The day Eva arrived Matt and I hadn’t slept in two and a half months. As I drove, cross-eyed, to the airport to retrieve her, Matt was stumbling around our kitchen banging pots and pans together, hoping it would somehow result in spaghetti and meatballs. We wanted our new au pair to believe she would be living with nice, normal people eating nice, normal meals—not human trash monsters covered in acid reflux and muffin crumbs.
This moment was the culmination of months of stressing over what to do about childcare. At the time of the triplets’ birth, I was freelance writing and Matt was working as a server in a restaurant. We were in the worst financial phase of our lives. Normally I would be hustling for jobs, but I had three insomniacs who were taking up all my time, and sadly none of it was billable.
I needed to get back to work quickly, for money reasons and mental reasons.* And that required someone else stepping in.
We did the numbers and discovered that our most viable option was to train an alley cat to hold a bottle. But then our family came to the rescue with some extra money, which helped us afford the next cheapest option—a live-in au pair.
Now, I was not pumped about the idea of a stranger moving into our already cramped house and witnessing me slog through each day looking like the world’s first post-partum grandpa. But we were desperate. We signed up with an au pair agency and started reading profiles. I liked Eva right away because she had a nice face, had already lived in an English-speaking country, and, at 26, was ancient in au pair years. We video chatted her twice and found her to be very articulate, poised, and sweet. But really, just the fact that she was willing to sign on to our craziness was good enough for us.
Eva got off the plane and unknowingly entered the hardest, and in some ways, worst time of our lives. Per her contract she had to work 45 hours a week, but Matt was there to help for the first six months. When she wasn’t working, we wanted her to be able to get out and enjoy the city. Unfortunately, she didn’t have a driver’s license and didn’t know anyone, and we had our hands full with triplets once she was off the clock. So she spent a lot of time in her room, working on different business ideas (she is the definition of go-getter). Or shooting hoops in our driveway by herself.** I know in many ways most of last year must have been the hardest and worst time of her life, too.
Here’s the thing though. She never complained. Never made us feel bad. She was always cheerful, telling us that practicing Buddhism helped (“Life is suffering,” we get it.) One more thing—she truly loved our children. And our children loved her.
Sometimes, if you work hard, life cuts you a break. After nine months of solitary confinement with us, Eva went to NYC to visit a friend, and on the way back met a dude on the Chinatown bus. And not just any dude, but the exact kind of dude she had been hoping she’d meet one day. Suddenly her world opened up and I could stop feeling so guilty for ruining her life. Her new boyfriend, Steve, would pull into the driveway to pick her up for a date, and Matt and I would peek through the curtains like worried, hopeful parents. Then they would zoom off and we would go back to crumbling muffins all over ourselves.
So a few weeks ago, when Eva’s contract was up and we had to say goodbye, we didn’t actually have to say goodbye to her because she decided to stay in Richmond and move in with her boyfriend. She’ll go to school, they’ll both work on their businesses, and they’ll probably end up getting married and ruling the world. And she won’t drift out of our children’s memories—she’ll get to be there for holidays and parties and family get-togethers. They’ll always know Eva.
Still. The night we said goodbye and Eva left with Steve, it was weird. We had moved to a new house in January, and Eva’s room had always been Eva’s room to us—cloistered and unknown. When I opened the door take a look after she left, it was like being in someone else’s abandoned house. There were bits and fragments of her life away from us—books and mementos from her few trips to New York. I stood there feeling bereft. Eva was the bookend on the weirdest, most surreal year of my life. It was a million years ago that I first handed over a tiny, red infant and watched Eva awkwardly try to maneuver him in her arms, the same way I had. So much had happened since then. Now our babies were walking, pretending to read books, feeding themselves and probably already plotting their escape. Their infantdom was over, and I felt that painfully and acutely and suddenly as I stood there in Eva’s empty room.
One era has ended and the next has begun. That first era was nuts, but in some weird way I’ll miss it. This post is dedicated to the wonderful, sweet soul who flew in to rescue us when we were drowning, and helped us make it to the other side. Eva told us once that there is a word in Chinese that means “I love you” but it is so powerful that no one actually says it. So out of respect for the Chinese people’s discomfort with big, squishy emotions, I’ll just say this: Eva, you did good, bro.
P.S. WE LOVE YOU!!! ❤ ❤ ❤