“The Best Baby-Sitter,” Friend, Sept. 1989, 28
Juanita was sick, so Sarah walked home from school by herself. She missed her friend because they always had so much to talk about. Still, Sarah enjoyed figuring out where she was by the sounds around her. She could hear dogs barking and children playing in their front yards when she stopped to visit her neighbor Mrs. Bartelli and play with Baby Andrew.
“Hello, Sarah.” Mrs. Bartelli sounded tired and tense when she opened the door. “I hope that Andy will be good for you. He’s been fussy all afternoon.”
Sarah wondered what was wrong. She could tell by Andrew’s delighted giggles, though, that he was happy to see her. She lifted him out of his crib and sniffed. “Should I change him, Mrs. Bartelli?”
“Yes, if you would, please.”
Sarah felt around for a diaper and washcloth, then laid Andrew down. He giggled and squirmed. “I’m glad that these are disposable diapers,” she told him. “I wouldn’t want to accidentally stick a pin into such a wiggly boy!”
As Sarah finished changing Andrew, she heard Mrs. Bartelli talking on the telephone.
“Yes, I understand.” Mrs. Bartelli sighed. “Well, I’ll call you again. Good-bye.”
“What’s wrong, Mrs. Bartelli?” Sarah asked.
“Tonight is our fifth wedding anniversary. Juanita was going to tend Andy for us, but she has measles. And no one else is available on such short notice.”
Sarah had seldom heard a grown-up so close to tears. “Mrs. Bartelli, let me tend Andrew,” she suggested. “He knows me, and I can do a good job.”
After a long silence Mrs. Bartelli replied, “I don’t know, Sarah. Being totally responsible for Andy at night is not like playing with him while I’m here.”
“I know I can do it,” Sarah assured her. “I can change his clothes and diaper and make his bottle. I have all the emergency numbers memorized. I’m very careful. It shouldn’t matter that I’m blind. If I have any trouble, I can call Mom. She’s just two doors away.”
Mrs. Bartelli thought for a moment, then agreed.
“Thank you!” Sarah excitedly hugged the baby.
That night Sarah settled down on the sofa to listen to a tape of her homework. Andrew had taken his bottle and had gone to sleep quickly while she rocked him, and now she needed only to check him occasionally. Mrs. Bartelli had said that she and her husband would be home late—dinner, a play, and ice cream afterward would keep them out until at least midnight.
As Sarah listened to her history lesson, something kept bothering her. Finally she stopped the tape and concentrated. No, Andrew isn’t crying. It’s a smell, like something burning. She stood up and sniffed, turning her head to discover where the smell came from. Guiding herself down the hall by brushing her hand along the wall, she went through the kitchen to the door of the utility room, where the washer and dryer were. The smell of smoke was strong here, and it made her cough. She felt the closed door with her hand. It was hot!
Her heart pounding, Sarah prayed, “Please, Heavenly Father, help me get Andrew out all right.” With trembling fingers she felt her way back through the house to the baby’s room. She quickly wrapped him in a blanket and left the house. Walking carefully, feeling for toys on the sidewalk, she was soon home.
Sarah unlocked the door and called for her mother. There was no answer. She almost panicked before remembering that her mother had talked about going shopping. Sarah wasted no more time. Shifting a waking Andrew onto one hip, she quickly punched 9-1-1 on the telephone. She explained the situation and gave the dispatcher the Bartelli’s address.
After hanging up, Sarah hurried back outside. Andrew made small, inquiring baby noises as she felt her way along the sidewalk. The sound of a siren startled him, but she quickly hushed his crying.
When she could hear the fire truck pull up, she called out, “The fire is in the utility room. Go in the front door and through the living room. It’s to the left of the kitchen.”
For the next few minutes the sounds of booted feet and men calling to one another were all that she could hear, and she wondered what was happening. Then one of the men approached her. “Are you the one who reported the fire?” he asked.
“Yes, I’m the baby-sitter. I smelled smoke, and the door felt hot, so I left the house and called from my home. It’s just down there.” She pointed.
“Good work! The iron was left on, and it started a fire. The utility room was damaged, but because you discovered the fire so early, the rest of the house wasn’t harmed at all.”
People from the neighborhood were beginning to crowd around to see why the fire truck was there. Sarah heard familiar footsteps, and her mother hurried up. “What’s going on, honey?”
The fireman explained about the fire once more, and Sarah’s mother gathered her up in a big hug, baby and all. “You did well, sweetheart. Pretty exciting for a first baby-sitting job, wasn’t it?”
Sarah smiled. She had done a good job of baby-sitting all by herself—without her mom, or Juanita, or anybody else helping her! But there was one more thing that she needed to do. “We should call the Bartellis, Mom. I memorized the phone numbers of the places where they’ll be tonight.”
“Good thought,” Sarah’s mother said.
Sarah smiled up at her mother. “Mom, do you think that Mrs. Bartelli will let me baby-sit again?”
“She’ll be missing out if she doesn’t rehire the best baby-sitter that she’s likely to ever have!”