Vickie: The Littlest of the Big Kids

When I was a little girl, I had a little sister named Vickie. Vickie was the first baby I remember Mom bringing home, mainly because I was always trying so hard to get a peek at her.  Vickie was the littlest of the Big Kids.  The Big Kids had the most responsibility when we were growing up.

I had to stand on my tippiest-tip-toes to barely see Vickie wrapped up tight in her pink striped receiving blanket in that eyelet covered bassinet. Once, or maybe more times, I tipped the whole kit-n-kaboodle over on top of me and spilled Vickie right out into my lap.  There we were, under the bassinet, little rays of sun coming through the basket weaves, like a cozy hide-away smelling like Ivory Snow and baby oil.  I felt like I just swallowed one of those sunbeams, until Mom sucked in her breath really hard, as if she was getting ready to blow up a balloon , as big as the giant one that I saw outside the Dodge car-store.  I knew that sound meant trouble.  After that, Mom gave me a little stool to stand on, then I could see Vickie with no trouble at all.

img037Vickie had blond hair and blue eyes and a beauty mark on her cheek; not the cheek on her face either, the other one that only people who are really close to her ever get to see.  I helped Mom change Vickie’s diapers, so I saw Vickie’s beauty mark lots of times.  Having a beauty mark means the angels marked you special ’cause you’re so beautiful.  Mom had a beauty mark too, on her big toe; she told me once that she almost got missed, but an angel grabbed her by the big toe, just as she was diving down from heaven.  I don’t have any beauty marks.

Mom read us a book one time about a little angel that couldn’t get her star shined up good enough and kept getting in trouble with the head honcho angel, probably Michael, but the book didn’t point any fingers, you’re not supposed to tattle.  The littlest angel always tried really hard to keep up with the bigger angels; she just kept rubbing and rubbing her star, never quite satisfied.  For some reason, Vickie always made me think of that angel; probably ’cause her white hair floated around her head like a halo and her eyes were so true-blue, she must have gotten them in heaven, and her lips were like a little rosebud; or maybe because she tried hard to keep up with the other Big Kids.

Dad drilled  holes in two boards, and threaded big thick hemp rope through the holes;  he tossed the rope over a giant limb of a boxelder tree growing right outside the house, and voíla,  we had two swings.  Sometimes Deanna, me and Bonita pumped way up high and jumped out to see who could jump the  farthest.  We did this so much, the grass just got tired of trying to grow around there; not even weeds would give it a try, and we had weeds everywhere.  If it rained, a big puddle of rain-water sat there right under the swings, then we had to run and jump to get on the swings and not get our shoes wet.  One day Tom and Cathy, from next door, and Doug and Nancy, from across the road, were over and we had a big swing jumping contest.  Two at a time jumped and then we marked a line in the dirt, so the next jumpers could see how far they had to go to be the winner.   All us kids got really excited and we lost track of where Vickie was; she was too little to jump, she couldn’t even get up in the swing by herself, that’s how little she was.  I guess she wanted to be a Big Kids ’cause the next thing I knew BAM! one of the swings hit her right in the mouth.  That swing almost knocked one of her dog-teeth right out of her head.  The tooth just stayed that way, all loose and dangly, reminding me that I let her get hurt,  until she got to second grade and it was supposed to come out.  Then the tooth fairy left her a whole dollar bill, and a note thanking Vickie for taking such good care of that tooth for such a long time.

