Remember Sarah Bishop
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Eve Heidtmann
Sarah and Evan

I don’t remember exactly when Sarah came into our life. We moved into the neighborhood in 1981 and were aware of kids playing on the other side of the back fence, both the Nunan kids and the Bishops. Sarah probably first came to our door in costume on Halloween, but of course we couldn’t have recognized her!

Evan was born in 1987. By 1988, my antennae were out, looking for a babysitter. Sarah was only 11, but we worked out a wonderful arrangement. She would come once a week for an hour or two during the day, giving me a break. I was still home, ready to help if needed. I remember how quite and self-effacing Sarah was at first, yet she quickly proved to be a completely competent and confident babysitter. One-year-old Evan fell in love with her. From my retreat upstairs I loved to hear both of them laughing and running around below. On warm days I would look out the window and watch them playing in the garden. Sarah enjoyed the challenge of decoding Evan’s baby language, and she told me once, “I love the way he laughs!”

To the best of my memory, Sarah kept coming once a week for most of the next six years until she went off to college, and as she and Even both got older, she babysat on some evenings, too. Sarah usually made her way to and from our house through a gap in the fence, where the boards had rotted away. She had no qualms about stepping through the blackberry thicket on the other side. She was an important part of our family and I believe Evan thought she was his big sister. I kept a diary of Evan’s early years. Sprinkled through it I found these notes about Sarah.

Oct. 31, 1989 (Evan is 2.5 years old)
Evan’s first trick-or-treat experience tonight. We dressed him up with suspenders, bandanna, and his engineer’s cap, and walked him around the neighborhood. First stop was Bishops’ house (Sarah is his faithful babysitter) … It took a couple of stops for Evan to figure out what this was about, but then he got into it.

March 29,1990 (Evan is 3)
Evan wondered about the blossoms on our early-blooming magnolia tree. He said, “Is the magnolia teaching the other trees how to make blossoms? Maybe it’s teaching Sarah’s tree how to make blossoms.”

May 25, 1990 (age 3)
Evan: Sometimes I tend to be a babysitter.
Mom: What does that mean?
Evan: Because I like to be a babysitter. I’m going to let my hair grow longer and longer down my back and be like Sarah. And I’ll BE Sarah. And I’ll say good-bye when I have to go.

Nov. 12, 1990 (still 3)
Evan has had many questions lately about babies. Tonight I mentioned that Sarah is coming to babysit tomorrow.
Evan: How did Sarah get born?
Mom: From her mommy.
Evan: How did her mommy get born?
Mom: From HER mommy.
Evan: But where is the END of mommies?

Dec. 6, 1990 (still 3)
Evan now has an imaginary pet wolf named Wolf. When we went to Audubon a second wolf came along in the car with us. The second wolf, named Sarah, is Wolf’s babysitter.

Jan. 4, 1992 (Evan’s fifth birthday)
Evan had a dinosaur-themed birthday party with his preschool friends…Later Sarah came to bring Evan homemade dinosaur cookies and a box of dinosaur Band-aids.

Dec. 15, 1993 (Evan is 6)
(There is a reference on this date to one of Evan’s stuffed animals, a bunny named Sarah Emily. Emily was his preschool crush. Sarah, of course, was his first love.)

The diary peters out at this point, but perhaps these few tidbits are enough to show the place Sarah held in the mind and heart of a little boy. He gave her name to his bunny. She became the universal babysitter who watches over little wolves. And she became the wonderful role model, the long-haired person Evan aspired to BE!

A couple of other memories also come to mind. Sarah once performed in a piano recital that Evan and I attended at a retirement home. When she began to play, Sarah’s memory failed her. After a couple of false starts, she smiled at the audience and acknowledged with aplomb that the music had simply left her. Then it all came back and she played beautifully. It was a good lesson for Evan in grace under pressure!

Evan started piano lessons at four and Sarah was no doubt part of his inspiration. As her high school graduation approached, I learned Pomp and Circumstance on the piano, and we played “graduation.” When Sarah left for college, Evan had great plans to write letters to her and probably did once. But letter writing has never taken hold with Evan. It was time for both of these close friends to move on to other things.

Yet Sarah’s influence is still affecting Evan’s life. Because of her, we checked out Whitman College. A Whitman poster hangs on our wall, and it may turn out that Evan follows Sarah’s footsteps there.

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