Bob and Chris had a large family. My friend and I often got included in the count at their home due to our frequent visits. We claimed spare space in their home for our regular appearances, and during the sixties, were well known by the kids; their eccentric uncles.
Because these visits could last for weeks, we assumed some babysitter duties. We were not the wholesome types, but the kids were too young to notice, and they had fun clambering over us in free-for-alls and going for long hikes.
Some of the activities were madcap for sure; the Christmas, my buddy dressed up as Santa, and the kids wondered why Santa had a long red beard rather than white. Struggling for an answer, we told them he’d had to dye it for the witness protection program. Luckily the kids were too young to know what that was. So there was a jolly red-bearded Santa that year.
Time passed, I went to university, and visits faded into calls and Christmas cards. Then in the nineties, I began to work at carving seriously and began to do boat shows regularly. Finally, one spring, I was scheduled to do a show not too far from where they were living. I called and found that my visiting privileges were still in good standing.
Arriving, I pulled out presents for my “second” family and settled in for a night of long conversations. Bob and Chris had called in the troops, and soon Uncle Wes was being regaled with their memories of “babysitting.”
So by this time, I was a parent of three children, about the age that Bob and Chris’s kids had been back then. They laughed and smiled as they related some of our activities. I sat there and cringed. While we had not endangered the kids or been negligent, some of the activities while fun were on the sketchy side. What could I say? So I turned to Bob and Chris and apologized. By this time, everyone laughed at my discomfort but admitted that they prized their unique memories and experiences.
After the boat show, I went home and began discussing acceptable babysitting practices for our three with my wife. All this became more urgent when she announced that the fourth was on the way.
I am hopeful that history does not repeat itself.