December 1956--Dave, Davy, Jay, Evy, Wayne, Roberta, Grace
Many years ago I was born the second child in a family of five children. For some reason I believed that I was the only person in the family who could keep things moving smoothly in the household. When I was two, and my older brother was four, I believed that I had to potty train him. I would race him to the bathroom. My strategy worked. Then when he insisted that he climb onto the top of the refrigerator, which caused me to worry that he would hurt himself, I said, “Down boy.” The responsibilities continued to pile up. When a sister and two little brothers came along I felt the load of more chores weighing me down.
I was blessed to have two good parents though. Both had a sense of humor. One time my dad typed a letter to his parents on a typewriter, which had no ink in the ribbon. It is difficult to read but I did get this from it—“The baby—(that was Evy my sister) had dipped her fingers in some flour and had been put in the playpen to protect the flour. She was reaching up with tiny floured fingers and typing on daddy’s typewriter.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and they love me. We are not a typical family. I would say that we were non-conformists before it was popular. (My youngest brother carried a water bottle with him before anyone else. He also would take an empty toothpaste tube to the garage and use the vice to squeeze out more toothpaste.) As children we never fought. We really didn’t have any fight in us. My mother was a pacifist so maybe we inherited her passive genes. She often wished she could be more assertive.
To continue on with my story-- it was my 13th summer that my youngest brother was born. I decided, because of the lack of efficiency that I would have liked to have seen at home, or maybe it was because my older brother and I had to wash my youngest brothers diapers at the wash house in the trailer park, and hang them on the line, I resolved to escape to Grandma and Grandpa’s farm. After I traveled by bus from Washington D.C. to Eau Claire, WI and caught a ride to Spokane, WA with my aunt, uncle and cousins, my Alaskan aunt and cousins traveled to the farm as well. In one letter my aunt Evelyn wrote to my mom-- she said something like, Roberta has too much self-control. She is not like other teens. When I refused to go shopping she thought it was because I didn’t have any money. Not so—I just hated to shop. I admired my aunts who could shop.
Then my next escape from my family took place at age 18 when I went 3000 miles away from home to attend college. I never had a minute of homesickness until Christmas time. I missed our tradition of attending a candlelight Christmas service and then throwing the Christmas tree and presents together at the last minute, as we hadn’t gotten around to the preparations before. So you see I really did like some inefficiency.
If you haven’t read the memories one of our neighbors had of our family after I left home go here.
My final escape took place when I married a college classmate who had the same desire to run away. He suggested that we could go by sailboat! I was enthralled as I saw it as a way to never have to become domestic! I had no idea that we would become domestic through no fault of our own. Yes, we did end up in a house. Yes, we did have kids. But yes, by God’s grace we got to take off in a sailboat and sail away for awhile. And also by God’s blessing and provision we have two wonderful kids, married to their two amazing spouses, and have three brilliant grandchildren. We are so thankful for how God has preserved us and our family through thick and thin.
One last memory is of my older and next to the youngest brother’s weddings. This involved choice of clothing. I did point out to my parents at one time that John the Baptist chose a good leather belt and a good tunic for his one outfit. I recommended that they try to purchase at least one good outfit. My dad wore the same suit his parents bought for him for high school graduation for years, including his wedding. My parents saved the suit and my mom was going to have my youngest brother wear it for my older brother's wedding. My husband insisted that he buy a new blazer and slacks.
I may be wrong on this but as I recall, my next to the youngest brother wore military combat boots for his wedding rehearsal. My husband intervened and talked him into getting a new pair of shoes for the wedding. Then at my sister’s funeral my brother's sole was coming off of his shoe. My husband ran out and purchased some shoe glue or something to glue it back on.
But as a result of their frugality my parents were able to put all five of us kids through college with no loans!