One of the hardest things about being a working parent is dealing with child care. Figuring out the right situation for your kids, finding the right providers, making sure that all the time you need covered is covered, making sure things are being done the way you want them. All of it is a challenge and it is a constant challenge because at any moment, usually the least convenient moment, one link in your carefully calibrated care chain is likely to break.
We have been very fortunate to have a string of excellent people taking care of our kids. The first person who took care of them was a woman named Julie. Way back then, in the waning months of 2013, we were still living in Boston and I was interviewing from afar, trying to get child care set up in Madison before we moved. I liked Julie right away, and she was clearly head and shoulders above everyone else that I interviewed. When we moved to Madison and met her in person, I knew she was the right person for the job. She was very experienced, calm, collected, responsible, and she got Lemon to fall asleep in her arms the first time she met him.
Over the years that she worked with our family, she was the source of a lot of stability in what was otherwise a fairly turbulent time. She took great care of Lemon, the cats, and our house and made it feel like we were still a functional family, even through the great swings of Lemon's first years, when he was very sick a lot of the time. She could get him to eat when no one else could, and hers was the first name of a non-family member that Lemon ever uttered.
Julie was the first person to guess that I was pregnant with Lime, before my own mother I have to say. One morning, very early on, when I was feeling awful and trying to hold myself together enough to get out the door to work, she just gave me a funny look and said, "So, when are you due?" She was so attentive during the pregnancy, texting me during all the various tests and monitoring that I underwent during the second half of the pregnancy, when everyone thought that Lime was growth-restricted. She took great care of Lemon while I was in the hospital, and was one of Lime's very first visitors the day after he was born. She dressed up and put on extra make-up for the occasion, and brought me a bouquet of bright pink carnations to decorate the hospital room.
Julie's time with our family came to an end when a series of health issues of her own prevented her from continuing to work with our increasingly active kids. We were both very sad when it became clear that the situation couldn't go on any more, but it was clear to both of us that Julie needed to focus on her own health, and Lemon and Lime needed someone who could keep up with their frenetic pace. We stayed in touch since then, with me sharing pictures of the kids and Julie offering tips and encouragement. We shared a dream that, once the kids started school in the fall, with her health improved, Julie could come back and watch the kids for an hour or two in the mornings before school, doing all the things she loved--picking out their outfits, combing their hair, and keeping them out from under foot while she did housework.
Sometimes, dreams remain dreams. It is with a heavy heart that I have to share with you that Julie passed away unexpectedly this past weekend. Her passing is a reminder that, no matter who you are, life is fragile and fleeting. Thanks Julie, for everything that you did for us, and for all the love you gave to our boys. I hope you are sitting on a lounge chair somewhere in the shade of a palm tree, with your toes in the sand and a sea breeze lifting your hair.