On July 19th, our beloved nanny, Vilma, passed away suddenly at her home. When she left our house just the day before, I said, “see you tomorrow” while Vilma and my daughter blew kisses at each other. Vilma closed the door reluctantly behind herself (she always wanted to blow one last beso), and that was the last I saw her.
Unexpected death is so jarring. I’ve been caught somewhere between mourning and juggling the logistics of losing someone so integral to our day-to-day lives the last few weeks, and nearly everything feels left unfinished. I find myself wanting to tell Vilma mundane things like, “I found Ali’s bonnet in the car” or “that plant you were asking about is called a snake plant.” Vilma was part of our every day, a huge part of our lives.
I remember the feeling I had when we first met her for an initial interview. Asking my permission with only a brief moment of eye contact, she swept Ali into her arms and showered her with adoring kisses. Ali, who can be wary of strangers at times, felt immediately comfortable with Vilma. She was immediately familiar, immediately able to anticipate Ali’s needs with the intuition of a caring mother. I didn’t need to interview other nannies; she was “the one.”
Vilma became instant family. She easily wove her way into the fabric of my and Ali’s every day. In the mornings, Ali would light up at the sound of the key in the lock, knowing Vilma was the one behind the jangling. Usually I’d be in the kitchen, balancing Ali on a hip or attempting to distract her with pots and pans while I cooked breakfast. Vilma would say to Ali, “let’s go play play play!” and with huge smiles, off they’d go until breakfast was ready.
Vilma took Ali and Finty (we do a nanny share with another family) on adventures all over the city. Vilma always itched to get out of the house with the kids, and wanted to show them San Francisco, her city, her home for twenty years. She took them to the zoo, to the California Academy of Sciences, and to parks all over the city. On Finty’s first birthday, Vilma took the kids to a special play place to celebrate. She wanted his birthday to be special, nap schedules be damned.
I appreciated Vilma most of all in the little moments. She helped me without asking, and she never let me do something she thought was her responsibility as the nanny. She made juggling two kids while keeping the household spic-span look easy. (And I know it’s not because having one kid and a messy house is hard.) She was a true professional, and even though nannying was her job (and one she did insanely well), it was also her calling. She radiated love.
I don’t have any photos of her with the kids, which I regret, but I do have the photos she sent us from their daily adventures all over San Francisco. Even from behind the lens, it’s clear that Vilma loved and cherished Ali. I am so grateful for the time Ali and I had with Vilma. I miss her now, and I’ll miss her always.
Here are a few of her photos of Ali, including a particularly gleeful series on the swings.