We had a cousin, Janet, who was the same age as Vickie;  Janet was Uncle Gerald’s and Aunt Millie’s little girl.  Janet had the same angel-blond hair and angel-blue eyes as Vickie’s, and the two of them sucked the same finger of their hand when they got tired.  Sometimes I asked Vickie if I could have some of her finger juice; she just shook her head “no” and laughed; that was a pretty funny joke we had.  One Sunday, Vickie got right in Uncle Gerald’s car when it was time to go home.  Uncle Gerald turned around in the driver’s seat to count his kids; he saw Vickie there and thought she was Janet.  I guess he was a bad counter, ’cause he had one extra little girl.  When he got all the way to his house, and Aunt Millie sat the supper-table, they realized they had an extra kid.  Uncle Gerald just laughed because he thought Dad was playing a joke on him; those brothers were always playing jokes on each other.  In the meantime, everybody else searched frantic-like for Vickie.  Whenever something was lost and Mom wanted it found, I dropped everything and started looking, ’cause Mom got super-grouchy when she was looking for stuff and nobody helped.  We even had a special prayer to St. Anthony, patron saint of lost things: “Tony Tony, look around, something’s lost and must be found.”  That day  St. Anthony must have dropped everything, because everyone was praying, even the non-catholics.  I bet a whole lot of  prayers were left unanswered,  on account of all the ones going up about Vickie; and the entire time she was at Uncle Gerald’s having a bowl of ice cream.

Vickie was the last of the Big Kids:  Sometimes I was trying my darndest to be like Deanna, who just wanted to be left alone, Vickie was trying to be like Bonita, who was trying to be Dad’s best boy.  Maybe we were always in some version of that swing contest, we just kept swinging and jumping and trying hard to make our mark, and once in a while something got knocked loose.  I guess we all got lost now and then, sometimes we didn’t even realize it.  The  most important thing is that someone is always there to dust us off when we got knocked in the teeth and someone is there to celebrate when we find our way again.

Happy Birthday, Vickie


Julie = Love

When I was a little girl, I had a treasure of a little sister.  She was not my best-friend-sister like Bonita, and she was not my Pal like Frank.  She was not my personal blessing like Marcia, and she was nothing like Loren Deedee Bopper.  Back then, I never wanted to be like her, like I did with Deanna; I was almost eight years old, when she was born.  Still, this little sister taught me something special:   Julie taught me how to love.

Julie was the first baby I really took care of.  Sure, I changed Loren Deedee Bopper’s diapers, but that was when he was old enough to learn “Up-a-Butt”, which I taught him:  That’s when a baby does a bridge with his feet and shoulders so the diaper can slip right under.  You gotta be careful with diapering:  bring the back corner over the front, right under the belly button; make sure the pin goes through all layers, front and back; and always, always put your fingers in the back, so your own fingers get poked before the pin can poke the baby; and don’t forget the rubber-pants over the diaper, or as soon as she wets, all the her clothes will be wet, too.  I changed Julie when she was too little to even hold her head up by herself.  That’s when a baby needs to be loved more than anything, ’cause she depended on you to be careful, and to know what she wanted.  I learned a bit about what different cries meant, like ‘I want to play’, or ‘I’m hungry’, or ‘Please leave me alone, but first rock me to sleep, ’cause I like rocking more than anything’, and ‘wait a minute, I want some more rocking.’  Julie had that last cry quite a bit.

I loved to play with Julie, ’cause I could make her laugh so easy.   Mom had this little bouncer seat that was nothing much to look at.  Just a sling of white duckie printed on blue canvas and stretched, over a thick, wire frame.  Mom laid Julie down in the sling and gave the wire frame a little push.  That made Julie smile. The sling kinda reminded me of Grandma Z’s garden swing.  I was supposed to just give it a little push, so it soothed Julie, but I could make her laugh out loud; that kind of laugh only babies can do, the kind they do with their whole body, not just their mouths and eyes. Here’s how, Continue reading

A Special Sister Gift

When I was a couple of years too old to climb onto Santa’s lap with a wish-list, I did just that.  All I wanted was a baby sister.  That’s all I thought about; that’s what I tacked on the end of my bedtime prayers, right after “bless Mom, Dad, Deanna-Bonita-Vickie-Loren-Julie-Frankie.  I already had four sisters and two brothers. Why, oh why, did I want more?  Of course Santa can’t deliver babies, but I like to think my prayers and wishes were responsible for planting a seed of a new miracle, because nine months after Christmas, I had my baby sister.   I still like to think of her as my personal gift from God.

