I began babysitting at the ripe young age of ten years old, and my very first “client” was a young Asian couple with a small baby, who I presume was about six months old. Why don’t I know how old he was precisely? Oh, I’ll get to that.
Back in the day, I wanted to travel the world and, at that age, had already been throughout Europe, Canada, and all through the US. So I was thrilled that my clients were Asian and had all sorts of unique, yummy, (albeit unusual) food waiting for me when I got there. At one time they offered me a pie with a raw egg in the middle -- I did taste it but quickly decided China was possibly not a country I cared to visit -- and they always gave me free reign of their cabinets and fridge. So I lept on that opportunity like Miley Cyrus on a wrecking ball.
Every Friday night I would go to the clients’ home and sit on their couch for two hours, eat Cheetos, and watch X-Files while they attended a local Bible Study. It was a pretty sweet deal -- an opportunity that any ten (or thirty-two) year old would gladly embrace.
There were some weird parts of the job, though. For instance, in the three months I watched their baby boy, I never actually saw him. Not onced. I was instructed to NEVER go upstairs and check on him. I was to come in, sit on the couch, watch tv, and wait for them to get home. Even if he cried. It was strange, but I was ten and, again, they always had a bag of Cheetos waiting for me so I didn’t complain.
One Friday night in particular, as they were heading out the door, they mentioned they had some snacks for me in the fridge. Once I heard their car pull out of the driveway, I immediately ran over to the fridge and found the egg pie, some noodles, and a pitcher of, what I thought at the time was orange juice. And, since I had no intention of eating the egg pie again, and plain noodles didn’t really rock my boat, it looked like juice was on the menu tonight. I poured a small cup, hoping it wasn’t anything strange, and was pleased that it tasted pretty good. “Tangy with a kick” was my accurate description. And being someone who doesn’t know the meaning of moderation, I began pouring a second glass immediately. Then a third and a fourth.
About thirty minutes later, the entire pitcher was empty and I had a hard time standing up without tipping over. I thought I heard the baby crying and, throwing caution to the wind, decided to climb the stairs to check on him. I made it up three stairs before falling backward like a fat kid on a diving board at the public pool who suddenly thought he was capable of doing a back-flip. I laid on the floor for a few minutes before finding a phone and calling my dad. I believe the conversation went something like this:
Me: “Da? Somflighnaemiggen.”
Dad: “Sara? You okay?”
Dad: “Want me to come get you?”
He came and picked me up, waited for the couple to get home, and then drove me straight back to our house. I’m fairly certain he exchanged some words with the clients but I was not in a place to retain any of that information. I do remember the car ride home being like the boat scene in Willy Wonka, all wobbly and weird...but without the bubbles. And that made me sad. Apparently, I’m a sad drunk.
At this point, I still wasn’t sure what was happening to me. It wasn’t until we got all the way home and my dad announced to my mother that I was (in his words) “blitzed” that I began to understand.
And then I barfed. A lot.
To say this experience had a strong impact on my life is an understatement. For instance, I am now thirty-two years old and I just recently had my first alcoholic beverage (since that night). After one sip the room was spinning and I felt a little sick. I just knew I was drunk again, until my husband pointed out that there wasn’t enough alcohol in my glass to intoxicate a mouse.
I still can’t drink orange juice without feeling a little tipsy.
And I always think people are trying to get me drunk. (No, Grandma, I DON’T want some sparkling apple cider with our Christmas dinner!). They’re not.
So, if I could share two pieces of advice to young kids out there about to embark on their first babysitting job, here it is:
Moderation in all things.
Don’t drink the juice. Especially if it tastes like the offspring of Ralph Macchio's roundhouse kick and Carmen Miranda’s fruit hat.