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For Seniors : New Zealand Native Finds Her Place as Nanny in Palatial Palisades

August 07, 1994|LINDA FELDMAN

When she returned to her native New Zealand from America with two babies and one U.S. cent in her pocket, Eunice Scott knew she would be all right. Abandoned by her husband, she knew she had to be.

Today, almost 20 years later, when she climbs the several dozen steps to the palatial Pacific Palisades villa where she lives, she looks out on her beloved ocean, thinks about her life and says, "Now it's my turn."

There's an apartment in New York, a condo in Santa Fe and she's going to celebrate her 60th birthday in New Orleans. Why isn't she writing a how-to book on her secrets to living the good life? Because her methods are nothing new--hard work, sacrifice and pain.

Eunice Scott is a live-in nanny.

She doesn't own any of these luxurious residences, but she nevertheless lives the life that goes with them, caring for a little girl named Melanie whom she considers like her own.

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Her relationship with Melanie started from the very beginning: Scott was in the delivery room when Melanie was born four years ago. But, before her relocation to California, she was hired through an agency in Oklahoma and decided that nanny school might give her a financial foundation. "I was in Oklahoma taking care of elderly people and children but the life was so insecure and I was barely making it financially so I decided to go to nanny school," Scott said. "With that certificate I could make more money."

She said that at the time of her decision she was working 40 hours a week looking after a small child, making $800 a month with a $2,000-deductible health insurance plan.

To make sure she met the mortgage payments on her house, Scott wiped tables at a McDonald's on the weekends and was grateful for the hamburgers they gave her. She also baked and sold cookies and baby-sat another child at night.

She scraped together $1,000 for nanny school and for the next six months studied child and parent psychology, body language, child development and health.

Upon completing her studies, she filled out a job request form stating what she was prepared to do, what she expected in return, and what she didn't want to be around: drugs, alcoholism, filthy language, constant arguing or loud music, she said.

"I was taking care of this little girl who switched on the television in every room she walked through. There were four or five sets all on at the same (time), each on a different station. She needed noise. I would follow her and turn them off," Scott recalled.

But Scott wasn't always taking care of other people's children. It's only half her story.

Her first trip to the United States was in 1954. She was newly married and settled in San Francisco with her husband, who left her three years later when she was pregnant with their second child.

"I went back to New Zealand feeling inferior and thinking, 'Who would want me?' So I married again for the wrong reasons. I always felt ashamed of who I was with and so I dragged myself down even further," she said.

Her second husband wanted a son, she said, so she agreed to try to have one. She did. In exchange, he took care of her and her two other children. But she subsequently also had a daughter. When the marriage fell apart, she knew she could not take their son, and could not bear the thought of separating the two siblings.

"After 14 years I escaped to save my sanity, leaving behind the two children we had together. He wanted a son and I gave him one, but I had a daughter, too, and when it came time to leave I couldn't take one and leave the other," she said.

She never saw them again.

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She decided to go to Oklahoma, where she had already sent her two oldest children from the previous marriage to college. "I chose Oklahoma because I didn't know any better. It was the Bible Belt and I thought it would be safer."

When she was hired in California, she rented her Oklahoma house and moved to the Palisades.

For the last four years Scott has taken care of Melanie, a beautiful little girl who lives in an environment where her every need is satisfied. Her room is filled with stuffed animals, pretty furniture, and a view of the Pacific Ocean from her window. She shares this floor of the house with Scott.

When she talks about Melanie, a face that rarely smiles lights up.

"It's really beautiful that I have this child I can give everything that I couldn't give my children without worrying about money," she said.

It's almost as if Eunice Scott took the hand she was dealt, reshuffled the deck and traded in some of her cards for a better play. She didn't change her life, she simply re-created it without the hardships she suffered. Her children are all adults now--each with secure futures. Scott says she's saving her money, taking care of herself and finally getting some joy from it all.

And as a New Zealander, Scott has a special relationship with the sea and recently took up kayaking with the Southern California Boat Club in Marina del Rey. "Anybody can do it," Scott said. "You don't need a lot of strength and it's great for your waist. Besides, I would love to have some people in my age group to do it with--not to be serious, just to have fun, to laugh."

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