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To the woman who shaped me

| Monday, February 6, 2017

This weekend, I received a letter that transported me back to my childhood.

Be it a coach, nanny or teacher, we all know one special person who helped shape us into talented young adults — the one who provided fond memories, taught valuable lessons and ultimately acted as a third parent. For me, that person was my babysitter, Patty.

Every morning starting at the age of 1, my mom dropped my siblings and me off at Patty’s home. While my mom worked, we played and grew up in Patty’s blue ranch in the woods. While other kids she babysat came and went with the passing seasons, we stayed in her care for several years. Her home became our second home.

Most of my childhood memories take place somewhere in Patty’s basement. Its cabin-in-the-woods vibe provided us children all we needed to have fun with our imaginations, as Patty decorated with deer heads, fleece blankets and leather recliners. I remember Patty comforting me on the recliners after the movie “Matilda” made me cry. She kept a huge stash of candy in her coat closet, and stealing from it with my twin brother is probably the reason we both have sweet teeth now. I passed many milestones at Patty’s house, from my first words to learning to swim.

Patty’s teenage children provided quality entertainment. Her son ran around the house yelling curse words, and Patty chased him with the dreaded “wooden spoon” while my siblings and I laughed until we cried. Her teenage daughter showed me her makeup and drew on my hands with those early-2000s glitter gel pens. She gave me hand-me-downs from Limited Too. I’d play PC games on her computer and feel grown-up, like a real-life Lizzie McGuire.

Patty has a heart of gold, and she often took in abandoned or hurt baby animals she found on her property. She treated them like people and nourished them back to health.

Patty cared for all the kids she babysat like they were her own, giving them hugs when wanted and discipline when needed. She gave us all of her attention every day no matter what went on in her personal life. Patty taught me compassion, nourishment and love.

My favorite activity at Patty’s was sitting at her tiny, made-for-kids desk and creating storybooks. I wrote, illustrated and stapled together hundreds of them. At Patty’s desk I discovered my biggest passion to this day: writing.

This weekend, Patty wrote me a letter that filled my heart with joy. She said she felt so proud I was making my dream of becoming a professional writer a reality. The funny thing is, I wouldn’t have that dream without her. So thank you, Patty, for shaping me into the woman I am today.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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