We had a family meeting and Daddy said we were going to have to start helping Mother just because she was having a baby. He tried to make it sound like something great. I wanted to tell him I didn’t want a baby or chores, but was smart enough to keep my mouth shut. I had to dust, set the table, and fold towels. I would be glad when Mother had that darned old baby so things would go back to normal. Mother had her baby. I did not get a pony. What I got was more work. Now I had to sweep, mop, hang out laundry, fold diapers, and help with the dishes. I couldn’t walk through the room without Mother finding something for me to do. Once I was foolish enough to say I was bored. Mother jumped on that and gave me enough work for the next three days. Life is hard. Mother only thought of herself.
Since I hadn’t been interested in a new baby, my expectations were low. This baby met all of them. Connie was bald and squalled constantly. All I saw was tonsils and poopy diapers for the next six months. Mother was always asking if I would rather help with housework or cooking or rock the baby. I didn’t want to do either but always chose anything over rocking the baby. Finally, the baby starting being cute and wanted to play with us. That changed everything. I couldn’t get enough of playing with her, then.
True to form, Mother continued her selfishness and announced another baby was on the way, just about the time this one was looking a little better. I was worldly enough by now to realize my opinion didn’t matter, so resigned myself to a life of servitude. Sure enough, after this baby got here, I was old enough,” to know what needed to be done. Don’t just jump up and leave dishes on the table. You can see when a floor needs to be swept.” Mother was whipped. When we came in from school, she met with us at the door with a baby or a dishrag. Worse yet, I was now “trusted” to change diapers. That’s a lot of trust with two babies in diapers. Since that time, anytime someone “trusts me,” I expect to smell poop.
By the time Marilyn came along, at thirteen Phyllis could take care of the babies as well as Mother. She was dependable, careful, concerned, and loving. Unfortunately for the babies, Mother inferred that I was also dependable, careful, concerned, and loving. My childcare standards were not that high. Whenever Mother had to make a quick trip to town, she left confident leaving the little ones with us. Phyllis always preferred staying indoors so she kept the little baby and palmed Connie, the big baby, off on me. I didn’t let Connie get in the way of my fun. I dragged her along with me whatever I was doing. She was always well-entertained but not always safe. Once, I put her in our red wagon and Billy and I took her to our treehouse at the back of the pasture. Billy climbed up into our treehouse, a few boards nailed across branches about ten to twelve feet off the ground. We had a bucket and rope system set up to bring supplies up. Billy hoisted our supplies up first, so we’d have the bucket free for hauling Connie up. I worked her little chubby behind in the bucket. She was getting close to two years old by this time, so she was a bucketful. I pulled hard. As Connie went airborne, the bucket teetered crazily to one side. She was wedged securely enough to hang upside down for a few seconds before dumping out on her head. She didn’t make too much of a fuss, since she didn’t fall but about a foot. We dusted her off and came up with another plan, looping the rope under her arms to pull her up. As a safety feature, we ran the rope through her overalls so the straps could catch her if the loop slipped. We worked together to pull her up. Once we had her safely suspended above the treehouse, I left Billy holding the rope securely while scurried up to pull her into the treehouse. As an added safety feature, we left the rope attached and tied it to a sturdy branch in case she fell. Everything went fine. Connie enjoyed being in the treehouse so we stayed till she started fussing for her nap.
We loved to ride Frosty, our horse. Billy and I would lure him over to the yard fence with a bucket oats, grab his mane, and slide onto his back and he’d plod around with us clinging tightly to his mane. He was very gentle, put us with us until he’d had enough, when he’d shake us off, step carefully over us, and go on his way. We were stuck with Connie one day when it was time for a ride. Billy slid onto his back. I stood on the fence and plopped Connie behind him, and took my place as usual. Frosty let us ride a little while like always, shook us off, sniffed Connie with his big soft muzzle, stepped over her, and moseyed on about his business. Connie loved her ride. Everything would have been fine if it hadn’t been for that nosey Mary Lou Belton. She was walking down the road, saw the whole thing, went tearing into the house and told Mother the horse had thrown Connie. Mother went crazy. You’d think no one had ever fallen from a horse before. Mary Lou also ratted me out to Mother the time I put a big stuffed animal in Connie’s little chair and perched it precariously on the peak of the roof facing the road. I positioned its hands in an upright position so it looked like it was waving for help. It was about the size of a toddler and really got the neighbors stirred up. I told Miz Green, Mary Lou’s teacher that Mary Lou told me Miz Green was pregnant to get back at her. It worked.
The shrubs along our yard fence were a wonderful place to play. They were riddled with our tunnels and special hideouts. All five of us were playing in the shrubs when it we starting tossing the little girls high in the shrubs and letting them slide to the ground. They had had several rides and we were getting ready to go again when a swarm of yellow jackets came furiously out of the bushes. It was a close call but we snatched them and escaped without stings.