I came into the world not much different than the rest of my brothers and sisters, in those days we called it a hard entrance. My Mother told me in my adult years she gave each of us one good year, and from there, we were on our own. And we were, we fended for ourselves, played and interacted with the others by ourselves, there was no instruction. More came after me, I was the seventh child, and each year thereafter, another baby was on it’s way. Questions of where babies came from were answered simply, we were all purchased at the Shop Rite at the on-sale isle. Dad was a cop, he came home every morning since I can remember, and in his uniform cooked for all 12 of us, plus some neighborhood stragglers. He had a car that had an indian head on the front, we thought it was amazing, but it had a problem breaking down alot. Life was different then although it wasn’t so long ago. You may think I’m going to get all mushy about the good old days, and you can forget it, life was miserable. The house was 1,000 years old, the roof leaked, it was always a mess, so bad I couldn’t have friends over, there were no toys, no Christmas, and anybody who was lucky enough to get a bike knew it was pure courtesy of the police department. In those days, if you didn’t claim your goods after a year, the cops could help themselves. My father indulged quite frequently in mish mosh items, relied on the kindness of the neighbors and welcomed charity. I told you it was miserable and I meant it.
Every year, Dad piled us into his crazy looking enormous car and we would go off to the Police Picnic, this was our vacation for the year, our one family day out. And no matter what, it did not matter, he left a kid behind when we left. As a young kid, it didn’t phase me, but as I got older, the embarrasment was overwhelming. Once a month, we went to O’Dowd’s ice cream polar, and I can remember the waiting and the anticipation of taking that long trip three towns away for an ice-cream cone. But you see, there were so many flavors to choose from, my mouth watered the first time we went and I walked up to the cashier, i couldn’t decide and i was taking too long, and I just didn’t want to mess up. I asked her one by one the flavors until my Dad broke in and ordered the girl to give us all chocolate chips, right down the line, chocolate chip. From thereonin, it was chocolate chip.
Dad was always in a rush, he always had somewhere to be at a certain hour, he would shoo us into the car like nobody’s business and that’s the truth. He didn’t care who was in or out, Dad had an agenda and he lived by the watch. One time he pulled away with my sister Bridget (I’ll get to her) hanging out the door of the back seat, thankfully my Mother screamed, he screamed too at Bridget telling her he had to go to work. Life sucked, but i didn’t know it yet. Dad would spend his days off fixing our bicycle tires, and as a kid, it was great, I was proud. That stopped at the age of 12. I remember he fixed my tire despite my protests and of course, keeping with tradition, he had to take a test spin with my banana seat.
And that’s how it went for us, we lived on a busy street and it was an absolute horror to realize how many friends he had who would wave to him as he rode, all 6’3 of him, on our bikes down the bridge to test the tire. Life sucked then for real, cause I knew what the deal was by then.
There was no refuge nor is there for a child who comes from a family of 12, it meant everyone mistaked you for another sibling, it meant you always had to take your younger sibling along with you and life sucked, I had Bridget. If there was one saving grace through it all, it would be the fact that we were all blessed with good looks. I still thank God for that, we were redeemed in that respect, we fit in well and found some way to dress well. But boy did we know a thing or two about shame and embarrasment. It didn’t matter what, when or where, there were no options, Bridget was to come with me.
