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I Baby-Sat For The Pat Boones

Mommy, why is Judy crying?” Lindy asked her mother. “Why is she packing her clothes?” Lindy was perched on the edge of the satin-quilted bed in the master bedroom of the big California villa that the Pat Boones had rented since coming to Hollywood, “because it was the only house with four bedrooms.”

“Is she crying because I hurt myself?” Lindy went on.

Shirley pressed a gay, polka-dotted band-aid against her daughter’s scraped knee. “Judy’s crying because she’s going to miss us,” she said. “And we’ll miss her, too, won’t we?”

Lindy persisted. “Why does she have to go, Mommy? Can’t Judy stay with us always and always?”

“No, dear,” Shirley answered. She patted Lindy’s ponytail and helped her slip off the edge of the bed. “Daddy and I want her to stay just as much as you and Debby and Cherry do.”

“ . . . and Laury, too. . . .” Lindy said.

“Yes, baby Laury, too. But Judy’s going to go to college. Like Daddy used to, remember? And she wants to see her Mommy and Daddy before she starts.”

Lindy stood up on the thick, pink-carpeted floor. “I love my Mommy,” she said.

“And Judy loves hers,” said Shirley. “Now, why don’t you go and give Judy a kiss and Mommy’ll finish dressing so she’ll be ready when Daddy comes home to take Judy to the airport.”

Lindy ran down the long second-floor marble hallway to Judy’s room at the end. Her sisters, Cherry and Debby, were already there, sitting on Judy’s bed and watching with sad, wide eyes as Judy packed.

“Hi, Lindy,” Judy said. “Come on in.”

“Hi, Judy,” Lindy answered, watching her fold a blouse into the open, plaid suitcase.

Judy stopped, suddenly remembering the first time she’d worn the blouse, one of her favorites. It was an Iowa spring night, just before her high school graduation. Judy and her mother had been sitting on the front porch of the Plumb farmhouse, talking about summer jobs.

“What about baby-sitting?” her mother suggested.

“Oh, I guess I can baby-sit on weekends,” Judy told her. “But that’s not enough to help me through college too.”

“I’ll bet I know someone who needs a steady, all-around baby-sitter,” Mrs. Plumb finally said.

“Who?” Judy asked eagerly.

“Now, don’t laugh,” her mother cautioned. “The Boones!”

“What?” Judy said incredulously. “You mean Pat Boone?”

“What’s wrong with the idea?” Mrs. Plumb asked. “You’re an old-hand at baby-sitting, aren’t you? You helped me look after most of your sisters and brothers. The Boones just might be tickled pink to have someone with your kind of experience around.”

“Oh, Mom,” Judy said. “They’d think we’re crazy. I’ll bet the Boones never heard of Irwin, Iowa. Do you know what the population was by last count? A big 381!”

“Well,” her mother said, “let’s let them know Irwin, Iowa’s on the map. I’ll write them myself.”

And, in answer to Judy’s prayers, the Boones replied. “We have a baby-sitter,” their letter said, “Eva Jones, who’s been with us since Cherry’s birth. But we will be needing someone to help her when we go to California this summer. Naturally,” the letter went on, “we couldn’t pick a baby-sitter out of thin air. Could we have references. . . ?”

A little over a week went by. Then one evening, in early June, the telephone rang in the Plumb living room and Mr. Plumb answered it. It was Pat Boone and he asked to speak to Mrs. Plumb.

“We weren’t really thinking of anyone as young as Judy,” he said, “but when your letter came, Shirley just had a hunch about it. Judy seems experienced enough to give Eva a strong helping hand and, both Shirley and I like the idea that Judy wants to work to raise money for college. Besides, she’s interested in the church, and can help teach the girls their Sunday school lessons and tell them Bible stories. . . . We’d like to have Judy come and try the baby-sitting job with us for a week. We’ll pay all her expenses, Mrs. Plumb. Do you think she’d be willing?”

A couple of days after that, Judy was saying goodbye to the green fields of her native Iowa, and she was flying east to baby-sit for Pat Boone and his family in New Jersey.

Then, when the plane landed at Newark airport, there at the bottom of the ramp, was a mob of reporters and photographers.

“I didn’t recognize anybody famous on the plane,” Judy thought. It never occurred to her that they were there to meet her. But when Judy got to the bottom of the landing ramp, they were all hurling questions at her.

“How does it feel to be a Cindrella baby-sitter?” asked a reporter.

“Smile, Judy,” a photographer shouted.

