Children came and went all hours of the day and night. Parents dropped children off before going to work, no matter what shift they were on. Each child brought a blanket and a pillow so they had their own comfort when it was nap time or bed time. Cots were placed all over the living room, a little like “wall to wall carpet”.
As you can imagine with so many children, meal time was always crazy. The babies under two (usually only a couple), were fed first. Then while they were content in their highchairs, mom fed the rest in shifts from the youngest to the oldest until everyone was full. It seemed that no matter what she made, and no matter how much the children ate, there was always enough food to go around. Everyone was nice and content after one of mom’s meals.
Every day she would bake something wonderful. Some days we had cookies or cinnamon rolls. Other days she would make homemade macaroni and cheese. On bread day she would say, “I wonder why this recipe never makes as much as it says it will.” This comment was always met with silence. It was because we older children had taken a handful of dough from the underside of the bread as it was rising. Then quickly ran outside to eat it. We loved the homemade scones in the morning and the smell of warm baked bread in the afternoons.
When people asked, “Where does your mother work?” We would reply, “She doesn’t work. She stays home.” This was amazing because I have never seen anyone work so hard. She was always on her feet, cooking meals, baking, washing dishes, washing faces, playing Ring-Around-the-Rosy, reading a story, or dancing with the children. The only time I saw her sit still is when the children were all napping and she was watching her one and only television show, “Where the World Turns”, a modern day soap opera. It was boring to children so it put many of us to sleep.
We had time in the day set aside for story time, coloring, writing our names, learning our numbers and alphabet and a play time. She was a good teacher. During play time, she taught us how to play. She taught some to tie their shoes and blow their noses. She taught others to skip, jump or crawl. Whatever we needed to learn, she was there to teach us.
There are so many stories I have of growing up in such a busy place. Swimming and splashing in the irrigation water, playing in the dugout, sharing our dolls and other toys, dressing the kittens, playing school and so much more. We were taught life lessons of sharing, patience, responsibility, solving arguments, getting along, saying please and thank you, and having sympathy for others. Lessons were taught naturally, under natural circumstances and with natural consequences.