There are things from our childhood years that we will never remember and I guess that is what all those grown ups involved in our upbringing are there for.
One event that has always been firmly stored in my memory is the story of my first babysitter whom my mom simply called Hermana Sylvia. In Latin countries people usually precede someone’s name with either “Hermano” or “Hermana”, especially if they’ve first interacted or met via a church service. This then tends to carry over into regular day to day communication and interaction as well. (It simply means Brother or Sister).
My mother tells me that one day while still a toddler in the Bronx, I climbed up to an open window and sat on the window ledge of our six story apartment building, happily dangling my legs and enjoying the concrete view across the way. Whatever danger lurked was beyond me and my puerile mind.
My mother went on to tell me that Hermana Sylvia who was taking care of me that day, walked into that room and was immediately gripped by fear. I can only imagine that her heart must have accelerated to a new beat. She slowly and silently crept up behind me so as not to startle me in any way, got right up to my back, clasped her arms around me and pulled me off that ledge in a split second.
I believe that to some people who later heard the story, she may have been perceived as a totally irresponsible person for letting a toddler get into such a predicament and not properly watching him while doing her job. Yet to others, she may have been viewed as a hero for acting so wisely in saving my life.
I’m here today, so I view her as the latter.
Years later my mother tells me that Hermana Sylvia and her sixteen year old daughter went to visit someone at an apartment complex and while they were there a fire broke out that claimed both Hermana Sylvia’s and her daughter’s life. The strongest impression on my mind about that incident is that they were both found on their knees with their hands clasped, as if praying.
We have no pictures of her and I don’t recall her face at all, but I thank her for that day when she acted so intelligently and bravely in pulling me off that ledge to safety. Would it had been a different Nanny, would I still be here today?
I truly believe a hero of mine died that day…