jude's culinary journey

Babysitting blues

By JUDE WATERSTON
Posted 12/23/20

When my brother, Buzz, was 10 years old and I was 3, he presented my parents with this concise, hand-written diatribe as to why he had been punished.

“Why I Was Punished,” by Buzzy …

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jude's culinary journey

Babysitting blues

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When my brother, Buzz, was 10 years old and I was 3, he presented my parents with this concise, hand-written diatribe as to why he had been punished.

“Why I Was Punished,” by Buzzy Waterston

I was punished because my mother tries to relie [sic] on me because I’m the oldest one of the children but instead I’m the worst of the children. I get the other two (and sometimes three) kids wild. If my mother gave me five cents for every time I got the other kids wild, I would be a millionare [sic]. The End.

Apparently, this unfortunate state of affairs continued its downward spiral. My brother typed the following on his personal stationery when he was 16 years old. It was left on my parent’s bed one evening. Note that under his name Buzz identifies himself as a numismatist, which is a coin collector.

Harry “Buzz” Waterston

Numismatist

204 West 18th St.

Deer Park, NY 11729

I, Harry Neil Waterston, on this twenty-seventh day of the month of June, in the year 1964, do solemnly swear that never again will I baby-sit for my two sisters or any of their friends and/or relatives unless a set of qualifications which I shall mention later are fulfilled. I do declare this because:

  1. During the three years that I have been babysitting, I have suffered injustices directly or indirectly caused by my two sisters (i.e. tantrums, contempt for authority and keeping me from the priveleges [sic] and pleasures any and all babysitters should enjoy).
  2. These injustices have been increased by the fact that, for most of my three years sitting, I have offered my services without benefit of a wage, and because, in the arguments following my sister’s frequent outbreaks of barbaric behavior, both my parents invariably take the side of my sisters, or simply abstain from all debate, in direct defiance of democratic ideals.

The qualifications, which must be fulfilled before I again take on the responsibilities of babysitting, are as follows:

  1. I must be given much more authority in disputes between me and my sisters, and my decision must prevail.
  2. I must be given the power to punish my sisters for any wrongdoing as I see fit. This includes sending them to their rooms or adjusting their bedtimes.
  3. I must not be required to do any thing [sic] not normally required of any baby-sitter.
  4. I refuse to sacrifice my privleges [sic] and pleasures to my two sisters.
  5. I must be guaranteed an hourly wage, not to be adjusted or abolished except by both my consent and my parents.

If any one of these qualifications is not fulfilled, I refuse to sit again for the rest of my life.

Respectfully submitted,

Harry Neil Waterston

P.S. THIS CAN VERY EASILY BE NOTARIZED AND TAKEN TO COURT!

I would guess that the P.S. had to have been my parent’s favorite part of Buzz’s declaration. The truth is, I have no memory of causing Buzz such grief with my antics when he babysat. Nor do Janet and I remember him playing much of a part in our lives when we were young. She and I were close in age while Buzz was not only seven years my senior, but he skipped two grades in elementary school and left home for college at the age of 16, making him nine years ahead of me in school. I have vague memories of being teased by my brother when we were young, but no concrete feeling of having actually lived with him day to day.

There is one time I do recall Buzzy babysitting us, and that was on New Year’s Eve when I was 6 or 7. The carefully orchestrated night began around six in the evening with my mother letting me help her set up what she billed as “grown-up hors’ d’oeuvres.” There were three popular crackers in those days: Ritz, Triscuits and Wheat Thins. I laid them out carefully on a dinner plate, slightly overlapping and in concentric circles. My mother cut bright yellow-orange Velveeta, Swiss cheese and a block of creamy Muenster into cubes and let me spear each chunk with a colorful, frilly toothpick. “This is not like you and Daddy have,” I complained. “I want a real whore’s derv.”

“The H is silent,” my mother laughed, tousling my hair. She thought for a moment, then opened a kitchen cabinet and withdrew a can of artichoke hearts. “I think we have time to make something special, since Daddy and I don’t have to leave until 8.” Into the blender went the artichoke hearts, which she roughly chopped beforehand, with some mayonnaise, grated parmesan cheese and garlic powder. She whirred the few ingredients together in the blender, letting me press the “pulse” button. Using a spatula, she scraped the mixture into a baking dish and wrote down instructions for Buzz to bake the artichoke dip before serving it. The final touch was a sprinkling of paprika, which I believe I performed deftly. My mom bent down and I kissed her cheek. Then I went up to my room to read “Winnie the Pooh.”

The plan was to have Janet and me go to sleep at our usual bedtimes, and Buzz would wake us a little before midnight so we could watch the great ball descend, click juice glasses and yell “Happy New Year!” at the top of our lungs. A little after 11 that night, Buzz baked the hot artichoke dip, then thoughtfully laid out the food on folding trays in the den. He turned the television on and flipped the channels until he found the annual New Year’s Eve countdown. Then he entered our darkened bedroom to wake us. He found us like rag dolls, deep with sleep, and tried repeatedly to rouse us from our stupors. Janet finally sat up momentarily, only to flop back down in a lifeless heap. At five to midnight, Buzz gave up and returned to the den, ate three quarters of a pound of cheese and half the warm dip while wearily watching the ball go down over Times Square. My parents arrived home to an angry kid nursing a stomachache in the midst of composing a long, angry letter to add to the others.

Baked artichoke dip

I’ve updated the recipe by using a garlic clove rather than the garlic powder my mother used in the 1960s, and I substituted the parmesan cheese from a can with aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, which can be found in most grocery stores.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups
14 ounce can artichoke hearts, drained well
1 large garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, loosely packed
1/2 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coarsely chop artichoke hearts and drop them into the bowl of a food processor. Add garlic, parmesan cheese, mayo, a pinch of salt and a healthy grinding of fresh black pepper. Process until well combined—about 5 seconds. Spoon mixture into a small, shallow oven-proof baking dish. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve hot with crackers.

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