You were probably expecting a holiday theme for today’s blog. Not so, though the topic was inspired by the Elf on the Shelf meme “Elf on the Shelf Babysitter.” Spoiler alert: the babysitter elf puts the snowman’s carrot nose through a vegetable grater. This image triggered a babysitter flashback in me- -not a violent episode but definitely- -weird. . .
Don’t tell them about the times I was forced to babysit!
I’m not old enough to babysit.
That won’t work as an exemption for long, 9. Not when Mom and Dad’s friends have a visiting 7-year-old grandson and can’t find a sitter the night of the yacht club party. And not when one of your best friends who is dating your cousin needs you to cover for her when they’re going out for Valentine’s Day.
Fortunately (for Port Townsend children too young to stay by themselves in the mid-1970s) our babysitting responsibilities were light. But when we were younger my sister and I got babysat a lot!
Grandparents were the family’s front line. We were lucky to have three of them in the same town as us. But when they were busy with their own lives Mom and Dad resorted to the tried and true “older kids of friends” approach. We had some dandies, too, one especially who had younger brothers and sisters. He bribed us to make him snacks and, when it was bedtime, he threw us into our beds on a count of three!
But then he got old and stopped babysitting.
All of our sitters were nice enough but they just didn’t have his incredible sense of fun. What the babysitter the Elf on the Shelf meme got me thinking about, though, was kind of. . .
Oh. Is this about the Troll Dolls?
Got it in one, 9. I failed to procure a Troll Doll for today’s artwork so we’ll resort to narrative for illustrative purposes. Troll Dolls are made of hard plastic. Their bodies are squat, their arms and legs are short and their faces look kind of squishy. They have all-black eyes, ears shaped like doughnuts and belly buttons. Incredible lengths of hair the texture of cotton candy and in a variety of vivid colors shoot up from their skulls like erupting volcanoes. When I was a kid they generally came without clothes.
Concerned grandmothers often “ran up a little something” to cover the belly buttons and bottoms, and soon industry created Trolls dressed to a theme and entire Troll wardrobes. We even had a Troll house!
We don’t have that anymore?
It’s probably in our old toy box in Mom’s attic. But back in the day. . .
And back to the story of the babysitter?
Right. Thanks, Lily.
My sister and I owned quite a few Trolls by the time the babysitter I will identify as “L” showed up. She was the younger sister of another sitter who’d aged out of the babysitting game, a common referral system in those days and it probably still is. L shows up, hears the drill from Mom about where things are (including a fire extinguisher and a rope ladder that, thankfully, we never had to use to make a second floor escape from a burning house). L assures Mom everything will be fine. And. . .well, it is fine, but, you know, kind of. . .
The setting: typical 1960s family den- -a TV (color!), orange and gold shag carpet, armchairs for the parents and a couch for anyone else who happened by.
The players: Two girls ages 7 and 9, a teen-aged babysitter (older than 13 but not old enough to drive)
The props: A dozen or so Troll Dolls in various states of dress and undress, a Troll Doll house, and a bird cage, formerly occupied by hamsters.
I’m not sure how everything got set in motion, maybe me playing with the Trolls and L saying “Oh, you have Troll Dolls?” and my sister (we’ll call her Ann, because that’s her name) said, “I have some, too.” How the birdcage got into the mix remains a mystery. The dolls were divided into two families, the Goodies (who had clothes) and the Baddies (who did not). The Goodies lived in the Troll House; the Baddies (you guessed it!) lived in the bird cage.
The Goodie parents were going to a party. They hired a girl from the Baddie family (who was wearing the only piece of clothing the Baddies owned between them) to babysit. After the parents left, the Baddie babysitter let the Goodie children take off their clothes and jump up and down on their beds! And when the Goodie parents arrived home earlier than expected. . .
The sitter L said not to tell our parents about this particular game when they got home.
To clarify, we did not take off our clothes and jump up and down on our beds.
Well, the jumping up and down part would have been okay.
I’m not sure what became of L, other than she eventually graduated from high school and went out into the greater world to seek her fortune. But this holiday season I wonder: who is the person behind the Elf on the Shelf evil babysitter meme?