The shrubs along our yard fence riddled with our tunnels and hideouts were a wonderful place to play. All five of us were playing in them one day when we started tossing the little girls high in the shrubs and letting them slide to the ground. They had had several rides and we were getting them ready to go again when a swarm of yellow jackets came swarming furiously out of the bushes. It was a close call, but we snatched them and escaped without stings.
Marilyn had a fever and had to go to the doctor. Mother thought it might take a while so she left Phyllis and me to watch the baby and start supper. I wanted to play outside, so Billy and I took Connie with us. We were building villages in the white sand, making roads, houses, pastures and ponds. Connie loved the ponds, so we ended up digging her a big pond and filling it with water. When Mother and Marilyn came back from the doctor, Connie was sitting in the puddle covered with mud head to foot. Mother was horrified. Marilyn had measles. That meant Connie was already exposed and was now sure to get measles. Mother was in tears because at that time, everyone knew that if you got wet when you have measles the rash would “go in” on you. Mother grabbed Connie up, sponged her off with a damp rag, and found her covered in a rash. I was relieved to see that it hadn’t gone in on her. This didn’t comfort Mother since it might still “go in.”
I felt terrible for killing Connie and examined her every few minutes, praying the rash was still there. I went to bed dreading finding Connie’s tiny unrashed body in the crib the next morning. I woke long before daylight the next morning, flipped on the light in Mother’s and Daddy’s bedroom, bolted to Connie’s crib and snatched the her blanket back, thrilled at the sight of her rash.. She howled, woke Marilyn in her crib on the other side of the room, and got Mother’s day off to a roaring start with two measle-ey babies.
Feeding the baby was one job I didn’t mind. Our babies didn’t eat the disgusting vegetables, only the puddings and fruit. I don’t know how they got away with that since the rest of us were forced to eat disgusting vegetables, but I’d had enough lumps lately so that Mother’s behavior made sense. I’d give the baby a little bite, then have a big one myself to show her how it was done. The minute the baby slowed her pace, I polished off the rest of the can myself. I was fired from that job after a couple of feedings. It was passed on the Phyllis, who could be trusted while I had to help cook supper or do some other real work. Even though Phyllis patiently fed the baby bite after tiny bite and coaxed her to finish the food, I knew she was rotten to her pudding-and-fruit core. I seethed as I peeled potatoes, scraped pots, and hauled out the garbage. Months rocked on. Phyllis gotten so good over the months, she fed babies in side by side high chairs. She would feed first one and then the other so smoothly that neither ever missed a bite. No telling how many gallons of delicious fruit and puddings she shoveled into their greedy mouths while I slaved. Mother praised Phyllis for her thrift since two babies required so many expensive cans of baby food.
One fine day the water heater went out. Daddy got mad and interrogated Mother about how she had broken it. (I never knew why he stayed married to a woman he suspected of sabotaging appliances and vehicles.) But he was a forgiving man, eventually telling Mother to call Mr. Austin. Mr. Austin did not work for the service department of Sears or Western Auto. He was our neighbor who would drop by after his regular job to tinker with broken stuff. In addition to being very cheap labor, he was known for being able to get things going without buying any new parts. In fact, he usually left a few of the old parts, with instructions not to throw them away. He might need them next time.
Mr. Austin came dawdling by about four-thirty one afternoon, stinking up the whole house with his cigar. We heard him the screech of a wrench on metal. In a few minutes he called Mother to bring him a broom and trash can. He raked under the water and starting bringing out dozens of empty baby food cans, many rusted. They had been stacked far up the wall behind the water heater. He didn’t ask Mother any questions, just told her not to throw trash behind the water heater any more. Mother was humiliated. Upon intense interrogation, Phyllis broke and admitted hiding in the bathroom to eat baby food and throwing the evidence behind the water heater. I was glad I had not been trusted near the baby food, and never have I felt so pure and vindicated!