They popped flashbulbs and shot questions. Judy stood there calmly, quietly, but deep inside she was shaking. Then, suddenly, right in the middle of someone’s question, she felt a tug at her skirt. “Hi, Judy,” piped a little voice, “I’m Cherry.” The four-year-old girl opened her arms for a hug. Then she took Judy’s hand in her own tiny one and led her to a car where all the other Boones were waiting.

“Look,” Debby had shouted, “She’s got bangs just like mine!” . . .

Judy quickly brought herself back to the present. There was Debby all right, and she had the same Buster Brown haircut that Judy had herself.

“Judy, Judy,” she was saying, “sing us a story.”

“Yes, Judy,” Cherry echoed. a story.”

Judy looked at the scrubbed, smiling faces. Her eyes were misty as she thought of how much she would miss them.

“Don’t cry,” Lindy said. “I saw you crying before, but, please, Judy, don’t cry. Sing us a story.”

“All right,” Judy said, trying to make her voice sound gay and happy. “I know what. Let’s all sing the story about granpa getting his long beard caught in the soup.”

How many times they had sung this song together, Judy thought. Next to Elvis’ rock ’n’ roll records, this was the Boone girls’ favorite. And Judy, too, loved singing and laughing with them about the old granpa who messed up his beard everytime he went to slurp a spoonful of soup.

It had taken just one week for Judy to know that she loved these Boones and for the Boones, from Papa Pat to baby Laury, to give their approval to Judy. “You know what we liked about you, Judy?” Pat said one night. It was just after he’d lullabied the girls to sleep. “You aren’t afraid to work. After we met you at the airport and brought you home, you saw a stack of coffee cups in the sink. And before everybody got a chance to say a little more than a how-do-you-do, you hauled off and started washing the dirty dishes. Your initiative impressed us a lot.”

Judy didn’t admit it, but she’d been so nervous that first day she hadn’t known what to do. As soon as she saw the cups and saucers, she ran to them with relief. She figured if she began to work she wouldn’t have to talk, because frankly she didn’t know what to say.

From then on, too many things had happened. She had been too involved to worry about what to say. It had just come naturally, in the course of helping look after four very lively little girls. Before she knew it, the Boones asked her to stay all summer and it was time to leave the house in Leonia and head for California. That was to be their home, while Pat worked on “Mardi Gras.” She remembered how Pat counted up noses aboard the plane, and said, “Wow! Eight women!” counting Shirley, the four girls. Eva Jones, Judy, and Lynn Carlton, a teenaged neighbor of the Boones in Leonia who was coming along for a visit. Titch, the Boones’ dog, half-boxer and half-Weimeraner, was there, too!

“We’re all on a Tom Sawyer adventure,’ Shirley had laughed.

Gary Crosby, who was going to be in the picture with Pat, came along for Pat’s support. “Wow,” he said, “what a harem!”

He’d been up late the night before and planned to catch up on his sleep. He didn’t! From New York to California, Lindy and Cherry took half-hour turns seeing that Gary didn’t waste any of the trip by sleeping.

Somehow they crossed the country and there was Pat, standing in the aisle helping gather lost sweaters and pocketbooks.

“Don’t see anybody I know,” Gary said as they left the plane. Then, he laughed. “Why, there’s my old man!”

Judy looked up and there, right before her eyes, was that famous, familiar figure, casually puffing on a pipe and waiting behind the rail, just like anybody else who’d come to meet a plane.

When Cherry saw him, she screamed: “Look, Eva, look, there’s your boy friend!”

After Pat stopped laughing, he told Judy that the year before Bing had autographed a picture for Eva, which she kept in her room. Cherry insists that this means that Bing is Eva’s boy friend. “Kathy Crosby doesn’t know about the romance,” Pat laughed, “nor does Bing.”

Pat and Shirley had been as thrilled as Judy to find Bing waiting at the airport. But even the sight of Hollywood’s most famous of citizens didn’t prepare either of them for what was to come!

“Golly,” said Judy when the great semicircle of a building came into view, “it looks as big as a hotel.”

Pat looked at the way the front was all paved and then looked at his four roaming little girls. “Where’s our yard?” he wanted to know.

“Go inside and you’ll see,” said Norman Greer, who is Pat’s press agent.

There, on the other side of the house, through marble porches and loggias, was the “yard.” In size, it was more like a football field.

The group just stood there, still holding their suitcases. They just stood and looked. There were miles and miles of marble hallways and a living room filled with magnificent period furniture. There were life-sized statues and there was a fabulous crystal chandelier hanging from the high hallway ceiling. There were gold railings on the circular stairway that overlooked the rotunda.

