Danny Tyree: Babysitting horror stories

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 24, 2023

At approximately the time this column is uploaded to the syndicate website, I will be attending the funeral of my Aunt Jean.

I’m sure the eulogist will wax eloquent about heaven, but I want to nominate Aunt Jean to the Babysitter Hall of Fame.

When I was six and my brother Dwight was four, our parents dumped … er, entrusted… us to Aunt Jean while they attended a social event at the local municipal recreation center.

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A boringly routine assignment, except that as soon as our parents drove away, Dwight developed separation anxiety and wailed, “I wanna go to the re’reation center!”

Dwight darted out of the house and zigzagged through the yard. He would need to cross approximately seven unfamiliar streets and the railroad track to reach his destination. There was no GPS and he couldn’t navigate by the Big Dipper, so I guess he was planning to fly by the seat of his pants.

(Spoiler alert: The seat of his pants would be in no shape for flying by the end of the night.)

Aunt Jean was still in her prime, so retrieving one runaway boy was no biggie – except for the tag-team aspect of the situation.

“Let Dwight go to the recreation center if he wants to,” I solemnly intoned.

I didn’t fully comprehend why the trek meant so much to my little brother, but I was heavily influenced by Alfred Lord Tennyson. (“Ours not to reason why, ours but to do and let our sibling wind up in a hobo jungle.”)

I only knew that I was supposed to take up for my little brother, like when I tried to perform a C-section to give him an early entry into the world or when I was going to launch him into outer space in a gasoline-powered rocket or… Wow. I was like a low-budget soap opera: I was my own evil twin.

Casting my gaze at infant cousin Steve in his highchair, I continued, “You let Dwight go or I’ll throw this baby on the floor!”

(Really, this was a compliment to Aunt Jean’s immaculate housekeeping. Lots of people talk about eating off the floor, but how many have a floor clean enough to hurl an infant onto?)

Aunt Jean was frantic, torn between letting her nephew disappear into the night or having her only offspring become a crash test dummy.

With some quick thinking, she wedged Steve between the refrigerator and the wall so tightly that I couldn’t dislodge him and chased down Dwight in the yard.

I was disappointed that she didn’t do one of those adrenaline-enhanced maneuvers and lift the fridge, but I cut her some slack.

(Spoiler warning: you’d think that with Major Appliance already on the scene, there would be no need for Corporal Punishment, but…)

When our parents returned, Aunt Jean somehow managed to put a negative spin on what had transpired!

Predictably, the Riot Act got read in our household more often than “The Three Little Pigs.” (“This time, read the part about ‘an act for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies’ with a funny voice, Daddy!”)

I’m glad that Dwight and I didn’t scare Aunt Jean out of having a second son or doting on her three grandsons.

And I’m glad she went to all those family reunions, even when they began with, “Let’s go to the recreation center!”

Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at tyreetyrades@aol.com and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”