'More than a day-care provider': Falmouth's 'Auntie' retires after 34 years
FALMOUTH — After 34 years and four months, the swing set is coming down, the pool will be emptied and the last carrot sticks will be eaten.
Charlotte Tukey, who has cared for between 800 and 900 children, is retiring and closing Auntie's Daycare.
What will she miss the most? The noise.
"On Sunday nights it's already too quiet and I look forward to Monday mornings," Tukey said as she grilled a pile of hot dogs and hamburgers for a group of children gathering at a picnic table inside her house. They passed around baggies of chopped vegetables and chomped away while they waited.
"It's going to be a big adjustment," she said.
Tukey opened Auntie's Daycare after she moved to Falmouth and discovered that putting her two daughters into day care while she worked as an X-ray technician would leave her only $35 a week in take-home pay.
"That was how I set my price," Tukey said. She charged the first family $35 per week.
Tukey said she has loved her job and loved working with the children.
"They're like little sponges, they absorb everything," she said. "And they're very appreciative of everything you do for them."
Over the years, she has watched hundreds of children, no more than 12 at a time, in the fenced-in yard and large playroom in her house.
She has even recently begun watching a second generation. The first child she watched, Sarah Vosmus, is now 34 years old and has been taking her own daughter, Riley, to Auntie's Daycare since Riley was 6 months old.
"She was essentially my mother," Vosmus said. "Our families even ended up taking vacations together."
She said she was glad her daughter got to spend time and get to know "Auntie."
"If someone else is going to raise your kids, you want someone who's a mom, someone who's family," Vosmus said.
Riley's true social personality, she said, came out after spending time with "Auntie."
"She's definitely more than a day-care provider," Vosmus said.
Tukey said the biggest change that she has noticed in recent years is how much children want to play video games instead of going outside to play.
"Video games are all the kids want to do in lieu of physical exercise," she said. "I just don't let them do it. There are so many other things they can do."
Now that she's retiring, Tukey said she hopes to do a little traveling and maybe see the Grand Canyon.
But child care won't be too far from her mind.
"I have four small grandchildren," she said. "I'll leave the (day-care) room set up for them."
Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org