A Child’s Memoir
I’m not sure that I was even four yet when I started attending Kiddie-Care with Mrs. Saxe. It was a welcoming place, and she was quicker with a laugh than anything else (except maybe a tissue for little noses). The building housing her childcare business was just a little ranch on route one, across from where they built the high school. It was very convenient to Donnelly’s and that may account for its perennial popularity.
The little house had a backyard full of sandboxes and swing sets, and the interior was fairly open in the general living area. The kitchen was normally off limits, but got invited in a few times. Mostly I enjoyed the bedroom full of toys, including a huge set of blocks made from paper milk cartons covered with brick-print contact paper. And I liked lunch.
Food at Kiddie-Care had special names. Wagon wheels. Cowboy beans. It made simple food seem more appetising. Mrs. Saxe had her patented methods with just about everything. She got all of us through the bathroom and down for naps quickly. Her marvelous, back-drafting laugh would shift into a very convincing mom voice in an instant. Things were orderly at Kiddie-Care.
And I appreciated that, even when I was four. The kids weren’t unruly. There was very little chaos. She kept pushing and shoving to a minimum. When we started crying, she dealt with it quickly. And she somehow turned fighting among the boys to friendships.
Mr. Saxe was sometimes there. He seemed old to me, but it turns out he was younger than I am today. I recall when he died and being sad for Mrs. Saxe. My grandfather had died the year before and my grandmother was still very sad about it, so I knew that Mrs. Saxe would be unhappy and would miss him.
On the first Halloween after I started Kindergarten, my mother asked me if I would like to show my costume to Mrs. Saxe. I immediately assumed we would go to the little Kiddie-Care house (which in my memory was pink, but I was very young). So it surprised me when we crossed Main St. and were at her house. Mrs. Saxe lived right across the street?
We visited Mrs. Saxe there several times. Her son Frankie lived with her and I used to see him around town. He was a teenager when I was small, so he was about ten years older than me. When I was a teenager, my family once again lived across the street from Mrs. Saxe. She looked about the same, only smaller. Her gray hair was short. She wore glasses, usually cat’s eye style. And she had smile lines that wouldn’t quit.
Frankie was still at home with her. He had a room full of radios and a big antenna on the side of the house. My step-father had been the radioman for the Clinton FD, so I was used to seeing scanners and Plectrons. But this was a whole new level. If I remember right, he was a Ham operator.
We moved from Main Street up to Ferry Hill in 1980, and I don’t recall if I ever saw Mrs. Saxe again. I saw Frankie a few times. I intended to stop in to see her when I came back after Navy boot camp. I stopped in to several places, but I can’t recall if I saw Mrs. Saxe. By 1983, I was living far away and didn’t set foot in Old Saybrook for 16 years. My loss.
It turns out that she lived to be 92 and passed away in Chester in 2007. I assume she was living with her daughter in the latter years. I found her obituary and one for Frankie, too. They are all buried in Riverside cemetery; Frank, Olive, and Frankie. Near my grandparents. And many others I knew.
I remember my grandmother telling me once that she knew more people in the cemetery than in the rest of the town. I’m feeling the same way. I wonder how many people remember Mrs. Saxe? I’m sure there are many. I saw an article about Miss James yesterday, and there were several people who said they met her, although she’s been gone 50 years.
Isn’t it funny how vividly I remember a lady who took care of me for 18 months over 50 years ago? I didn’t even know her name was Olive! She poured love into all of her kiddies. It was my privilege to know her and to be known by her.