Mommy had a few careers throughout her life. Most of her friends knew her as a hawker before she retired. Way before I was born she sewed for a living; there was a foot-operated Singer sewing machine at home I used to do as a writing table.
When I was between eight to fourteen (give or take) though, she look after babies for money. This story features one of the many babies she took care of. It made a small fragment of the time she babysitted but it was memorable to me, just not in a positive way.
Mommy liked babies in an instinctual maternalistic way. Each time she got to hold one she'll exhibit cute-aggression. She just naturally knows how to handle them. That's quite remarkable considering she only had one baby for experience before doing this professionally.
Most gigs she took on were done at our home. Parents would send their new borns to where we live, pick them up again when they're off work. Occasionally the baby would spend the night too if they client needed it.
This particular gig though, mommy did the babysitting in the client's home instead. After I went off to school in the morning she'd walk her way to the client's place. I didn't like the thought of this, I'll get to this later.
I dunno why she took this gig. Maybe it paid more, maybe she wanted to get out of the house.
After school, the school bus would drop me at the house where mom babysitted.
There's something deeply unsettling about having to land in a place that's not my home, especially after a traumatic school day. School days usually are.
There's none of the benefits of creature comfort of home and none of the spontaneity of exploration. In fact I have to be extra careful to not break anything.
Over there I would eat lunch, do my homework, take naps, wake up drowsy and continue homework. Mommy would iron clothes, do baby work and other chores. I didn't mind it but there's something empty about this for her. The obvious piece was that she didn't get to enjoy Chinese TV here; all she got was women magazines that she can hardly read.
Her boredom was loud enough I can touch it. But I dunno this for fact, I can only guess it's the case.
I don't even remember the gender but there's a good chance it's a boy. Mom always preferred baby boys, girls cried too much. The one time she took care of a girl and that was true.
When the client made it home, the typical ritual is for mom to recount what transpired with the baby, how cute he acted. This smalltalk annoyed me to no end; still does today. Part of the torture for me was to listen to these exchanges without having a phone to bury my head into.
When it's time to go, we'd pack up everything and walk home together. She would have her bag of stuff, I have my overloaded school bag. The amount of things we have to put in our school bags were itself a punishment. It's a wonder we got to grow tall at all.
Together we would start walking home lugging our things. Sometimes my bag got too heavy mom will carry it for me. These were long walks that have us walk by houses, trees and cars. Each house we passed by I asked in my mind: is there a boy my age in there that didn't have to do this?
It felt like half an hour of walk. And she has to do this in the morning too? By the time I reached home I'll be exhausted, mommy will frantically start cooking dinner.
I hated that feeling of us having to do this. I was better than most people at sucking it up.
Did we do this because we needed the money? That felt likely but I can't tell how badly was the money situation. We don't talk about money in the family; if ever it was discussed I certainly wasn't a participant.
At some point I started to resent this. I didn't tell mommy, it's not my style. But I wonder if she knew.
It got to a point when the client came home I look at him with intense hatred, thinking he's the one who put mommy to involuntary hard work. It's not his fault, it was a fair commercial exchange but to an undevelopment, the closest point of association to the victim gets the blame.
I dunno if he spotted my expression of resentment, it felt obvious.
Unlike other babies throughout mom's babysitting career, we hardly developed any connection with this one. It was a short stint of what felt like half a year. There was no time for the baby to grow up knowing us.
There was a major reason mommy took up babysitting. It wasn't the money.
I was a single child. They tried and couldn't make another kid. Babysitting was her way for me to have a quasi-sibling and not feel bored and lonely.