I stayed home after David was born for 18 months. We had moved twice and were now in our “forever” house. In fact, 33 years later, we still live there. Two months after moving in, we began extensive renovations and I began to think it was time to go back to work.
I had been in software sales. Dan was a management consultant. We both traveled a great deal. One day, he came home from work with word from one of his colleagues who ran various programs for CEOs, CIOs, and heads of marketing. He was looking for a sales rep.
Managers signed a flat fee to be in these programs, which met at great golf resorts around the country a few times a year. The top thought leaders in the field were brought in to run seminars in the mornings for a few days. Afternoons were spend golfing; evenings were filled with great dining and entertainment. Ron told Dan I could work from home, selling membership in these groups.
I came in for an interview with baby David in tow. Ron was sweet with him, while David chewed through everything in my purse. Ron offered me the job right then.The job entailed selling corporate membership in his groups. I could sell by phone (as his other rep did; she had worked for him before having her baby and I hadn’t counted on how many local accounts she would hold), or travel to meet the prospects. I had a low base salary, the rest was commission, based on sales. I could start as soon as I had a babysitter. I thought I could try selling by phone, but discovered I am really someone who needs to be in front of the client.
I advertised for babysitters in local papers (it seems so quaint now). I got a lot of interest and began sorting through the responses. I interviewed a few. I looked to Mattie, my wonderful cleaning lady, who was also the wise elder woman in my life, for advise. We both liked Jill, whose real name was Sharon. She didn’t explain why she liked to be called Jill. There would be many mysteries surrounding Jill. She was 27 years old, from Barbados. She lived with her best friend Yolanda, who was a nanny for Stephanie, a prominent woman in Brookline. At the time. Stephanie was catering, but would soon open a restaurant on Newbury Street. The house was a few T stops away from Chestnut Hill. Our T stop is a mile walk to our house.
At first Jill continued to live in the servant’s quarters with Yolanda, but I found that I did need to travel and couldn’t wait for her to show up each day, so she moved into our basement, which hadn’t been renovated. It was a 1950s rec room. She brought in some old furniture of her own. There was a half bath in the basement and when she showered, she used the bathroom in our permanent guest space above the garage. She had to pass through the kitchen to get there, but the rest of the time, she had her privacy in the basement. We had a TV there and she installed her own phone line (this was 1987).
She was marvelous with David. She took him for rides on the T, just for entertainment, and long walks. Sometimes, Yolanda would come with the family car and the two girls she cared for and they all went on trips together. Jill was a good cook too. She taught me how to roast a chicken and make hand-cut french fries. One day, I got home after David was in bed. He’d had a cold, so I asked how he was and what he’d eaten. She said she’d gotten him to eat some soup. “Oh, I’m glad you found the chicken noodle soup on the shelf”. “No”, she demurred, “I made some from scratch for him”. I put my arms around her, “Will you be my mother?” We developed a close bond.
But something wasn’t quite right with those girls from Barbados. Yolanda came over a lot and at some point, a very pretty girl showed up who was introduced as her younger sister. She worked at McDonald’s. They would all gather behind the closed doors in my basement. They would do each other’s hair or watch TV. It all seemed fine until one night.
I had been to the ATM and taken out $200; on hundred for me and I left five twenty dollar bills for Dan on the kitchen counter. That night, we also had a big plastic bag of trash that got caught under the garage door, so the door couldn’t complete its cycle and wouldn’t close. I came into the house and called for help. Dan came, but couldn’t get it to budge. Jill came to the outside and tried to push and we pulled from the inside. Together we dislodged the bag and got the garage door closed. Meanwhile, the beautiful sister (I no longer remember her name) had to go to work, walked up through the kitchen as we worked on the garage door and left through the side door of the house. Later that evening, Dan discovered the money left for him on the kitchen counter had gone missing. We looked everywhere for it. We even looked in the cat’s litter box, thinking perhaps she had jumped up on the counter and absconded with it. It never showed up. We didn’t want to accuse anyone, but I did go down to the basement and talked it over with Jill and Yolanda. They denied anything and we believed them.
Two days later, we had company over for dinner and sat in the living room over drinks and appetizers. The phone rang. It was Jill calling from downstairs. It was the weekend and she was off-duty. She asked if I could come down for a moment, which I did. She was there with Yolanda. They had talked things over and decided that Yolanda’s sister probably had taken the money. Yolanda sent her back to Barbados and handed me a $100 bill. I never saw the girl again. And I have no idea where Yolanda got a $100 bill on a weekend (banks were not open on Saturdays in 1987).
A few months later, I headed out one evening to bring in take-out dinner for the family. I asked Jill if she needed a ride to the T. She told me she was in for the night. But when I returned with the food, I saw her at the corner, head done up in a turban, waiting for a ride. I never said anything.
She was a very good sport. We celebrated a small Passover Seder. My father came in from California and Jill sat with us. I didn’t make many of the foods, but eating gefitle fish is definitely an acquired taste. David liked it and his pediatrician said it was good protein for him, so that was fine with me. My dad liked Jill too.
The next strange event happened just before Christmas. I had tickets to see “Les Miserables”, the first national tour. I had sent away for these months in advance and it was just a week before Christmas, so Jill was set to babysit, as the Boston College students (we live close to the campus) were gone already. We were going out with two other couples to the theater, one before for dinner, one after to a party.
