Greg was a woman of sixty when she came into our lives. We were still in Mamaroneck then. She was in the business of childcare, going into the homes of the wealthy as a nurse and attending their newborns for a limited time, until more permanent help could be obtained. By her account, she had come to us directly from the home of Edgar Bronfman Sr., of the Seagrams fortune. Her references were impeccable, and my parents were eager for her arrival, having already tried another nurse with less than happy results. They had to wait a couple of weeks before she could come, and so, when she arrived, I was already three weeks old. This was surely a relief for my parents, who were not accustomed to the rigors of infant care or child care of any kind, and who, like most wealthy couples of their time, never intended to take it up. Back then, Greg had a strict policy of staying no more than a few weeks before she moved on to the next family. It is curious then, how my father and mother must have charmed her on the day of reckoning to stay on- and stay, she did.
Greg was a portly woman with wavy white hair and the pinky-pale and freckled complexion of one who had been a flaming redhead as a young girl. She wore a white uniform dress (she had many) and white stockings and sensible lace up shoes with short stocky heels which were the ones all nurses wore in the 1950s. Her tastes were simple. She always wore bead cluster earrings, often white, and a single or double strand necklace of matching beads around her neck. There was no wedding band, although to strangers she was always Mrs. Gregory. She wore no more makeup other than a tiny bit of rouge and red lipstick. Her favorite scent was Jean Naté, which she would splash on after showering. To this day, when I am in a store that carries it, I can open the top and be transported back to that time. She was not a pretty woman. And although she may have been when she was young, she put no stock in looks as far as I could tell and valued character both in herself and in others. She loved my father and mother, as I came to truly understand later on, and she never spoke against them to me in all the years she lived with us, no matter what her private opinions may have been.
Many years after she had retired, she told me of a disagreement she’d had with my father. In Mamaroneck, we were segregated at dinnertime. My parents enjoying private dinners in the formal dining room, while Debbie, Greg and I ate our dinners at the kitchen table, out of earshot and out of mind. At some point, Greg decided to take this up with my father, and told him that it was better for the children to have their dinner with their parents. As she recounted it, my father raised his eyebrows disapprovingly and demanded Greg to kindly tell him whose children they were. She replied, uncowed, “Yours, I presume.” From that moment forward, we ate with our parents, with Greg at the table, of course, to supervise.