My headstrong sister married extremely young. Threatening my mother that, if not allowed to wed, she’d just go get pregnant, she had not had her 16th birthday when she said “I Do”. Small, like my mother, she was just five feet tall, and barely a hundred pounds. She immediately started popping out babies, dropping five kids in under eight years, the last of which was a 13 pound, 9 ounce Butterball that solved her fertility problem. It also set a record for the largest baby ever delivered in the local hospital, a record that stood for twenty years, until an Indian woman, twice her size, had one 14 lb., 1 oz.
Her kids came, boy, girl, girl, girl, boy. She came to know and be friends with another local girl who got married about the same time, but at a more reasonable age. She also had five kids, at just about the same times my sister did, but she had boy, boy, boy, boy, boy! In a fit of creative imagination, she named them Derek, Douglas, David, Duane and Darcy.
Snide comments went around town that someone had ripped up a baby-names book and one page, the one with names that started with D, had blown into her yard. At least her name didn’t start with D. She’s a piker compared to Mother Kardashian. Starting with her own K-name, Kris, she had girls with the famous lawyer, and named them Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, Kremlin and Katarrh. Then she married Bruce Jenner, and inflicted Kylie and Kendall on the world. Come on woman, there are 25 other letters in the alphabet.
My sister was far too self-involved, and far too young to be a good mother. She wanted to be an Earth-mother, hippie, party-girl. The kids soon learned to rely on themselves and each other. With next to no supervision, especially early in the day, things happened which made the rest of us wonder how they ever lived to grow up.
When the two younger girls were about 6 and 5, they each drank about a cup of Javex. Off to the hospital to have stomachs pumped and charcoal treatment. Too young to explain why they drank Javex, it was thought that partly full glasses of liquor and beer from last night’s party, that they saw adults drinking from, might have been the impetus. That could explain getting past the smell and horrid taste.
A year later, the younger one, now all of six, decided to drink another cup of Javex again. One would think that the memory of getting a stomach pumped would stay with even the dumbest child, but apparently not. Because of all the pregnancies, the sister had constipation problems. One day she went to the pharmacy and got a 36-piece block of chocolate-coated Ex-Lax. To keep it out of children’s hands, she stood on a chair, climbed onto the kitchen counter and put it on the eight-foot-high top shelf. Little jugs have big ears….and keen sight. The next day, the same pair of tiny geniuses, pulled out four drawers, like stairs, climbed the shelves like a ladder, and ate 18 pieces of Ex-Lax each. Warm up the stomach-pump again Doc, we’ll be there in a minute!
The rear entrance went down seven steps from the kitchen to a coat-closet landing, then out the back door to a tiny porch, and down two more stairs. The porch had no railing and five kids and three dogs often just jumped off. In the days of home delivery of milk in glass bottles, that’s where the empties were left. It was not unusual to have a pile of broken glass beneath the porch edge. One day, the oldest daughter, all of about 10, came skipping out and bounced off the porch, catching the toes of both feet on the edge. Down she went, knees-first into a pool of broken glass. The doctor put in almost 100 stitches in the two legs, and marveled that no ligaments were severed and the niece would still walk.
With great planning and forethought the sister often realized at 4:45 P.M. that she had nothing for supper. She would pile the kids in the car and race downtown to get something from the store. She always put my oldest nephew in the back seat, behind her. They lived in the company house, off the back of the employee parking lot. Always an aggressive driver, she would race the hundred yards to the highway, which she had a clear view of. If there were no cars close, she would hang a hard right, at up to 30 MPH.
Before seatbelts, the problem was that the back left door on the junker they drove, would not latch. The lock button had to be pushed to ensure the door stayed closed. At least three times she forgot to lock it, and at least three times, the door popped open and the 8/9 year-old nephew flew out, rolling across in front of oncoming highway traffic, and ended up in the ditch on the far side of the road. She’d stop, pick him up, brush dust off, stick him back in the car, and do the same thing six months later.
Two things my sister never did were, keep booze away from the kids, and take the keys out of her car. For a while, after he got his licence, the older nephew would knock some back and, in a feat of good planning, he would borrow his mother’s car. One time, he made it almost a block down the side road before a power pole jumped out in front of him, and he totalled both it and the car. He walked home, fell asleep and didn’t remember when his mom asked him where her car was.
Another time, he was a couple of miles down the beach road when he and a carload of friends fell into a ditch and hit a concrete culvert, totalling a second car. A year later, almost 19, and at least sober, he took a bunch of friends for a ride. Travelling way too fast on a twisty road, he pulled out to pass a car he thought was going too slow. At his speed, he’d have made it, except for the guy who pulled out of a driveway ahead, on his left, and headed straight toward him. They both swerved toward the same shallow ditch, and the head-on collision didn’t block the highway. It did, however, break both thumbs of the Air Canada pilot in the other car.
I’ve blogged about a cartoon character named Joe Bfytzplk, who had a permanent little cloud over his head. These kids and their exploits (?) were almost enough to get me to believe in guardian angels.