A week before the theater, Jill came to talk to me. She’d heard from her boyfriend, Mark. He was coming into town from Brussels that night. Could I get anyone else to babysit? This was the first I’d heard of Mark and no, I could not get anyone else to babysit on such short notice. We’d be out a long time and all the students were gone for on Christmas break. I told her I was fine if she wanted to have Mark come here. He could be downstairs with her after David went to bed (which was early; he was only two). She declined, said she’d see him the next day, and it would be late by the time he cleared customs anyway. Yolanda came over to do Jill’s hair.
So off we went. We loved the play, but after, with the one couple, decided to skip the Beacon Hill party and went for dessert at the Ritz Café overlooking the Public Garden instead. It was late at night and the Garden was alight with Christmas decorations. We were seated and couldn’t believe our eyes. In the corner, in a black cocktail dress, seated with a middle-aged, not very attractive white guy, was our nanny! WHO WAS SUPPOSED TO BE BABYSITTING OUR TWO YEAR OLD! We all sat there for a moment, stunned; what to do? I got up and walked over to Jill, whose back was to me. “Tell me that Yolanda is home with David?!” Jill didn’t even seem flustered. She introduced me to Mark and reassured me that Yolanda was, indeed, back at our house. She did not apologize, she just went on as if nothing had happened. I returned to my seat.
In the years since I’ve told this story, many people said they would have fired her on the spot. The fact is, Yolanda knew David and our house well. If Jill had asked me, it would have been fine for her to fill in. The sneaking around was not fine. It was late when we returned home and the door to Jill’s room was closed. She was there in the morning. No sign of Mark.
She continued to be wonderful with David and great around the house. Several months later, she came up to me, all excited and said she was engaged to Mark! She was moving to Palm Beach. I was happy for her but miserable for myself. Despite the above mentioned irregularities, she had been exceptional. And I don’t mean to be catty, but this Mark guy was supposed to be some huge, international business man. I had yet to see a ring. Finally she showed me one and it wasn’t the huge rock I would expect from someone as successful as he was supposed to be. Something didn’t feel right. Eventually she gave me her address in Palm Beach. We know people there. It turned out to be fake.
She only gave two weeks notice. I was working full-time (I had switched jobs already and was now working for a company in Waltham, a 10-year old company that had just received a round of venture capital. It was a crazy place to work, but I knew someone there and for a year, I made the best of it). I hired a college student from Colorado who was here chasing a Harvard guy. Big mistake, but two weeks will make you desperate.
More than five weeks later, I sat at my desk in Waltham and my phone rang. My husband said, “Are you sitting down? I just got a call from Holly someone, looking for a reference on Jill.” “Our Jill? Are you kidding?” And the sordid tale unfolded: Jill was now their nanny, having been gone from Boston for over five weeks. She had worked for them for about two weeks and been vague on references but they insisted. She finally said she worked for Dan and Betsy Vernon who had a two year old son, but they had moved to Toronto (Dan currently had a client in Toronto) with no forwarding information, so she couldn’t get in touch with them.
This did not satisfy Holly and Charlie. Holly also had a two year old and was pregnant with a second child, as was I by this point. Finally, they announced they were going in two cars, with Jill in the lead, and wanted her to take them to the house she had worked in previously. Charlie followed the lead car…to my house. Jill knew she was trapped. She led the way and (we heard) Gretchen, the new babysitter, opened the door with David in tow. Charlie asked who lived there and quickly spotted the child by her side. He asked how to get in touch with the owner of the house and Gretchen gave him Dan’s number at his office.
Holly drove Jill back to their house in Cambridge and called Dan’s office, asking for “Dan Vernon”. The receptionist said there was no “Dan Vernon”, but a “Dan Pfau” there. Holly asked if he wife was Betsy and got an affirmative reply and was put through to Dan. She told the whole story. Dan was speechless. He just couldn’t believe the whole thing. He called me and told me, gave me Holly’s number. I called her and got the story again. We invited her to the house that evening. She brought photos of her child with their nanny. Of course it was Jill. We were all horrified. We cast about for ideas.
Jill never showed up to Holly and Charlie’s again. They changed the locks on their doors, as she had a key.
Holly is a psychiatrist. The only thing any of us came up with is that Jill was a call girl (only at night, never bringing clients into our home); had the opportunity for a lucrative five week gig with a client, knew she couldn’t leave me without a nanny for five weeks, so concocted the Palm Beach wedding story. When that gig ended, came back, went to work for Holly and Charlie, never thinking that she would be caught in her web of lies. Yolanda was the madam of this ring. The “sister” who was sent back to Barbados was one of her workers, who couldn’t be trusted, since she stole petty cash from us. That could have blown up the nanny gig, which gave them a place to live, rent-free. It all seemed implausible, but somehow, the narrative fit. Nanny by day, call girl by night. She only baby sat for us at night occasionally and far enough in advance that she could book her clients accordingly. I was sort of heartbroken. We had taken her into our home and our hearts. She was great with David and I never found anyone as good again. The next babysitter was a disaster in many ways, but that’s a different story.
I saw Jill once more after this episode, coming out of the Brookline post office. She was still cool as a cucumber, just like the night at the Ritz. She said she was in town just for a few days to collect some things from Yolanda’s house. She was sorry that she had missed David’s birthday, but had a present for him, could she come over and bring the gift tomorrow? Of course.
She came over at the appointed time with a model car, a shiny red Lamborghini. He loved it! I asked her about the other family. She claimed no knowledge of the incident, said it must have been someone else. She was a cool liar. I let it pass. David was happy to see her.
I have no more information on her, but from time to time wonder what became of her.
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.