IllustrationbyKathleen Holdaway Swain
Connie and Marilyn were adorable little girls, born a little over a year apart. Born fouth and fifth of five children, we all doted on them, with the exception of my brother Billy, who was displaced by all that cuteness. Mother dressed them in pastel shades of the same style dresses as much as she could. Connie was fair and blue-eyed with cotton white hair; Marilyn olive-skinned, brown-eyed with darker hair. Naturally, they were inseparable. Connie, the older, was protective of Marilyn and invariably gave over to her, calling her “Myrnie.”
As Mother rocked Connie, it was obvious the sweet toddler was deep in thought. After a bit, Connie asked, “Mommy did God give me to you and Daddy?”
“Yes,” Mother answered.
Connie thought, “Did God give Myrnie to you and Daddy?”
“Why, God didn’t want no kids.?” Connie puzzled.
Like most large families, we all had responsibility. Phyllis and I helped to care of the little ones. I was very scatterbrained, so whichever one Phyllis took care of got a better deal than my charge. When they were three and four, both were invited to a birthday party one Saturday afternoon. Phyllis and I dressed them in their little party dresses. Both were ready with one small exception. I left Marilyn’s little ruffled panties in the dryer till the last second. As they sat in a chair to stay clean, Mother came through and was delighted at the sight of her precious little girls. She took their little hands and led them to the car. Mother was running behind and hadn’t really had time to dress up for the party, so she just sent the girls in and went back home to fix herself up to socialize with the ladies when she got back.
On her return, as she pulled into the drive, the little party-goers were all gathered around the front steps. Marilyn was on the top step with all the children yelling for her to jump. As Mother watched from the car, Marilyn’s little party dress fluttered, the kids cheered. Mother was concerned, not remembering Marilyn having panties that odd nude color. Mother skipped coffee rushing the little girls to the car. She anxiously ran her hand up Marilyn’s leg. Just as she’d feared, Marilyn didn’t have any nude-colored panties. The ruffled panties matching her dress still waited in the dryer at home.
Mother was livid when she stormed home with Marilyn and her bare bottom. You’d think Marilyn was the first girl who ever went to a party without panties. She assumed I was at fault and not ready to hear any excuses. As Mother said her piece, it finally struck her as funny. The more we talked, the funnier it got. When the hysteria crescendoed the preacher dropped by. Naturally, he was worried to find us all with h tears streaming down or faces. Phyllis and I abandoned Mother to make her explanations.
This wasn’t my first or last mess up. I never knew why Mother considered me capable.