by Krysten Bacon
I’m not a perfect guardian and I was a bad au pair. My temper ran short and my cooking skills didn’t exist and all I wanted to do was go out in Berlin, dance, ride my bike, and talk to boys. But I was an au pair. So I had to work.
I went out in the mornings and late at night and made it, somehow, in time every day to pick Jason up from the Kita, but sometimes we were tired and rode the trains. Sometimes we were rushed and ate french fries. We watched movies. Sometimes I was so frustrated and tired of the six year old who couldn’t take care of himself and followed me around all day and needed to be read bedtime stories, so sometimes at night I just closed his curtains and closed his door and then closed my door, too.
I was a good au pair three times. Three times in a year of thirteen months that I felt love for Jason the way his parents felt love for him. The first was in April, eleven months after I had started as an au pair. It was the first warm day of the year, and I had promised Jason that as soon as the weather was nice, we would ride bikes together. I asked his father to bring his bike with him to school that day but when I went downstairs, Jason’s bike was still locked in the basement. I had lots of options but the one that I chose was to strap the mountain bike big enough for an eight year old onto the rack of my bike using punctured bike tubes and a bike lock and balance, and I rode the six kilometers to school very carefully, being that I was three times as wide as I usually was. Then Jason and I rode bikes together.
The second time was when I painted the apartment. The family was on vacation and I stayed in Berlin and they paid me to paint three rooms. One of them was Jason’s. He had a huge patch of wall that was completely bare and scraped past the drywall to the concrete, from when he wore at it with his shoes or stabbed it with scissors or maybe took a hammer to the wall to punch off the paint and destroy it. Next to the destroyed wall was a white wall with a square meter of stickers stuck to it. Again I had options, such as painting over the stickers or scraping them off or moving out of the house while the family was gone and taking my salary and bicycle with me, but I didn’t do that. I peeled the dinosaurs and cars and people off of the wall, carefully so no one was hurt, and taped them onto a piece of paper which I left on Jason’s dresser with his name on it.
And then I was done. Then I was no longer an au pair. I was finished with the contract and turned loose in Berlin and moved into the city away from Rixdorf and the money and the loud, crying mornings. It was fine for a year and the project was good and I was glad I’d done it, but I was finished, finally. I wasn’t obligated to anyone anymore.
I went back to visit a few weeks after I’d finished. It was late when I arrived and Jason was asleep in bed. The covers were over him tightly, and it looked at first like he wasn’t there. He might have been sleeping in his parents’ room. I sat down carefully on his bed and felt for his arms. When I found them, I gently pulled the covers away. Being as I was a bad au pair, I wasn’t very careful and Jason woke up. He looked at me alarmingly, but I told him it was me, and that it was fine, and I rubbed his back and he fell asleep. I sat there a while longer. I sat in the dark in the room with my hand on his back, feeling him breath and feeling him asleep and knowing that I didn’t have to be there but wanted to, until it was long enough and I went to sleep, too.
Krysten organizes an au pair night in Berlin. The next Au Pair Night is on November 22, 2014, 21:00 at Weserstr. 133, Berlin-Neukölln. Facebook for the event is: https://www.facebook.com/events/600305700097313/?ref=ts&fref=ts