Nina was a scared-looking junior at the private boarding school that my oldest daughter attended for her senior year. A very Nordic straight-haired blonde with an oval face from Hanover, Germany, she and her parents chattered nervously in German as they said their goodbyes. I introduced myself and offered to be a local host family for Nina. (Naively I later realized after I had been thoroughly Ninalized.) My daughter was way less than thrilled. She picked up on Nina’s immaturity and self absorption long before anyone else did. Too late, though. Nina had a place to crash over long weekends and holidays thanks to my big mouth.
Nina came to stay at our house on a regular basis. The school was glad to have a break from her demanding whineyness. At first it was fine. She was charming in her European ways. Since my oldest was tired of her after five minutes, this left an opening for my middle daughter to bask in Nina’s attention. They watched television together and tried to find common ground. Nina’s catch word with an accent was “Horrrrible”, television was horrible, American food and clothes were horrible, the weather was horrible. After a while we realized that we had the royal Princess of Hanover in our modest home. Over a few visits, Grace lost interest in Nina, which left an opening for my youngest daughter, Jess, to bask in Nina’s attention. Despite the nine year age difference this was the best fit. Jess was very patient and tolerant of Nina’s presence, her 30 minute showers, her hair obsession, and her “only wear black” fashion.
In those days Erin, my oldest, kept about five iguana lizards in her room. There was a cage with a heat light, but the lizards could easily get out of the cage and often did. Charley was one of her favorites. He wandered about the house on a few occasions, finding secluded warm spots to do his lizard business. I once cut a hole inside a kitchen cabinet looking for Charley. He wasn’t there, but the hole I cut remains. So what? Raising kids is not a neat and orderly business. Oh, yes, we also had finches that flew around the house in those days. I forget which kid had to have finches. Erin maybe.
Anyway, one morning just after another epic shower, we heard Nina let loose a blood curdling scream from the locked bathroom inside the locked bedroom. She screamed, “Cholly. Oh my God, Cholly.” We pounded on the bedroom door to no avail. She screamed on. Finally, it got quiet and we could hear her unlock the bathroom door with some sighs of disgust. After getting dressed she unlocked the bedroom door. She was still visibly upset. “Nina, what’s wrong?” we all asked at once.
“Cholly was in my towel”, she uttered on the verge of tears and a pout. Seems that our Charley lizard had climbed into her towel as it hung above the heater in the bathroom. As Nina went to dry off her butt naked self, she rubbed her soft pale skin with 40 grit green iguana skin. The screams made sense now– shock and disgust can help you find another octave in your voice. We fell out laughing and still tell the Nina story, “Cholly, oh no, Cholly is in my towel! Oh, horrrriblle!”
Nina’s welcome wore out in November; unfortunately she did not leave until June. Her last week was also epic, but I have to save that for another post. God bless you, Nina.