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

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Labor Day Laborers

Deanna, me, Bonita, and baby Vickie

Deanna, me, Bonita, and baby Vickie with Dad

When I was a little girl, Labor Day marked the beginning:  the beginning of the fall, the beginning of school, the beginning of catechism.   The beginning of hard frosts and sweaters, of hard sole shoes and dresses everyday, of schedules and memorizing.  Of course every beginning follows an ending.  And Labor Day marked that too.  The end of summer:  the end of white Sunday hats and sandals, the end of baseball.  Right on Labor Day, we had our last big family picnic of the year.   Always, always all Dad’s brothers and his one sister, Barbara, with all their spouses and all their kids.   All Dad’s brothers were laborers, except Uncle Ellis; all the wives were housewives, except Aunt Barbara, she was a teacher.  I guessed Labor Day was for men to stop working and rest a little, and for women to just keep on working, ’cause a woman’s work is never done.  Anyways that’s what Grandma told me.

Uncle Merle worked for Consumers’ Power Company and Dad worked for Ma Bell.   Those two brothers both liked to climb poles and fix things; and they both liked to tell stories.  Uncle Merle was Dad’s best-friend-brother, like Bonita was my best-friend-sister.  Uncle Merle and his family  lived in our house and farmed with Dad, until it got too crowded.  Those two had the same star-blue eyes and the same smile that tugged up the corner of their mouth when they tried to look all straight-faced and tell a joke.

Uncle Frank and Uncle Gerald worked in the Shop making cars, one for Ford and one for Chevrolet.  I could never keep it straight who worked for which, but those two were always arguing about who made the best cars in the whole wide world, Ford or Chevrolet. 

Dad drove a Dodge; he said those were the best, which got his two Shop brothers all riled up and arguing, while Dad and Uncle Merle Continue reading

Quiet Veterans

Memorial Day Commemoration 2008

Memorial Day Commemoration 2008 (Photo credit: davidyuweb)

I suppose my uncles never needed an excuse to get together.  Every summer, we had picnics galore.  Starting out with Memorial Day.  That day was like the kick-off of summertime.  I never thought about Memorial Day as a day to honor veterans.  That’s because all the veterans I knew kept pretty mum about war memories.

All my uncles were veterans.  Dad and Uncle Ellis and Uncle Merle were in the Army.  Uncle Frank was in the Air Force.  Uncle Glenn was in the Marines.  All those brothers fought The Big War, The War to End all Wars.  That’s when Dad got his appendix out, on account of Continue reading

Going to the Chapel and We’re Gonna get Mar-ar-ar-ied

I love weddings. I’m going to my nieces wedding this weekend.  I look forward to kicking up my heels and dancing the night away.  When I was a little girl, a wedding was for everyone, and it lasted all day long and late into the night.  I thought weddings were the most fun for kids.

When my Aunt Annie got married, I got a new Uncle Jim.  I already knew Jim ’cause he hung out at Grandma’s all the time, hugging and kissing Aunt Annie and making her giggle.  She just about never looked at me when he was over.  Sometimes she kicked him when they sat on the couch and pretended to watch TV.  .  I knew she was really just finding some excuse to touch.  Jim, who was going to be Uncle Jim, grabbed Aunt Annie’s big toe and tickled her foot.  That made her squeal and kick and cry out, “Ji-iiim, Ji-iim,”  just the same way Mom said, “De-ean,” when she was pretending to be mad, but was really proud and happy.  That’s the exact moment I knew Aunt Annie loved Jim more than anything.

Everybody got dressed in the best Sunday clothes for Aunt Annie’s and Uncle Jim’s wedding.  Aunt Annie looked just like a princess, with a tiara and everything, she even had Continue reading

Knee High and the Fourth of July

Fourth of July is our Nation’s birthday.  I love the picnics and parades, and especially the fireworks.  Fourth of July is great, especially when family and friends are close at hand.  Still this time of year gets me thinking about corn.  Yes, corn.  This year, farmers are worried about the lack of rain around my home town.  Growth is stunted.  A record amount of corn went in the ground this year, and because of the drought, it is shorter than usual.

When I was a little girl, Fourth of July was picnic time, just like now.  That meant all the aunts and uncles from Dad’s family got together. Fireworks were a rare treat, and parades were for city folks.

As much as they liked farming, the uncles of my childhood loved to have competitions.  They had competitions about everything:  who had the most kids (Dad finally won that one,)  who could lose the most weight (I’ll tell you about that another time,) and who knew the most about farming. That’s where the corn came in.

Dad and Uncle Frank both did some part-time farming.  They and Uncle Merle, were farmers at heart, even though they did different work, regular kind of work that all dads did, so they could put bread on the table.  Farming is what put the rest of the food on the table, and a deep sense of satisfaction in their hearts.

Everybody knew that springtime was the time for planting.  Planting was super-fun, ’cause for sure Dad was home, instead of working tons of overtime, fixing phones and climbing telephone poles, so his kids could have new shoes for school or new Jet-Ball sneakers for summer.

Dad would NEVER let me drive a tractor before I lost my baby teeth.All us kids helped.  Little kids took water out to people in the field.  I got to drive tractor when I was nine.  That’s when I was big enough to step down on the clutch and the brake without standing up.  Some kids got to drive tractor when they were just five years old.  Dad said that was plain foolish, and that’s how kids got killed.  I never got killed, or even hurt, and I disced the fields all by myself.

Dad was the only one who plowed a field, ’cause plowing took an eagle eye.  I had a hard time cutting fabric for an apron straight, so Continue reading

Quiet Veterans

Memorial Day Commemoration 2008

Memorial Day Commemoration 2008 (Photo credit: davidyuweb)

I suppose my uncles never needed an excuse to get together.  Every summer, we had picnics galore.  Starting out with Memorial Day.  That day was like the kick-off of summertime.  I never thought about Memorial Day as a day to honor veterans.  That’s because all the veterans I knew kept pretty mum about war memories.

All my uncles were veterans.  Dad and Uncle Ellis and Uncle Merle and were in the Army.  Uncle Frank was in the Air Force.  Uncle Glenn was in the Marines.  All those brothers fought The Big War, The War to End all Wars.  That’s when Dad got his appendix out, on account of Continue reading

Celebrations fit for a King: Giving from the Heart

I often wonder why so often families have such a hard time getting together for the holidays.  Somehow all five of Dad’s brothers and his sister got together over the Christmas holidays.  Of course, they did all live within sixty or so miles of each other.  Still, I think it was important to them to get their families together.  Besides that, they all seemed to like each other so much.  So did all the kids.

Grandma loved Christmas.  She sewed and embroidered and crocheted away all fall, just to have something nice for everybody.  She made me pajamas for my doll, Jonsi-Belle, a dresser scarf and lots of embroidered handkerchiefs, and once she gave me a little triangular box that fit right in the corner of my dresser drawer.  My nose dripped all the time, which is probably why she thought I needed hankies, but those things were tough on the nose, especially the way Mom starched everything.  I kept a handful of Kleenex in my pocket instead; those were way softer.  That little corner box was great, though.  For one thing, red was my favorite color. For another thing I had all kinds of  treasures to keep in there:  my rosary and scapula, my key to the box Grandpa Z made for me, some convex and concave lenses, and that rock Dad told me was a petrified potato.  That last one turned out to be Continue reading