She wasn’t a particularly good nanny, but my parents could afford her. We made do with other kinds of hand-me-downs, so why not a nanny too? I heard she had worked for the Oscars and had taken care of all five boys after Mrs. Oscar died. It never occurred to me that Miss Meyers might be the reason they got sent to military school.
She always, always wore a camera around her neck, one of the old-fashioned kind with two lenses. We were never allowed to touch it.
Miss Meyers took us everywhere. One day we would all go down to the south side, a neighborhood where the alleys were choked with garbage and bums lay unconscious in pools of urine. The next day we would be on the Mile, in and out of the best shops and hotels. Miss Meyers would haul us along, my brother and me tied to her waistband by a long string looped around our wrists.
Miss Meyers dressed like the people in The Wizard of Oz– the black and white part where they’re all in Kansas. She almost seemed to be black and white herself. She didn’t fit anywhere, her odd clothes and her camera and her weird French accent. She even smelled strange, like a closet full of wet newspapers.
The oddest thing, though, was how she would get right up into people’s faces, stare at them eye to eye and then, real sneaky, take their picture without them knowing.
I sure would like to see those pictures. She never showed any of them to me.
This post is inspired by the documentary Finding Vivian Maier, available on Netflix. The picture is a dead ringer for her style of self portraiture. You can see her pictures by clicking the photo below.