Background template

Friday, October 23, 2015

Someone I miss... take 2 (Week 18)

I'm cheating a little bit this week and more or less re-posting a post I wrote back in 2008, but in my defense, (a) this is a repeat topic from the Writing Challenge, and (b) at least I included pictures this time, so forgive me.

Let me tell you about a little friend of mine named Phyllis. You see, I have known Phyllis for my entire life. She was literally there the day that my parents brought Allison and me home from the hospital. Phyllis has been an integral part of many phases in my family’s life, and for that, I think she deserves a post:

When my older sister, Elizabeth, was a wee little toddler, my parents decided that they needed someone to help out around the house—a housekeeper/nanny of sorts. So one of my parents somehow got Phyllis’s name passed along from a friend, and decided to give her a try. So Phyllis started coming (I’m not sure how often) to help out. She remained a fixture in our household—sometimes daily, sometimes weekly, and sometimes only when my parents were out of town and needed someone to stay with us—until we moved to Austin in August of 1996… almost 20 years after she had first started.

Phyllis back in the 80s

Like many children who grow up with a regular babysitter, we grew quite find of and quite attached to Phyllis and her many memorable habits and sayings. If you knew any of the Nelson children in our younger years, you probably knew Phyllis, too. And if you weren’t fortunate enough to meet her, you have likely heard stories about her—often told in a mythic fashion, as if she is some made-up character in a book—in our elder years. So for those of you who fit into either of those categories, this might make you nostalgic for that bright orange-haired, pink make-up wearing, fair-skinned, slightly overweight Scandinavian babysitter. And for those of you who don’t know a thing about her, consider this a crash course… Phyllis 101, if you will. But brace yourselves, there is a lot to say!

A few fun facts about our beloved Phyllis:
- She never showed up to our house empty-handed. Every visit, without fail, she came with a bag of peanuts, a bag of M&Ms, and at least a pack or 2 of Doublemint gum for each of us. I blame Phyllis for the dentist visit at age 6 at which I was informed I had 8 cavities at one time.

- She gave us unusual nicknames. She referred to my brother, Andrew, as “Orville,” and called Allison and me “Momalee.” Elizabeth didn’t get a nickname… oops.

- Every time she made us brownies, she let us lick the bowl. I still ask Brian for permission to do so when we bake, and it still makes my day.

- She had a fake pink tooth. Not sure why it was pink, but it was. A nice pearly shade of pink. One morning while Allison and I were waiting for carpool, she was telling us a story and the tooth went flying. Allison panicked- as she usually does in uncomfortable situations- and still acts very alarmed when she tells the story today.

- Due to the trouble she had with her legs, Phyllis wasn’t able to go up and down the stairs. We used to joke about how we were going to tie a jump rope around her and drag her up there on a skate board so she could hang out with us. The best part is that Elizabeth somehow convinced herself that this actually happened, and still to this day swears that all 4 Nelson kids got together and dragger her up the stairs.

- She loved to collect postcards, and insisted that we send her one from any vacations we took… even if they were the same vacations we had taken every year prior.

- She also loved to collect dried leaves, and because Allison was a huge suck-up, I think she continued to go out and collect some fall foliage to press and send to Phyllis in the mail well into our adult years.

- Phyllis mumbled to herself incoherently as she would shuffle from room to room in her famous slippers. Andrew used to rig the intercom in the house so that we could hear her, although we could never decipher what she was saying.

- Phyllis did, and still continues to tell the same stories over, and over, and over, and over again. Ask any Nelson child, and they can repeat- word for word- the story about when my dad called home to say my mom delivered twins, the story about when my grandfather used an offensive racial slur, etc. She also makes sure to remind us (rather angrily) that Elizabeth never sent her pictures from her and Ford’s wedding in Mexico. It doesn’t matter if these topics are related to the conversation or not… they will come up anyway.

- A Nelson child will never, EVER have a phone call with Phyllis without hearing about (a) how she was the only one that took pictures of us growing up and (b) how one of these days, she swears she is going to put all of the pictures together and send us copies. We aren’t holding our breath :)

- She put our friends to work. Elizabeth’s taller friends always ended up watering the plants, and she tried to make Andrew’s best friend do all kinds of slave labor around the house… although they would usually run up the stairs out of her reach and hide to avoid doing it.

- Her house was/is filled with a collection of random figurines, and glitter-covered ceilings. We very rarely went to her house- she was just always at ours- but I used to beg my dad to let me go with him when he’d drive her home at night after babysitting. I normally fell asleep in the car, but for whatever reason, I really loved going.

- One time when Phyllis was staying with us while our parents were away, the phone rang while she was just getting in or out of the shower. Although Allison and I were too young to remember, Elizabeth and Andrew swear they saw her bounding down the hall in the nude in an effort to catch the phone. After seeing how it scarred them both, let’s just say that I hope that was an important phone call.

As you can see, Phyllis was not your ordinary babysitter. She always made life interesting, to say the least. She is and was a part of our family, and will always hold a special place in the Nelsons’ hearts… and holiday dinner-table conversations :)

We haven't been able to get in touch with Phyllis in recent years, but as far as we know, she is living in an assisted living/rehabilitation home. Wherever she is, I hope she is well loved and cared for because she certainly provided that for us.

So here’s to you, Phyllis- thanks for all the memories!

Phyllis with me back in 2000 - I've only seen her one other time (in 2004) since this was taken :(


  1. This post makes me feel extra sad/guilty that we haven't been able to get in touch with her over the past several years :(

  2. Oh my gosh, I wish I knew Phyllis!! She sounds amazing. I'm particularly interested in how she got glittery ceilings in her house!!

  3. This is just the sweetest post ever. You know, everyone tries to act all normal, but its these fun quirks that makes a person so memorable. She sounds like such an amazing woman and I wish I could find someone like that to look after my kid(s).

  4. I absolutely love, love this post! What a fun woman!! I love that you have all of these fun memories from childhood. :) Thanks for sharing her!

  5. Thanks for sharing Phyllis with us. She sounds like a unique and amazing person.