Today's Reading

I expect disappointment; no little brothers or sisters looked after. But she says, "'Six.' Were you the darling of the family?" 

Grateful, I say, "More the despair."

The conversation turns to habits. How much milk do I think best for baby? How much sleep? Should babies have lots of layers or be free to move? How much cuddling do I think is wise? Do I have a preferred method of potty training? I feel the colonel's interest sharpen and sense strong views. It's a minefield; one area of difference will be grounds for showing me the door.

I say, "Generally, I prefer to hear from the parents what they think best for their child and adopt that routine. It doesn't do to have the nurse and mother at odds."

Mrs. Lindbergh says shyly, "Well, I may be different from other mothers you've worked with. We follow the Watson method." I nod as if entirely familiar. "We want Charlie to be able to manage for himself, to feel confident. The Colonel and I"—she looks up at him—"believe self-sufficiency should be encouraged, rather than dependence. Too much cuddling and rushing to help fosters a needy attachment."

Does she believe it, or he does and she goes along? No matter. One and the same in this house.

I say, "That makes a great deal of sense," thinking, Of course this is how a man the world calls the Lone Eagle would raise a child. The Lindberghs take my words as agreement. And I let them.

"We're planning a trip to the Orient in summer," she tells me. "We'll be gone for a few months at least. Would you mind that, being left on your own with the baby?"

Her eyes are bright with excitement at the prospect of the trip. But something else as well. Anxiety. Her hands are clasped, the grip quite tight, and her voice too definitive: I am doing this. She's braced for judgment. From me, of all people.

It is strange to feel affection for someone you don't know, protective of someone who has so much. And yet I do.

"Not at all," I tell her. "That's my job, isn't it? To make sure you're able to do what you need to without worry?"

It's the right answer. She glances at him, hopeful. Turning back to me, she asks, "Do you need specific days off? Vacation requirements?"

"No. I only have my brother here, and I'm sure he's seen enough of me."

She laughs. For the first time, I consider the possibility I may get this job. A whirl of pleasurable images. Telling Billy. Writing mother. The news making its way back to Detroit. Let him feel regret. Let him feel...

Then I hear the Colonel say, "You speak English very well."

I smile to keep my jaw from falling. Can he even think it's a compliment? He senses my amazement and his mouth goes sullen, his neck red.

Laying a gentle hand on his arm, she says, "They speak English in Scotland, Charles."

She looks at me, knowing very well he's made the mistake. Even so it's my job to make it right.

"Aye, moost of the time," I say, and a round of laughter releases us.

He asks, "Do you like dogs?"

"I love dogs." 


My face is starting to ache, my teeth are clenched. Is it good? Why good? Why dogs and not cats, Colonel? Do dogs speak English? Or do you not expect them to—dogs, immigrants, all the same...

My mother's voice: "Snippy, Betty." Wiping the complaints from my mind, I ask, "Should I... see the baby now?"

There is the briefest pause.

"I'm afraid he's out with my mother," says Mrs. Lindbergh smoothly.

He chimes in with, "She likes to walk him around the gardens." 

"Of course."

After that it's "Thank you for coming by, Miss Gow" from them and a "Thank you for seeing me" from me. They stay at the top of the stairs while I make my way down to where the butler is waiting to show me out. The chauffeur is already waiting by the car. They have people to bring you in and people to take you out when they're done with you. Kathleen Sullivan is nowhere to be seen. Probably back in her office, interviewing the next candidate.

I shouldn't have asked to see the baby. 

This excerpt ends on page 14 of the hardcover edition.

Monday we begin the book Maame by Jessica George. 

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