Mom brought another sweet bundle home and told us her name was Marcia.  Aunt Pat said “Oh my.  Don’t you know Marsha means swamp water?”  Aunt Pat was the tallest woman I knew.  Just being tall made her look like she was smarter than everyone, because the only way she could see me was to look down.  Aunt Pat married to my Uncle Ken, Mom’s baby brother.  He was way up there, even taller than Aunt Pat.  Those two looked like movie stars with Continue reading

Baby Frankfurter

Mom was always expecting some baby or another, when I was a little girl.  My friend Diann said that her mom said she knew it was spring, ’cause my mom was having another baby.  Deanna rolled her eyes and turned all red when I told her, but I liked it.  I was going to have eleven children, when I grew up, then I would have lots of help, just like Mom did.

Mom and Dad had a heck of a time picking out names for kids.  Deanna never did get officially named until she was sixteen.  She found out about that when she got her birth certificate for her driving permit.  Boy oh boy, was she mad, when she read “baby girl” on the line where the first name belonged.

“I guess I can pick out any name I want,” she said, with one hand on her hip and that birth certificate wagging in the other and her hair all up in curlers so she could get it ratted up high like the girls on American Bandstand.  Continue reading

More Little Girls with Little Curls

Not so long ago, I had a little girl who taught me a whole lot about who I was when I was a little girl.  Just like me, she was born bald and grew a little curl right in the middle of her forehead, and just like me, when she was good, she was very, very good, and when she was bad… well, I won’t talk about that because today is her birthday.

This little girl, learned to walk when she was 8 1/2 months old, not one step, but eight.  She learned to tie her shoes when she was four, all by herself.  “Look, Mom, look what I can do!” she proclaimed as she looped her laces around clumsy fingers.  I waited, ready to help her; she didn’t need me.  No one even showed her how, she just watched and learned.

This little girl, was convinced she could ride her father’s bike when she was five.  “Look, Mom, all I have to do is get down here under the bar,” and she started to hop up on the peddles.  I stopped her on that one.

This little girl walked up to a saleswoman, put one hand on her waist, shifted her weight to one hip, and asked, “Do you have a raincoat for a little girl like me?  I need one for kindergarten.”  I continued searching with fruitless vigor, determined that I could find it myself.

This little girl once proclaimed that when she grew up, she would do all the things I did:  “Have a baby, get a horse, then get married.  That’s the way you did it, right?” Well, yes honey, but not in that order.  She cleaned the bathrooms for a year, to save up money to get her horse.

Some people might think  this little girl is stubborn and foolish, with her head in the clouds.  I say this little girl can do just about anything she sets her mind to, faces challenges with great bravery, and listens to her heart.

Today I will spend the day with my little girl, celebrating all that she is and all the unexpected things she taught me.

Do you have someone in your life, like my little girl?

Four Generations of Little Girls

Golden Boy Smiles

G-money asked me, “Who was the middle child in your family?”

happy birthday john - 1

Loren is the golden boy on the right.

“Are you kidding me?  With nine kids, there was no middle; there were Big Kids, and Little Kids, and Loren.”  It came out of me like a sneeze, no thinking about it, and certainly true. Still, the more I considered it, the more I thought maybe that was a lonely place to be.  All the Big Kids paired up with a Pal Little Kid, and there was Loren, no Pal.  Not like he needed one, Loren was golden.

When I was a little girl, other little girls surrounded me, Deanna, Bonita, Vickie.  Then Mom brought home my first brother, Loren Dean III.  Mom said people all the way in Texas could hear Dad shout out Yee Ha! when a son finally came into the world.  Bonita’s boo-hoos must have drowned out the sound at my house, ’cause I didn’t hear any whooping and hollaring.  Bonita was always trying to be Dad’s best boy, so when a real boy came into the house, she might have felt a tinsy bit like I imagined Gepetto’s other puppets felt when Pinnochio became a real boy.   Left out.

