Growing up in Mantua #1

Many people lovingly remember the place where they grew up for many reasons. The place, the people, the memories, and more. I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, in Fairfax, VA, more specifically in the subdivision Mantua. I lived there from birth to age 18. This is my hometown. The place that helped define who I am.

My dad died when I was six weeks old and you may have read the story of how my mom had to fight to keep me. She ended up raising me and my two brothers as a single parent in a time before day care centers, so we had a series of housekeepers and nannies. This is about Peggy.

Peggy was the nanny we had the longest, or at least she was the the last nanny we had. Being a child, time can seem very relative. Peggy was the nanny that insisted I send my best friend Sharyn home when we had prearranged a play date after school one day. But that is not this story.

Peggy seemed to always want to get us in trouble, or at least to get me in trouble.

I had just recently gotten the hang of reading a watch in second grade and my mom gave me one of her wind up watches. I was so proud to have that watch and to be able to tell time with it…

One day I had gone out to play at my friend Lester’s house and I was supposed to be home by 3:30 PM, I had my watch and I knew what time that was. We went inside and started watching Ultraman which started at 3 and we must have watched two episodes. When it ended I looked at my watch and it read just about 3:15. That didn’t seem right so I asked Lester’s mom what time it was and she told me it was 4 PM.

My watch had stopped. I was late getting home.

By the way… I was 6 houses down the street from my house.

I ran straight home and burst into the house at 4:05 PM.

Peggy exclaimed “where have you been!?!” She knew where I was because she was the one who gave me permission to go to Lester’s house in the first place.

I told her, “I was at Lester’s house. My watch stopped.”

To which she responded, “Your mother is worried sick! She is driving all over the neighborhood looking for you!” “You are in deep trouble young lady!”

I ran to my room and hid behind my laundry basket and waited for my mom to get home.

Now, my mom didn’t spank me more than 3 times in my life, that I remember, but this was one of those times. And to this day, I know I didn’t deserve it.

Peggy knew good and well where I was. A simple phone call to Lester’s mom would have brought me home 5 or 10 minutes late without a moment of stress, and perhaps a lecture on keeping my watch wound up. Instead, she opted to tell my mom when she got home, after a full day of work, that she had no idea where I was to get my mom worked up into a tizzy and to get me punished.

While this is not a great memory of living in Mantua, it is one of the memories that gives me a sense of place. That house on Christopher Street hanging out in the big Lay-z-boy at Lester’s house watching Ultraman, and running down the road home is something that is etched in my mind.


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