Let me describe Bridget so maybe you will understand a little about trauma. Bridget always had bugers in her nose, always no matter what, I would rush her to the bathroom after school and make her wash her face and those bugers would grow back by the time we hit the front steps. She had the social graces of a buffalo, she would scream and kick if she didn’t get her way and she wore the same dress every day. Bridget! I guess I should mention that wasn’t all, Bridget had enemies, and it was always my problem to take care of them. One day she told me a girl named Toney was harrassing her, this was commonplace, every day she had this problem, I told her I’d talk to her just to get her out of my hair so I could enjoy what little freedom I had during recess. I didn’t even think much more about it until after school as I waited, I saw Bridget walking proudly with a big smirk on her face, smug like, and behind her was the biggest girl I had ever seen in my life. I can remember that day as if it were yesterday, my mouth went dry and I froze. I was terrified, and it didn’t matter she was a year younger than me, this girl was massive for her age. She was wearing a short skirt that displayed tree trunks for legs and she sported a bow in her hair. I tried to regroup, and what’s more, I needed desperately to save face in front of my own peers. That’s when Big mouth Bridget told Toney that I said I could whoop her ass. Toney pushed me and I saw stars, I got up as the kids chanted in different directions. It was too confusing to me, I needed time, I needed to think my way out of Bridget’s mess, and I could hear Bridget chanting from the sidelines tantalizing Toney that she was about to get a beating. Bridget! All I can really say now is that I don’t remember much after that, Toney pushed me, rolled me, stomped on me, and made my body look like a raggity stuffed animal. Can’t even remember who or how it was broken up, I can remember nothing but Bridget cheering up and down about how I showed her. This is a true story, it happened, it is difficult to believe it too, because not many people can identify growing up in a megawatt family, or the responsibilities to take care of the younger ones that came with it. Bridget!!!!!! Her hair made things worse, she had long hair, curly hair, really wild, curly hair that I would tame every morning, but by the end of the day, it was crazy looking.
Bridget was my cross, I had no choice, but I loved her because she was so damn pathetic. I thought she was the dumbest person in the world, just plain dim-witted and she couldn’t help herself, kind of simple ya know. And then she had to go and take cello lessons, of course, make life easier and carry a 6 ft guitar everywhere we went.
I don’t know how I managed but I hung around with the most popular crowd in school, but they didn’t care for Bridget. Like I said, she was a thorn in my side, it was just one of those things you couldn’t do anything about and life sucked. But one thing was good for sure, we were all a year apart and we all hung around with the same types of people and by the time we started to collect together in packs, there was no stress about Bridget. They knew she came with the deal. My suffering ended because of a good lookng brother all the girls wanted.
There was no such thing as solitude, no such thing as selfishness, no such thing as demanding, no such thing as sulking. There just wasn’t none of that to be had. We had one Mother who took off every year for the shoprite to buy a baby and it took a week, and there was Dad, who ruled with an iron fist. Tragedies to other people seem benign to me, being late for work never made me sweat, and neither did hard work ever scare me. I was one of the hardest working girls in town and I knew it, everyone wanted to hire one of my sisters or myself. Not Bridget, she was a liability.
With my siblings, all 11 of them, if you saw one, there would be two close by and this I will say is the God’s honest truth, we stuck together, and that means nobody got to badmouth any who I held sacred, even Bridget. We were notorious for being a collective force to be reckoned with if need be.
My parents insisted we all received an education, and I’ll tell you they were hard years in which everyone pulled their weight. It was as if we were a windmill churning, all of us working as much as we could and turning our paychecks over to ourDad to get the first three through school, then the other three, and so on. That’s how it worked, and I suppose because my world was so limited, I never minded, I saw my friends buying beautiful clothes, and of course I wanted them, buteven at that age, I knew there was a higher purpose, that I was a cog in a wheel and without one cog, the wheel would break. It was that important.
So life was not a bowl of cherries, never was growing up, and I kind of think of it as natural in a way. I know I indulge tremendously on my two sons, get them the latest and greatest, i sense part of that is because I never experienced Christmas, but as I write and remember those days, I can only remember it as being one way, and that was the right way.
We all graduated college, Bridget if you could believe, ended up going to Columbia University along with some others in my family, and although I am writing about this now, doesn’t mean I think of those times often. But i will tell you i have a smile on my face as I type. Bridget!!!! And that’s how we said it.
They are years past now, and times have changed so much, we as a family changed so much. Sometimes I feel like everything is so fancy now, and artificial and I want to go back in a way to a time that we were together and had time for one another. Time to sit for hours and talk, or play, we would take adventure walks, go to the park, and just be. Now there’s no time, everybody’s so busy and involved with their own lives, including me. Every meeting is now organized and it kind of takes something away from the experience of enjoying each other.
Well, this is a blog right, and I suppose I have the choice to save it as a draft or press the publish button so I could air my dirty laundry to the world. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. I could be babysitting Bridget!!!