Home featured Tiny Love Stories: ‘My Mother Has Been a Nanny for Six Families’

Tiny Love Stories: ‘My Mother Has Been a Nanny for Six Families’


My parents, Tibetan refugees, made a life in America, raising me and my three sisters in Queens, New York. My mother has been a nanny for six families, caring for a total of 11 children. Most of my life, I felt competition for her time, energy and affection. I used to resent when she would share pictures and stories of the children she cared for, but gradually I realized she needed to discuss her work like anyone with a full-time job. Now, as we giggle at the photos, I ask follow-up questions and feel grateful to be home with her. — Tenzin Wangmo

ImageFrom left to right, my mother, me and the child she nannies at the Queens County Farm Museum.

How to recall my grandfather’s 97 years? There was the voyage from Nazi-occupied Poland to Siberia, Uzbekistan, Paris and Cuba, ending in the Bronx. Along the way, he sold soap on the black market, posed as a Soviet officer, was a D.J. for Cuban-Jewish radio, learned eight languages, worked at bakeries, operated a dry-cleaning business, got married and had two children, six grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. Coronavirus kept us grandchildren from attending his funeral, so we video chatted to remember a man born without electricity, recalling his obsession with punctuality and ill-fitting baseball caps, recounting his dirty jokes and survival stories. — Rebecca Julie

He was a bartender; I waited tables at a neighboring bar. After years of acquaintanceship, I asked him out. An evening turned to morning. He hummed happily in my ear. We loved one another but we were lazy, unwilling to work on our relationship. After three years, things fell apart. On the last day in our shared home, he held me in the same bed as the first night, humming softly. Those two nights felt like bookends: one of thrilling joy, the other of terrifying grief. In the middle, it was all love. For me, it always will be. — Lucia Skinner De Gregorio

I met Ashlyn the summer after my freshman year of college. We worked as housekeepers on a Wyoming ranch. Ashlyn had debilitating obsessive-compulsive disorder, which helped her excel at her job but also could make her an insufferable co-worker. She took me under her wing and taught me, eventually becoming my friend. As our three months together ended, she thanked me neither for our bond nor our memories, but for setting the silverware the way she liked: the knives and forks perfectly aligned. “No one notices,” she said, “but I do.” — Katherine Yao


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