One wouldn't know it just to look at me or my vast estate, but I did not have the easy, carefree life of a typical American child. I sometimes find it hard to believe myself, considering all I've inherited! But underneath the smug expression, the 40-year-old Scotch, the affluent tan and entitled jawline, lies a far more difficult truth: I was raised by a single nanny.
Am I ashamed of my understaffed upbringing? No. If I could go back and change it, would I? Of course. No child deserves to be raised with just one surrogate caregiver. But such was the hand I was dealt. Whereas my peers received constant validation and attention from a sizeable retinue ranging from valets to wet nurses, I often spent lonely, hour-long periods of my life in the nursery screaming myself hoarse. Just imagine, a mere child, surrounded only by my countless toys as Carmen, the solitary person charged with raising me, was off somewhere cleaning up a mess I had made!
Things only became more difficult after my brothers Reginald and William came along. Carmen simply took on too much for one so young and inexperienced. If only circumstances had allowed us more nannies! The wisdom I've accrued during the years has taught me that life is not always fair, and that one harried, overwrought woman can only accomplish so much. But attempt to explain such things to a young boy who is late for his riding lesson!
It was never easy for us Pendergrass children.
We had a maid on the weekends, of course, but this affected our development quite little in the grand scheme of things. My brothers and I desperately needed the attention and guidance that only another au pair and two or three additional governesses could provide. If Carmen needed support in raising us from the house's other staffers, she never got it. The chauffeur was always on the road, and the gardener—I forget his name. José, perhaps?—was forever outside, fawning over his precious Japanese hedge maze. Sometimes I'm amazed any of us made it at all.
For many years I was bitter, but I've found it in my heart to forgive Carmen. I can see now that she knew no better, and, for all her faults, she was doing the best she could. In those days, however, I could not understand how, after 14 long hours doting on my siblings and me, she lacked the energy to attend my viola recitals or fencing matches. Perhaps, being so neglected, I had no choice but to lash out at the one closest to me, but I look back with some regret at the constant, vitriolic invective I would hurl her way. If I could take back some of those scathing insults about her weight, religion, skin quality, and ethnicity, I believe I would.
In a sense, I can even feel sympathy for Carmen. I vaguely recall hearing from the kitchen staff occasionally about some children of her own. If they did exist, I hope for their sakes they had some very good nannies. No one knows better than I the lifelong obstacles inadequate childcare can create.
It is sometimes tempting to wonder what could have been had I been born to a more fortunate family. I'm the third-largest donor to the upkeep of the greens at the country club, but had I not been forced to fend for myself so early on, might I not be the largest? I'm the vice president of my yacht club, but had I not endured such a hardscrabble youth, might I not today be president? Alas, it does no good to torture myself so. I must simply come to terms with the fact that that early trauma has had a lasting impact.
In the end, I suppose I'm somewhat grateful for the difficulties I've had to face. Though I suffered terribly, it built character. Most importantly, it made me fiercely determined to see to it that my children have literally dozens of servants at their disposal. My progeny will be so well taken care of that I should have no need to worry about them whatsoever before they turn 18.
I made a vow when I extricated myself from that life of hardship: No child of mine will ever go wanting for the tender embrace of a hired caretaker.