When I look at this picture now, thirty some years after it was taken, I can see the children's personalities popping out at me. Like Willy, the oldest, who is on the left side holding Melissa, the baby. He is happy to be in charge of something. He was always the one who was breaking ground for everyone else, always wanted to have just a little more of anything than the other kids. I'm sure that it was just for reassurance that he hadn't been knocked off his firstborn throne no matter how many kids came along.
There are some benefits to being the oldest, you know, and he was determined to make the most of them. He was always the one who would come quietly on the side, turning on the charming smile, and then while I was still smiling back at him, would ask if I had any treats or money he could have. Nothing made him happier than that. But of course, he couldn't keep it a secret for long. He would have to let one of the kids know what he got, and before long, someone else would come find me, wanting the same thing he had gotten. Kids are so funny.
And then, there is Robert, the next oldest, who was the happiest little guy I
When he was young, he was content to play second fiddle to Willy's position in first chair, but as he got older, he learned that he could get quite a reaction out of Willy if he teased him in just the right way, and armed with that knowledge, the sibling war began. The first inkling I would have that trouble was brewing was when I'd hear two sets of footsteps thundering down the hallway into the living room as Robert, giggling like crazy, tried to outrun Willy after he had pushed him just that little bit too far. And then Willy would wreak his revenge with a well-placed punch, and when I scolded him for hitting, he would get so mad because Robert didn't get in trouble, too.
Diane, the next one to the right in the picture, was the first girl, and she acted just as much like a firstborn as Willy did. It was no wonder that they butted heads constantly. Even at two-and-a-half, she always tried to do things the right way, and I think it was important to her to have things work the way they should. Her earnest efforts to manage everything perfectly tugged at my heartstrings. Diane loved to know how things should be, what the rules were, and what people were supposed to be doing because then she could tell the other kids what they were supposed to be doing, and she'd tell me when they did something they weren't supposed to be doing. She didn't like surprises; she like to know exactly what to expect and when to expect it. In this picture, you can see some of the seriousness in her eyes, even though a half smile is quirking up one side of her mouth.
Melissa was only about six months old here, but she was another happy-go-lucky one. The only time she cried was when she was hungry or tired. Her hair had a mind of its own, growing every which way it could, even straight up, flopping over when it got too long. The little grin you see here reflected her sunny personality already at this age. The novelty of having a baby sister hadn't worn off yet, but as they got older, there was some rivalry going on, more so on Diane's part, I think, as she tried to cope with not being the youngest and the center of attention anymore.
Melissa was more even tempered than Diane was, and the age difference made it more apparent. Diane was going through what is fondly called "The Terrible Twos," but Melissa was still in the stage where she didn't get into much. She couldn't. She wasn't even crawling at that age. And she was usually happy just finding a toy on the floor she could play with. Her smile matches the smiles of the other kids, and it reminds me of the innocence of childhood and the simplicity of daily life with children. There are no world records that can measure this kind of success; you can see their happiness on their faces.
But even more than the children and the fortunate serendipity of catching them all with a smile on their faces, the rest of the picture tells the rest of the story. Our couch reflected the wear and tear that four busy babies had inflicted on it. We bought that couch after Robert was born, and already, it had started to fray. The welted edge coming loose from the cushion next to Diane tells about the constant push and pull on the couch cushions that was a daily occurrence in our house. The cushions came off the couch to make a fort, and then got laid down to soften the floor when the kids did somersaults across the living room. One of the kids would lay on the base of the couch bed, and the other kids piled the cushions and then themselves on top of the unlucky one who had laid down there.
The reflection of the flash on the window reveals the many fingerprints from the children from when they stood on the couch, poking at the window in an effort to point out something outside, or sometimes, just to bang on the window and hear the noise as the two windows clanked together. I can't count the number of times I noticed the windows were like that. Sometimes I scurried off to find a cloth to clean them with, but probably more often, I sighed, thought about washing them, and then decided that whatever I was doing at the time was more important. When the kids were little, the work was never all the way done, and the house never stayed clean for long.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
thoughts from daisy at 10:45 PM