She taught me how to tie my shoelaces. It was an act of love; her patiently instructing me how to tie my shoelaces for what must have been a painstakingly, grueling period of time. She sat with me on the couch, and gently coached me along.
“Hold a lace in each of yuh hands,” she encouraged.
I grasped each shoelace in a balled fist, and then looked up to her for more guidance. She tenderly loosened my grip and corrected the position of my hands.
“No, honey. Just a light touch.”
As she spoke, she smoothed the furrowed crease on my forehead with the soft touch of her hand. A kind and caring touch.
“Now, fold each lace inna loop. Hold wid yuh thumb an finga,” she spoke in her Patois.
I did not yet have the dexterity to manage this maneuver without losing grip of each of the shoelaces. I tried and tried and tried, and with each frustrating attempt, she patiently waited and allowed me to self-discover the skill; gently guiding me towards achievement during every step in the process.
I remember her beautiful, dark, velvety skin, and the safety of her embrace. She was quiet and calm and steady. Unassuming. She had a warmth that was so great, and so uncommon; we all sought refuge in it.
The other nannies never made it. They often couldn’t handle an entire day with all of us. They would start, eager and enthused, and often by lunchtime they were placing a call through to their agencies, demanding an alternate assignment.
She was different. She skillfully handled the lot of us. She assumed authority tacitly. She didn’t have to beg or bribe or cajole. You could tell that she knew how to rear children.
She said that I reminded her of her daughter. I sensed the solace she felt in her caring for another woman’s daughter, while another woman cared for hers. A daughter she rarely saw, oceans away.
We started off our day like any other, although, she arranged for my brothers to play next door. Off we headed, with my baby sister in her arms, and I by her side. We made our way to an office building and climbed and climbed and climbed up the stairs to a dark, stuffy office at the top.
Once inside, she took a seat facing a stern-looking woman behind a desk. They exchanged greetings and then the business began. Tones became hushed. The air in the room began to suffocate.
“That is quite the accusation,” the stern woman finally said, clearly uncomfortable.
That singular phrase challenged both the account and her credibility.
Despite this, she calmly continued to chronicle her version of the events, unfazed and unthreatened. She knew full-well the implications of her statements. She knew that it was unlikely for her to be believed; an uneducated, undocumented, Jamaican woman describing what went on behind closed doors in tony Rosedale.
I grew more and more uncomfortable, unsure and afraid. Pressure built in my chest, my heart rat-a-tat-tatting against my ribs. A rush of blood flushed my face and rang in my ears.I tried with all my force to stay calm, to keep from shaking. They will know it to be true, if you show them, I warned myself.
The stern woman turned her attention to me, seeking me to corroborate the account.
“Can you tell me what, if anything, happened?” she probed.
“…you can trust me,” she feigned.
I knew that I wasn’t supposed to lie. I didn’t want to dismiss her, nor reject her or her love. I also knew that if I told the truth, that it would all be over.
My mind raced to come up with a plausible, innocent, and alternative explanation for the version of events. Distract. Dissuade. Disguise.
“Dear?” The stern woman was waiting for an answer.
I swallowed hard and lied.
Ashamed, and afraid, and with my heart breaking, I lied.
We never saw her again.
She was quietly replaced without a word.
She taught me how to tie my shoelaces.
Catherine Statton is an author of short fiction and non-fiction. She has co-authored research articles on varying aspects of healthcare that were published in several journals, including the Canadian Journal of Diabetes. She holds a Masters degree (Leadership) and was recently awarded the Leading Women, Building Communities award.