Growing up in a big family is a wonderful experience. One thing is you never feel the pangs of being alone or bored. I don’t ever remember as a kid feeling lonely or bored.
I grew up with nine (9) sisters and brothers. That is (4) older sisters, three (3) older brothers and two (2) younger brothers. So it was really cool I thought as a kid.
Our family was poor but you would never know it. We did not feel poor I guess it was because everyone in our neighborhood was just as poor. I used to get all my older sisters hand me downs, but my mom was kind enough to buy me some new clothes as well.
I remember as a kid it felt like life was a big party, it was so much fun to be alive. On the weekends sometimes my older brothers and sisters used to give parties. Just like the movie “Coolly High”, they used to put up red and blue lights and play some of the most beautiful music. I used to be at the parties until it was bedtime for me and my younger brothers and then I would watch all the excitement from the cracked door of my parent’s bedroom.
My mom practically would run the house military style. We were all clean kids. We took baths every morning before school and every night after dinner, play and before bedtime. The house was immaculately kept clean and every aspect was in order.
We used to watch TV very rarely. We used to watch Saturday morning shows and cartoons while waiting for everyone to wake up and on Saturday nights we used to watch “Chiller Theatre”. That was the scariest show on TV back then. Vincent Price was a good actor he made good scary stuff (lol), along with his buddies Boris Karloff, Peter Laurie and Jack Nicholson. I remember Jack Nicholson in the “Raven”. But I absolutely loved Vincent Price when he acted in the movie “House on Haunted Hill”. I remember I could not sleep for a week without feeling afraid that a ghost would pop out somewhere. But if you look at the scary movies kids watch now you would realize it was a big difference. That’s why I believe we were able to hold on to our innocence for so long as kids back then, because our exposure to TV was very minimal. And everybody watched each others kids. It’s like being mothered everywhere. You could not go into the candy store to steal because the owner would tell your mother. But Mom used to let us get candy there on credit. She would pay the man on my dad’s payday.
I remember that I always fell asleep and missed seeing my father when he got home from work late. So to remedy it. I put the milk bottles near the doorway. Dad would walk into them every time so my brothers would wake up to see if he was ok and so they would wake me up and so I got to spend a little time with my father during the weekdays.
All of us brothers and sisters had chores to do and each one had to perform it well. I used to thank God I did not have to do laundry nor do the cooking because it was just such an overwhelming job. The chores were as follows: laundry, ironing, cooking, cleaning, and babysitting the younger ones, decorating, and sewing. ect. My one sister who was assigned laundry duty, I used to feel so sorry for her. But she used to act like she loved it. She had every thing in order. She folded everyone’s clothes and things and put them away. But my job was to keep my bed made up and to help some when my sisters cleaned house and cooked.
We used to go to Coney Island Beach everyday in the hot summer time. Oh my goodness it was the best fun in the world. Playing in the sand, building castles, collecting sea shells and finding sea weeds. We used to see who could go the furthest out into the ocean. It was mostly my older brothers who had something to prove and they did this while they tried to grab one of the girls and bring them in with them. So we used to play fight with my brothers and run from them as they chased us. One of my younger brothers was so afraid of stepping on the sand. So we had to leave him on a blanket. I used to stay and play with him sometimes but no one could convince him that the sand was harmless. I remember he would cry and have a fit if someone put sand on him.
Then on one hot summer day, my sister decided that I no longer needed to wear a bathing suit top. You know I was flat chested but nevertheless I was not going to walk around uncovered. My thought was how dare she even think of doing this to me? Well I grabbed my top from her and ran away. I went as far as hiding behind the front door as everyone was leaving for the beach. They went crazy looking for me but I was locked in the house the entire time. By the time my mom reached home I told her the story and you know the rest. She scolded my sister and told her that I was a growing girl how she dare insult me in that way. I said to myself “Go Mommy, Go Mommy, go, go, go, go”. I felt like my mom understood the needs of a young growing girl perfectly and most importantly mom protected me by defending my growing womanhood (LOL). I remember back then it was being called womanish. Womanish is defined as being ten (10) years old going on forty (40).
Back then my school was a block away from our house and so I used to enjoy going to school every single day. I loved learning and being with my classmates. One of my younger brothers (the one who used to be afraid of the sand) used to take the long way home from school to avoid getting beaten up by the well known bullies at school. I was very protective of my brothers, so one day I decided to intervene. So I waited for him and told him to walk home with me. So as we were walking home we were approached by those boys and I stood there in my dress, bobby socks, patent leather shoes, pony tails and all and double dared them to touch my brother. Oh I forgot to mention, I was an ex experienced tom boy, but I gave it all up and traded it in for some new beautiful dresses my mom brought home for me one day. I told them I would beat them so bad they would be unidentifiable to their mothers. I guess it was my tom boy reputation of the recent past that persuaded them to give up chasing my brother home from school everyday. So my brother did not have to take the long way home anymore. He’d go home the same way we did, but he could not continue to hang around us girls because his reputation was being affected.
I remember I had this friend named Maria and she used to meet me in the park next door to our house. We both had our dolls, strollers and tea cups so we would have tea and discuss life as married woman. (LOL). It’s truly hilarious how kids can think of such things during play.
The family that lived across the street had a daughter who we thought was not right. Her family tried so hard to get her a boyfriend. They set guys up. The guys always left her at the Coney Island train station and told her to wait there till they came back, but they never did, her family had to always pick her up. I used to feel so sorry for her and wondered why guys thought her strange. She was no beauty queen but she was not considered ugly either. My sister told me she was kind of backwards. So one day my sisters invited her over and gave her a makeover and tried to tell her how she could act on her next date. Well it worked. One day she made it past the Coney Island train station and all the way to see a movie with a date.
My oldest sister got married to this guy who was in the military. He was a navy man. So one day I went to her house to spend the day. I brought my friend Maria along. I must have done something to annoy my sister because she smacked me for the very first time and well I told her I want to go home and so she took us back home. I never told my mother what happened I don’t think I really understood why she even smacked me but I never went to her house again.
I remember when two of my brothers had to go away to serve in the Vietnam War. We were so proud of them yet we were so sad to see them go away. Finally they returned home and one brother immediately went back to work on his old job in the dollar store and the other one got into using drugs. I remember one day I found his drugs and I threw them in the toilet. And I prayed for my brother asking God to please deliver him from these drugs. So I pinned a prayer cloth on his pillow case that day as well. Later when he came back home my brother discovered his drugs were missing and so to avoid accusations on others I straight out told him I found them and threw them away. He immediately started to cry and we talked about it and so he promised me he would give up using them. He kept his word. I remember thanking God for hearing my prayer and helping him to change his mind.
Well this is just a snippet of life growing up in a large family. I am so grateful for having that experience too. I think a big family is like heaven to a kid. You get exposed to so many personalities and learn so much from each individual. Especially if you feel the love from each family member it’s really a good thing.
Vincent Price: House on Haunted Hill
Boris Karloff: Thriller
Thought I’d throw in Michael Jackson’s Thriller too just for fun and for those who like scary stuff.