I got to change Little-Dean’s diapers.  I was six years old, and I wanted to show Mom what a big girl I was, so when Little-Dean cried, I just got him right out of the crib, got a clean diaper and did what needed to be done.  I watched lots of times, so I knew how.  I already helped Mom hang the diapers on the line and fold them when they were dry, two sharp snaps than in half long-wise twice, then in half again, I could imagine a Little-Dean-butt right inside, pinned in, all snug as a bug in a rug,  with those great-big-giant safety pins with blue ducks on the end, then rubber pants over the diaper.  It was easy, Little-Dean was kind of floppy like Deanna’s Tiny Tears.   Mom was so surprised:  her eyes got wide and her mouth shaped into a capital O.

“How did you get him out of the crib.” she asked.  I showed her how I climbed up on the rail and hung by my belly over the top —that hurt just a little —and pulled Little-Dean right out.  Then I jumped down, so proud about how I figured it all out.

I was a pretty smart little girl and could figure almost anything out.  Mom said she was proud of me, I was such a big girl, but she really liked changing diapers more than anything, so please leave that to her from now on.  After a while I guess diaper changing got old hat to Mom ’cause  when Julie, Frank, Marcia and Johnny were born,  I got to do all sorts of diaper changing.

Mom decided after a while that she didn’t like the sounds of “Little Dean”, and made everybody call the baby “Loren.”  She said she didn’t want Little Dean, I mean Loren, getting to be a grown man like Dad’s brother and still be called “Little.”  One of Dad’s brother’s was Junior to everybody but us, ’cause we had to call all Dad’s brothers “Uncle FirstName”, and “Uncle Junior” was way too silly sounding, so he was “Uncle Ellis;”

Ellis was his real first name, which was also Grandpa’s first name, that’s why everybody called Uncle Ellis “Junior,” even his wife.  Mom told me Grandpa never wanted a boy named after him.  Whew!  I could sure understand that.   Mom fixed it so no one could call the baby “Junior,” by naming him “Loren Dean III,” but that didn’t stop people calling him “Little Dean,” which was just as bad as “Junior” in her mind, so she put the kibosh on that one by telling everyone to call him “Loren.”

After all that, Mom started calling Loren “Loren-Deedie-Bopper.”  I guessed she never thought how silly that would sound with Uncle tacked on in front.

I was super glad I had a name nobody else had, no one got me mixed up with anyone.  Mom said that was true in more ways than one.

When Loren got to be big enough to talk, he told everybody he was going to be a corn-picker when he grew up, and he sat up tall and pushed his chest out, like he was trying to look the part, with a great big proud grin on his face.  He had the best smile in the whole wide world, it was just like Dad’s, just washing up one side of his face, splashed out of his eyes, until his whole face was lit up.  Sometimes when he tried to tease, he clamped his jaws down tight on his smile, but there was no way he could clamp down on his eyes and they just danced out a smile so big I didn’t even have to see his lips.  I couldn’t help but smile when Loren smiled.

When Loren  got his engineering degree, he showed me the suit he bought for interviewing.

“The books says to buy grey,”  he told me. “I just couldn’t bring myself to conform like that, so I got green.”

“Green?” I said.  I had a hard time imagining Loren in a green suit, until I saw it.  I told him I was really proud of him; I kept it to myself that the suit was really grey, with a little bit of green thread running through, which I could just barely make out if I looked really, really close in the bright sunlight.

Loren never got to be a corn-picker, instead he got to be President of a an engineering firm that helps cities plan parks.  He changed his name to “Loren Dean Jr.,” because he thought”Loren Dean III” was much too pretentious for him.  No one ever calls him “Junior,” but I bet they call him “The Man,” He still is golden.

I hope Loren reads this and  that grin washes up over his face and splashes out his eyes just the way I imagine it.  Happy Birthday, Loren Deedie Bopper.