When I was fifteen, a hot Swedish nanny moved into a house in my neighborhood for a summer. It went okay.
To give you a clear idea of what I mean by “neighborhood,” I grew up in the fine line between rural and suburban North Carolina. There was just enough farm land that my friends would make fun of me for being such a hick, and just enough houses that I actually had friends. To the right of my house, across a short field, was where my grandparents lived. Behind them, past some woods, through a small valley, and up an almost angrily steep hill, was where a few other neighbors lived. And, among those neighbors, for a short, glorious few months, lived the blonde Swedish nanny.
Coming to theaters, in the summer of 2004, The Nanny, starring Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Daniel, and some European model that you mistake at first for Charlize Theron as the Nanny.
I had no idea how she got there, but when you’re fifteen, you don’t concern yourself with matters like the very nature of a woman’s existence. All you know is that, yesterday, you didn’t walk outside to see a stranger horseback riding near your backyard. But today, lo and behold, there she is, talking to the horse in a foreign language peppered with broken English. She was apparently acting as a caretaker for one of the younger kids living in a neighbor’s house, but she also had a penchant for training horses, and the first thing I remember was how funny she sounded when she said “Jesus Christ!” at a horse that wasn’t behaving properly. “Jesus Christ. Calming down. That’s what you need! Jesus!”
So, every time I’d catch a glimpse of her trotting her horse in the woods and fields that surrounded my home, I’d stand on my porch and watch her. She was beautiful, and the way her sentences crackled under the weight of all the English slang that she was trying to shove into them belied a certain gracefulness that she had. She had a clear mastery over the large hooved animals, something that I, while being surrounded by horses for most of my early life, had never been able to accomplish. Putting me on a horse is like shoving a Nintendo 64 controller into a thumbless man’s hands. His first reaction will be curiosity, followed by confusion, followed by rage.
I often saw my grandfather, who basically served as the connecting link between my family and any neighbors we had that were over sixty, sans the nanny, talk to her as she rode by. My grandfather trained horses as well, and sometimes she’d ride Rex, or C.D., or Sweetbaby, the trio of horses that adored every member of my family except me. This wasn’t because of any lack of trying on my part. I’d try to coax them over with apples or hay and they’d look at me in the same way that I look at people trying to sell me DirecTV in Sam’s Club. No, no thank you. I’m fine. Really, I am fine.
My first thought, because my brain for most of my life has been a place where normally logical thoughts get bounced around until a malformed, crumpled piece of idea gets exhaled from my lips into unsuspecting conversations, was that there’s no way that she’d be into me because I wasn’t good at horses. I hadn’t met her yet and I was already planning my rejection. I failed to think that maybe she’d turn down my offer to go to prom with me because she was a decade older than me and gorgeous. I didn’t even know how I would ask her out or if I’d even get to say “Hello” to her, but when you’re fifteen and presented with a situation that only occurs in the later sequels of an 80’s sex comedy series, your whole life becomes a hypothetical situation.
I did eventually meet her, but only twice in the duration of the summer. The first time happened when I saw my grandfather talking to her across the field. My grandfather, in turn, saw me totally not staring at her from my porch, and beckoned me over. I hesitated at first, something that must have been goofy to watch from their perspective, as I walked back inside the house, and then decided that, despite how unlike the first meeting would be from the way I imagined it,* I would dredge up every bit of confidence that I had and make a good first impression.
*I see that I am at your house for some undefined reason. There is no one else here. Yes. Making out.
I didn’t say anything to her the entire time. I kept my head down and acted aloof, a plan that I’m sure worked wonders for her romantic interest in a teenager that, I need to tell you, looked like this:
I learned that her name was Sophie, and nothing else. I was too enamored with the idea of not making a fool of myself and the way that she pronounced “Settle down.” when speaking to a nervous horse, like her tongue was allergic to the words, to really take in any information about her. I nodded and smiled sometimes, and if she’d had any negative misconceptions about southerners beforehand, I’m sure they were wiped away when Daniel, the simpleton, came ‘cross the way to shove his hands in his pockets and refuse ta’ look her in the eye.
I hated myself for a little while after that first encounter. Why couldn’t I be cool? Why couldn’t I impress her with my wit and knowledge of, I don’t know, the production history of Spider-Man 2? She would have been enthralled with me if only I’d spoken up to say “You know, Alfred Molina might not have been the only choice to play the nefarious Doctor Octopus!” to which she would’ve responded “I’m not sure what these words that you’re speaking are, tiny redneck thing, but take me in your arms and show me what love is.”
The second time I talked to her was towards the end of the summer, right before school was about to start. I saw her and my grandfather, across the field, talking, and this time, I made my way to them on my own accord. You know, like Pierce Brosnan would. Once again:
When I got to them, the topic of conversation was the four wheeler that my grandfather was trying to persuade her into trying out. She seemed hesitant, which is understandable, as four wheelers have a turn radius that makes every right and left a deadly gamble against the machine itself. If you’ve never piloted one before, they’re really fun until you encounter a sharp corner, and when you live near woods, the entire “four wheeler course” that you’ve plotted for yourself is one big acute angle.
My grandfather told her how to start it and how to brake and how to use the gears, and when she asked where to ride it, he decided that I would be up to that task. As cool as it would’ve been to volunteer myself as the guy who would navigate this beautiful girl on a death craft bound for the dark of the forest, my grandfather did it for me, and soon, I was sitting behind her on the four wheeler. “It is okay,” she said. “You can put your arms around my waist to hold on.”
AND I DID.
The ride went by incredibly quickly, and it mostly featured me being terrified of getting a boner (I didn’t, defying cosmic fate), while pointing out which path to take, and her laughing and having a wonderful time. “These things are great!” she said, and I couldn’t help but picture it as a win for me. This first date was going swell.
She sped around the “track” a few times, going faster than I’d ever had the courage to go. You’re supposed to change gears at certain points to acclimate for the conditions of the ride, but, when going up a hill for instance, her method was to just thumb the gas harder until the four wheeler had no choice but to accelerate. Her blonde hair blew back in my face and I held onto her hips as the foliage surrounding the trails flew past us.
We parked back in front of my grandfather’s house in what seemed like only thirty seconds after we left. She said “Oh, that was fun!” and I, realizing that the best way for me not to ruin the moment was to leave it entirely, walked back home without a word.
She left as mysteriously as she arrived. There was no goodbye or anything like that. She simply ceased to ride her horse into my neighborhood again. I wondered for a long time about where she went, but I never got a definitive answer. Maybe she went back to Sweden. Or maybe she became a nanny at another house, where someone else would watch her from afar, asking himself a million questions about what would happen when they met.