picture of her ID (a critical document that I never bothered to ask for when I hired her) and dismiss her with a wave of my hand.
Coincidentally, this happened a day after I watched a discussion on vetting nannies on Citizen TV. Grace of Findrealme.co.ke on Citizen TV explained that employers need to take a minimum of two months to vet domestic workers before hiring them. I wondered to myself who has the time for that. She made a lot of sense, only that it seemed unfeasible. She said as an employer, one should interview a total of ten helps on the phone and narrow down to five that you accord a face to face interview. Salient, but impractical.
I have had my help for less than three months after dismissing one that I had for three years over indolence and failure to show up for work without prior notice. In retrospect, had I put up with the lethargic help who had served us well for a substantial period, I would have probably taken my time to vet and hire the next right, and sane person. But being in this space right now, I don’t know how I can juggle work and run my house for two months as I wait to get the perfect help.
It’s 1.42am as I wind up this post. This one will not get to be reviewed and rewritten tomorrow morning because there will be no time for that. I will need to get Xena -who is currently siting for exams (in pre-unit I should add!)- ready for school. Xia will wake up promptly at 6.30am demanding her milk. My analysis on KCB is still pending but will miraculously go out before the stock market opens at 9.00am. Plus I have three meetings scheduled for tomorrow morning.
Still, I will pass out as soon as I shut this laptop and sleep like a baby because my babies are alive and healthy.