“I love to laugh! Loud and long and clear”
- Uncle Albert in Mary Poppins
I can hear laughter coming from across the parking lot at Metro Centre. It is Marlene Olson and her nanny Linda Blakey. Marlene has a flower in her hair and Linda wears a baseball cap.
“You’ve been the other half of me for a long time, caring for my kids when I couldn’t be there,” Marlene says to Linda.
Linda talks about the activities she spontaneously concocted in her daytime nanny duty at the Olson residence. “We used to dress up and play music on oatmeal boxes. We played Army and I would paint the kids’ faces green and they would slide down the stairs on their bellies.”
Linda also liked to make up songs on-the-spot. One such tune was “The Rainbow Song.” The three kids would stand in front of the refrigerator waiting for the light coming through the stained glass window to decorate their bodies with rainbows: “Got a rainbow on my shoulder, got a rainbow on my knee. Got a rainbow here for you and a rainbow here for me.”
“Didn’t you go to the moon or stars sometimes too?” Marlene asks.
“Oh yeah,” Linda remembers tilting her head up as if she can see the sky. “We used to lay in the grass at the park and make animals out of clouds and feel the breeze around us.”
Marlene and Linda met when Marlene was in search of a housekeeper. “It was hard for me to have that trust when I wasn’t there,” Marlene says. One day she was home sick and Linda was cleaning. “I knew the house sparkled, but I didn’t know how you did it. You Windexed and Pledged everything in sight. I knew you were a hard worker.”
Marlene soon decided to ask Linda if she could be the nanny to her children. Now, 25 years later, the children call her “grandma.” “They say it takes a village to raise a child,” Marlene says. “When I was in search of a village, I got you. Talk about an instant village.”
Linda chews gum while she laughs. She talks about the daytrips she took with the kids to every possible part of Peoria. “I showed them how to hop a train. We went into the woods and down into the gravel pit. I showed them the hill that I went down when I was seven in the wagon. We ran down it. We didn’t do too many naps. We just had a lot of fun.”
Linda and Marlene were role models for how to have a good time. “The kids liked that we made each other laugh,” Linda says. “They really got a kick out of it.”
“Laughter is the best medicine,” says Marlene.
“Well that’s pretty much all we did,” says Linda.