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The Perfect Fit: A Tribute to New Beginnings

Autumn and I were both suffering from her being in daycare. The long days had her spending too little time sleeping and too much time in the car. Everyone promised it would get easier, and maybe it would, but I didn’t see it getting better. At some point, I imagined Autumn becoming complacent, but not necessarily happy, and that wasn’t good enough. So I searched for a nanny, and invited two to interview. The evening the first one was scheduled to arrive, I was on the phone with my therapist.

“You’ll just know when it’s the right person,” she said. And I prayed she was right.

Ten minutes later, enter Elena – in her 60s, thick Russian accent, bubbling with love.

“My darling!” she said to Autumn, who ran into her arms. If it was a movie, I’d force rewrites, because it seemed too unbelievable this was their first encounter.

“Mary Poppins!” my dad said.

“Autumn has already shown her more affection in five minutes than she has toward me in five weeks,” my mom remarked.

When I think back, it all seemed surreal, unbelievably magic. I see Nana and Papa belly laughing in slow-motion, Autumn floating here and there, introducing her guest to one toy and another. Then outside, to the back, events unraveled as a series of snapshots.

Autumn stood tall on her lawn chair, queen of the yard, butterflies fluttering in a bright, cartoon world.


That same Autumn, tipped over, face down on concrete, the scenery suddenly shades of gray.

Then she’s facing me. My daughter. Screaming, bruised, oozing red.

Just like that, the scene turned from Disney to horror, myself from mom to first responder, onlookers from gleeful to shocked, frozen against the corners of the room as I stood in the kitchen, cradling my broken child and grasping for what I knew.

Ice stops swelling.

She shouldn’t swallow blood.

Always stay calm.

And all the while, I kept searching. Scanning for the uniformed someone who’d swoop in with band-aids and knowledge. To stop her from crying. To ease her pain. To reassure me she’d be okay. Until I realized that that someone was me. And that this event was not tragic – yes, upsetting – but also manageable. And also, that she’d be okay.

But would I?

Her lip would heal. Her tooth could be replaced, but would I ever recover from hearing that scream, holding that toddler, replaying that moment? There is so much irony in all of it. For weeks, Autumn’s fits were emotional, prompted by our daily separation and the absence of the comforts of our Bubble House. I tried to ease that pain by finding a nanny, which would allow her to at least remain home and in a familiar routine, but then while conducting that search, she encountered physical distress.

And watching my daughter struggle reminds me of something my mom always says.

“I’m only as happy as my most unhappy child.”

And that child was usually me. I always felt it unfair she made me responsible for her emotions. Now, as a mom, I realize it was never a matter of fairness, but instead a matter of fact. Children are voodoo dolls in the way feelings are transferred to parents. And so the next day, I took off work to go to the dentist with Autumn, and spoiled her with toys and candy afterward because I love her, but also because taking care of her is, at the same time, taking care of me.

The following night, we met Frankie, and discovered that there is more than one Mary Poppins on Earth. For sure Elena is a blessing for some family, but this second candidate was going to be our perfect fit. Frankie does Autumn’s hair and paints her nails, creates art projects and scavenger hunts, and most of all, makes my little girl smile.

And I can, once again with a clear mind,…

Mommy On.

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