Surrounded by Family Love-Growing Up with Eleven Siblings
The Start to it All
My childhood was unlike any other. I have eight sisters and three brothers. We are a family of twelve children, and that made my life crowded and loud. Don't get me wrong, growing up with so many means you always have a playmate, and there is always something interesting going on in the house. That made it fun and memorable!
My parents teetered working full time, sending us all to private schools, and juggling all of our activities. I cannot imagine the sleep they were deprived of, or the alone time that was never forthcoming.
My parents had seven children, and my father remarried and added five more to our bunch. So, we were not all raised together at the same time due to age difference and living arrangements. The most in one house at one time was eight children and two parents. Remember, I did say eight children!
There is an eighteen year difference between my oldest and youngest siblings. So, when my dad remarried not all of us lived together. Some of my older siblings were out on their own or away at college by the time our households joined. When I was in fifth grade, my younger sister and I moved into our dad's home that already had seven people in it (my parents and five siblings). We made nine, and then another older sister moved in to make a house of ten!
Okay, the sleeping arrangements were fun. We had two bedrooms for us younger girls. One room contained my sister Amy, and the other room had two bunk beds where the four of us youngest slept together. We had matching comforters on our beds that were made with love by my step-mom. All of us girls had more stuffed animals than we knew what to do with, so our beds were made up everyday and we would arrange those animals all over our beds.
We had a lot of fun in that bedroom. There was rarely boredom when four girls shared a room. It was a slumber party every night!
The Deflating Lung
When you're in a large family you can expect turmoil on the inside, but even better you can expect support from them when you're on the outside. I recall a science fair my school had that my class participated. One of the projects had a syringe that was used for the experiment. A girl in my class thought it would be funny to take that syringe and poke it into my back. When she did it, I lost my breath as I made my way to the bus that was about to pull out of our school. I cried in pain on the bus from what she had done. Later, we found she had punctured my lung with that syringe. At that time my sister Kimberly was so mad about what occurred she took action.
The five of us girls got off the bus with me crying and carrying on about the pain while my sister Kimberly took it into her own hands to call the villain in this story. She tore her apart over the phone telling her how she had hurt me, and had no right to be using a syringe on people.
At the time, I didn't realize the effort and kindness put forth by my sister. I was horrified that she was calling my classmate to chew her out, and was worried about the social repercussions. Once my parents came home and heard what occurred, there was punishment for Kimberly lashing out at the classmate. I believe she would do it again though because she had a genuine concern for me as her sister.
My parents loved to vacation, and they always planned it to the hilt. We vacationed mostly on the east coast. We went to Disney World, both Bush Gardens, beaches, places of historical importance and more. A good time was had by all (or at least I'm suppressing the bad memories in my middle age). I do recall a camping trip that my sister Kimberly vomited Strawberry Shortcake cereal on all of us in the van. So many people, someone is bound to get sick at some point!
One trip to Florida was very memorable because my dad's father went with us. He was up there in his years as we were the youngest of his grandchildren of twelve. He had memory problems and would repeat stories so many times I believe I began to know the stories better than he did.
He was very slow moving, and when we would get out of the car at a rest stop he would stand up outside the car and plant himself. My dad would tell us all to keep moving toward the building because he would follow us, but I kept stopping when he was so far behind all of us. Dad would yell, "Keep walking, if you stop, he stops!" So, I would inch like a worm to the restrooms so he would keep up with some one. My step-mom was so good about being patient and waiting for him. I cannot tell you how many times that woman tarried like she had nothing else in the world to do, but wait for him.
Our vacations were filled with tubing down rivers on tractor inter-tubes to dining at unique restaurants. We had fun, and I learned about planning fun trips for my family from my parents. It brings families close to experience things together. It's especially important in this day and age of technology to get out and have fun together.
The Growing Family
As we the younger girls grew up, the older siblings dated and some got married. Our sister Karen and her husband's family camped with us on a vacation. It was fun to make our group even bigger with more family. I think of how large our circle around the campfire was and I just smile. We roasted marshmallows to make s'mores and listened to my step-mom's campfire stories. I would go to bed on a sugar high and wake to raccoons in my tent opening our duffel-bags.
We had weddings and my step-mom made beautiful dresses for them. Our large family gathered with other families to make more family. There was always at least one family member doing something comical to keep the rest of us entertained.
The Fun We Had Together
Off to War
My brother Ken went off to join the Army after high school. He ended up in Operation Desert Storm. He also was in Egypt in the Sinai Desert. The youngest five of us were sad when he left. I remember one time when we were all sitting in the stairwell of my home and he took out an MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) from the Army and let us smell, touch and taste its contents. We girls laughed and were grossed out about the dehydrated ketchup.
He bought us girls really thick nice beach towels while in the dessert. I still have mine. To think that he thought of us enough to buy us something, meant a lot.
We were his crew. On snow days he would put on his beret, and tell us all he was leaving for the woods and we were to get ready now if we were coming. He would run full speed through inches and inches of snow jumping over logs, creeks, and into ravines. We would do our best to follow and keep up with him.
Tragedy Strikes Us Too
We lost my oldest brother, Ron to suicide when I was eighteen years old. I was the first to hear about it as the coroner called our home, and I was the only person available. I begged the coroner to tell me what was going on when he called asking for our parents. He relented, and told me he had died.
We all had our ways of coping with this, but I remember my sister Janice having a way that was foreign to me. She wrote poetry to sooth her soul. I remember going to her apartment and seeing a poem front and center on her dresser talking of how her heart was black and blue. She and Ron had been very close, and it had an enormous affect on her.
My family was very sad. I remember my step-mom offering to my mother to purchase the flowers for Ron's casket. My mother and step-mom were not enemies, but they weren't best friends either. After that, my mother said she had a new respect for my step-mom. She was deeply touched.
Our faith was a big portion of our life. We always went to church. I remember going to church while on vacation. The church had the same name as ours back home, Holy Redeemer. We were surprised when to got into the church and there were plush seats that were full to the brim with people, and the priest spoke of getting tickets for the lottery (it was at an all time high, he had told us).
The Bible says in Joshua 24:15, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
It also says in Psalm 127: 3-5, "Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior's hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver in full of them!"
Indeed I would say we were all blessings to our parents, and my parents definitely showed us how to serve the Lord. We fought at times, hated someone at times, and ignored at times too. More than those things, we loved. We still love. We still enjoy running home for the holidays, and chatting or texting with one another on the phone.
I lost my my mother when I was 27. I have missed her greatly, and wished she was here more times than I can count. I have much family to comfort me and help me remember her. She was goofy and fun too.
Make the effort to be with your family. Make memories with them while doing fun things like we did. Don't take them for granted, and stop wasting time by not spending time with them!