I was 22; it was the summer before my senior year at college in Buffalo, New York. I had been working as an usher that summer at Artpark, a then newly established performing arts center in my beloved home town of Lewiston, New York. This summer I was serving as head usher. Somehow connected to that role, I met the world-renowned conductor of a visiting symphony orchestra. After chatting a bit with him and his wife, they invited me to come with them the next day (!) to New York City, to become a nanny for their two young boys.
There’s a backstory to relate. I had long wanted, since my early college years, to go to live in New York City. I wanted to be a writer there, hanging out in dimly lit coffeehouses, writing poetry and stories on copious napkins while sipping tea and tuning into the folk music scene of emerging NYC artists. The sudden offer to move to NYC as a nanny to a famous conductor’s family seemed like manna from heaven; a golden ticket to the life of my dreams.
I didn’t go. I told myself it was because I needed to finish my last year at college and to go on from there to graduate school; both of which, I did. But for several years I wondered, what might have happened, if? If I had answered ‘yes’ instead of ‘no’ to that once-in-a-lifetime offer? So let me imagine now, in this Better Endings blog, what might have followed if I had been adventurous and brash enough to ‘seize the day’ back then?
Johnny and Marcelo grew up to become a folk musician and a chiropractor, fulfilling their own personal ambitions and well supported by their loving parents. Though they had been privileged as youngsters, their parents’ values and my own as their nanny had taught them the value of self-reliance, hard work and altruism. They matured to become not only well mannered but also kind, considerate, thoughtful human beings who were also quite generous, each in their way. Johnny married a songwriter and formed a musical family of his own; Marcelo moved to San Francisco with his longterm partner, a ballet artist, and he established a thriving chiropractic firm.
Through the years as the conductor’s family nanny I was able to travel to many wonderful cities and countries around the world. I finished my B.A. in English by taking night classes at Columbia University. Eventually, after the boys were grown, I earned an MFA in creative writing. I became a journalist and a part-time writing teacher and coach, author of a regular column for over a decade in The Village Voice that promoted and researched the offerings of up and coming NYC writers. I published a small book of poetry of my own when I was thirty, and I landed quite a few stories in The New Yorker and in the Atlantic Monthly magazines, among others, over the years. I never wrote the Great American Novel, although I reviewed quite a few promising young authors aiming to succeed in that direction. I never discovered my now seemingly inherent passion for science fiction or quantum physics, nor for anthropology or linguistics, much. I did explore spirituality and discovered the very approach that I practice today. I never lived in Arizona or in Zuni, New Mexico or Colorado, so I never met the friends I have been close to there. But I improved my fluency in French and in Italian and I aim to retire to Arles, where Van Gogh found such vibrancy in the quality of light and in the interconnectedness of a community from which he himself, however, felt removed.
It was a good life, one parallel to the life I might have lived had I answered ‘No’ instead of ‘Yes’ to an offer to be a nanny.
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