“Oh, it’s too big,” Shirley said. go to a motel.”

But then they all saw it together. At the steps and railings and bannisters, around the Taj Mahal of a pool, everywhere that a little Boone might tumble through, the studio had installed chicken wire. This homely safeguard, trimming all those exotic surroundings, set Pat, Shirley and Judy to giggling.

Shirley put her suitcase down. The girls, less impressed than the grownups, had already begun to run through the rooms and test their echos. “Well, this is one place the children can’t damage,” Shirley laughed. “After all, everything’s made of marble.”

When they’d finished counting, they found there were twenty-four rooms. “They told me at the studio,” said Pat, “that this is the house where Prince Rainier lived when he was courting Grace Kelly.” Amid these settings, Judy, too, began to feel like a princess, like the day she went to her first big Hollywood party.

She hadn’t expected to go dating or partying when she said “yes” to being the Boones’ baby-sitter. Her mother had cautioned her that she’d been hired for a job and that she mustn’t let any of that Hollywood stardust blind her.

But one day Shirley came to Judy’s room. “Pat and I want you to come to a party with us,” she said. “Eva can look after the children. The studio’s having a celebration for the ‘Mardi Gras’ cast, and I think you’d enjoy it. If you like,” Shirley continued, “I’ll help you pick out what to wear.”

They decided on a navy blue Sunday dress and Shirley lent Judy a pair of tiny pearl earrings. In less than an hour, they were off to a Beverly Hills mansion. Once inside, Judy wanted to pinch herself to make certain all of it was really true.

Talking to her, asking about her, were so many people Judy’d seen on TV and in the movies and the magazines. The McGuire Sisters recognized her from the newspaper stories about Pat Boone’s Iowa baby-sitter. Tommy Sands, whom she’d met at the Boone house one night when Pat had brought him home for dinner after the day’s filming, asked her for a dance.

It had been a wonderful summer and now, it was almost over, Judy sighed. Lindy tugged at her lilac-colored going-away dress. The musicale had ended. Granpa had gotten his beard out of the soup. Judy looked into the framed mirror above her dresser. She combed her bangs flat and told herself, “I’ve got to think of happy things, endings like the one in the song. Or else I’ll start crying all over again.”

A loud lunged “Hi everybody!” came from downstairs. Pat was home from the studio to drive them all to the airport.

In a minute he was upstairs. “Everybody ready?” he asked. The girls scurried downstairs after him. Judy stayed behind for one last, lingering look at her yellow room. “Goodbye, California room,” she said. Then she picked up the small traveling bag and walked down the hallway to the big circular staircase.

“Okay, everybody,” Pat said. “Pile in.”

“Know what popped into my head, Judy, while I was dressing Laury?” Shirley turned around in the front seat and smiled at Judy. “I kept thinking of the day Pat couldn’t open a charge account at Sears Roebuck. Remember, that was when we wanted to get all that playground equipment for the girls. The clerk figured ‘actor’ was too unstable a profession and they wanted to check Pat’s financial references. So Pat ended up paying cash for everything.”

“It was funny,” Judy answered. “We all laughed. Nobody there seemed ever to have heard of Pat Boone!”

“Can you hear the planes?” Shirley said. “We’re almost there. You know what else I’ve been thinking, Judy? Who’s going to go through the fashion magazines with me and help me to make up my mind when I want a new dress? I guess I’ll have to save the magazines till next year, and we’ll have a big dress confab then, you and me.”

Pat checked Judy’s luggage, then bought everybody drinks of orange juice.

The airlines announcer was calling out the number of Judy’s flight, and Judy put down her paper cup.

She took each of the girls and hugged them. “See you real soon, huh?” she said. “I know it. You just wait and see.”

Pat thanked her and Shirley, holding little Laury in her arms, leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. The girls asked for another round of hugs and kisses before Judy went through the gate to the four-engine plane waiting for her.

The September sky darkened. Judy walked up the circular stairway to the plane’s entrance, turned around and waved to all the little hands waving goodbye at her.

The plane’s hostess directed her to a seat by the window. She looked out at the Boone girls, at Pat and Shirley, all waving goodbye to her, and her heart felt like it was bursting. In a moment, the motor rumbled and the plane rose slowly into the twilight sky. She looked out the window at the little specks below. Judy could still make out the station wagon and the Boones standing near it. Suddenly everything was a blur and Judy couldn’t see them anymore.





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