June 16, 2009

The Nanny Problem

A little blond-haired boy, a toddler, is riding in a shopping cart facing his nanny, a young Japanese woman who is -- I cannot adequately convey this -- who is so beautiful that the peaches in the produce bin start leaking when she stops to consider them.

(Am I the only one who notices? Have miracles become so commonplace? The other shoppers are older women, they’re not going to give her an extra glance, and the two guys stacking endive in the corner are discussing the imminent arrival of a shipment of Holland tomatoes. This is a fancy store.)

She’s tall and slim in a cream-colored silk blouse with the cuffs folded above her wrists; two extraordinarily fortunate gold bracelets dangle on the left wrist knob. Ivory skin draws her eyelids tight toward wide cheekbones, and her black hair sweeps above one ear and down to the other shoulder. Utamaro would have made a famous series of prints of her.

The blond-haired boy, drinking milk from a sippie cup, looks right and left at this excellent world, but always his gaze returns to the center, to her. His clean white sneakers, bobbing, kick her softly in the tummy. She doesn’t object but doesn’t encourage. She’s absorbed in her employer’s shopping list. She’s attentive to the boy, she answers his two-syllable questions and offers him a sweet cracker from a box in her handbag, but she doesn’t baby-talk or burble or dandle.

With a calm smile she takes a delft-blue washcloth from the bag and wipes a tear-streak of milk from his chin. He grabs for it, and looks at it with wonder because she has touched it.

The poor little guy. He’s going to spend his whole life searching for her, and he’ll never see her like again.

Watching her push the cart to the checkout in her long flared cocoa-brown pants, I say to myself, “I want a nanny.”

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