You Poor Baby

vintage baby
I had no idea Cousin Carol was four years older than my sister Phyllis till she announced her marriage. It sounded like a joke. Less than two weeks ago she’d spent the night with Phyllis. Sixteen was ridiculously young to get married, but back as late as the sixties, many parents felt it was expedient to allow their teenagers to marry. Her sister, Sue, and I were the same age. We were constantly at each other’s house for the night. Their brother, Troy, was the age of my brother, so on weekends, holidays, and in summer, there was always a jumble of kids spread between the two houses. Carol was extremely spoiled for some reason, though I could never imagine why her mother favored her. With her fair skin, black, curly hair and startling blue eyes she would have been very appealing had she not whined, wheedled, and cried till she got her way. At our house, she just pouted and whined. Of course, us younger kids went out of our way to keep her blubbering, since you didn’t usually see that in a girl that age, expecially rewarding since she wore gobs of makeup and we liked to see it run.

Back to the romance, Carol had been going to the picture show with her older sister Yvonne who was slipping around with Donald Duck.(not a joke) Yvonne brought a sweetie along for Carol and they really hit it off. The sister’s romance with Donald Duck fizzled, but within weeks Carol was to be a bride. The whole thing puzzled me. How could she go from being a kid with Phyllis to getting married in almost no time? Soon there was to be another miracle! Carol announced her first pregnancy. From that moment forward, I don’t think I ever saw her not pregnant, claiming to be pregant, or with a newborn. Before she retired from her thirty-year delivery service, Carol had eleven kids and claimed to have had God only knows how many pregnancies. Her first marriage, lasted only long enough to produce three children. She kept hoping to reconcile, so she had about a three year vacation from babying. She was terminally lazy and a rotten mother to boot, so she spent this time convalescing in her parent’s home in South Louisiana, where they’d moved not long after her marriage. She inveigled Aunt Julie’s cooperation in making use of my Cousin Sue as a captive babysitter. If someone else didn’t change the babies, they just sat squalling in sodden, filthy diapers. Her mom still gave over to her crying, whining, and wheedling, much to Sue’s sorrow. My aunt and Cousin Carol would dump the babies on Sue, taking off for hours, leaving instructions to have the house clean when they got back.

We had the misfortune have Cousin Carol land at our house a couple of times after brief attempts at reconciliation with her erstwhile husband. After a week or two of connubial bliss, he’d dump her and the dirty babies off, saying he’d be right back with milk for the babies. (Carol was a slow learner. It happened twice) That milk must have been on Mars since he never came back. Carol figured it out after an hour or two and started blubbering. The baby or babies helped with the crying, since they were hungry. Already furious at being stuck with unwelcome and unpleasant guests, Mother had to dig deep to find money for extra milk, knowing we were stuck with Carol and her squallers for a day or two till her folks could make the trip back up from South Louisiana to get her. Carol was lazy and worthless to start with. On her arrival, all the baby clothes and diapers were dirty. “Linda, change Bobby’s diaper and give him a bottle. You’ll have to put one of your Mama’s diapers on him. Mine are all dirty.” She wasn’t lying about that. She had dragged in a foul bag of diapers and left it on the front porch. I looked to Mother for rescue. Accustomed to being catered to, Carol was offended when Mother expected her to do her laundry and care for her own babies. “I’m sick! I feel an athsma attack coming on!”

“I’ve got two babies of my own and more than I can do. If you are going to stay here till your folks can pick you up, you’re going to have to take care of your own kids.” Carol pouted, but she got up to put a borrowed diaper on Bobby. Poor Bobby hadn’t seen many clean diapers lately. His poor, burned up bottom looked like raw meat. There was even pus running from one sore spot. “Oh no,” said Mother. “that poor baby. You’re going to have to keep him changed. He’s starting to get infected. Linda, go put my diapers on the line so Carol can get hers in the washer right now. This baby’s got to have clean diapers. Here, Carol, put some of this medicine on his bottom.” Grudgingly, Carol washed, medicated, and diapered poor Bobby’s sore bottom.

Unaccustomed to such ill-treatment, Carol angrily dragged the stinking bag of diapers from the front porch, all through the house, to the kitchen eventually reaching the enclosed back porch to Mother’s washer, leaving a malodorous wet-diaper ammonia stream. Furiously, she pulled a mess of heavy, filthy diapers from the mix, dumping them in the washer. Turning it on, she left the rest hanging out of the open bag to perfume to back porch. The stench was pulled into the kitchen by the attic fan till Mother told her she’d had to put the rest in the backyard to wait. Only when the washer stopped did Mother realize Carol hadn’t bothered to rinse the well-seasoned lumps of poop from those diapers. It was all waiting for Mother when she opened the lid. She was critical!

To be continued

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You Poor Baby (Part 2)

vintage baby

part 1      https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2015/07/11/you-poor-baby/

Furious at finding her washing machine packed to the rim with freshly laundered diapers mixed with freshly- laundered gobs of poop, Mother roused Carol from where she snored on the sofa, oblivious to her miserable, bawling baby. “Carol, come here. Let me show you how to use this washer! You can’t just throw filthy diapers in it without rinsing this stuff out.” Mother got a tub, made Carol scoop the poopy diapers out and clean the washer, then sent Carol out to rinse the dirty diapers under the faucet before bringing them back to the washer. “Be sure you dump that dirty water from the tub behind the chicken house, not in the back yard. You may as well get the rest of this mess soaking.” She pointed to the pile of poopy diapers that had not yet had a ride in her abused washer. Carol looked furiously at Phyllis and me as she stormed off to do this demeaning task, clearly much better delegated to underlings like us.

We did have to tend her poor, miserable baby while she slaved over the diaper rinsing, but that was better than rinsing out poopy diapers ranging from rock-hard lumps to runny diarrhea, depending on the vintage. The stench was horrendous, as evidenced by Carol’s retching. I have no doubt Carol was sick when she came back in. She took to her bed(our sofa) to recover. Clearly accustomed to help with her baby, she was reluctant to leave her repose to wash bottles and prepare formula, preferring to call out for one of of kids to “bring me a bottle!” when he cried. The first time, Mother let the hungry little guy have a bottle, despite the fact it was an expensive, hypoallergenic formula prescribed for her own tiny baby. She quickly pointed the case of milk she’d bought for Carol’s baby, the kind Carol requested. “Oh this will be fine,” Carol said. “He likes it!”

“Carol, you need to fix your own bottles! I bought you what you asked for. This stuff is forty cents a can!” Mother explained.

Carol was clearly offended. She dawdled a bit after he finished his bottle, put him down, and shut herself in the bathroom for a good crying session. Eventually, she came out and made a collect call to her mother, insisting she come, NOW! Mama couldn’t come, NOW! More crying on the phone. We were stuck together till the weekend. Carol had no problems leaving his bottles lying about to sour after baby was satisfied. Should he cry out when a sour bottle sat handy, she had no qualms about trying to get him to take it.

The next three days lasted an eternity. At my parent’s insistence, Carol did end up giving her baby good care while they waited for Mama, but she turned him over to Mama as soon as she arrived. His bottom had healed, he’d plumped up, and even played a bit with good care. Poor little guy didn’t get much of a pass. He was soon back home to be joined by a brother and sister in rapid succession.

Alas, Carol’s marriage fell apart, but before long she found another man and launched into her addiction to having babies she had no interest or ability to care for, eventually delivering eleven sad children. At a family reunion once, I heard someone ask how long she was going to keep having babies. She replied, “As long as God wants me to.” It was heartbreaking to see her children suffer from her neglect and ignorance.