Jackie tells of the many adventures and emotions of a little girl growing up in a large family in the fifties.
Kathie was born in the very middle of a very large family and still had been so all alone. She has her brothers younger than her she cares for. Her mother tells her many stories while she helps her with many chores, but Kathie has just always wanted a little sister so bad. Someone to talk to and play with and share all her hopes and dreams. With all those boy babies her mother had she kept wishing for a girl, but it was not to be! Now she realized even if she had they would have been so many years apart, Kathie would be gone, no doubt, before that sister would be grown enough to be like friends.
Mandy has always been her cousin and she has seen her on visits many times, but just for a day or two once or twice a year, if that. Now Mandy is getting to come and spend summers with Kathie and her family and it is so much fun!
Where it All Began
Kathie and Mandy were cousins and very close ones. Almost like sisters. Both of their own sisters were years older so they never had that sister closeness with them. In fact, it felt more like sisters to each other.
Although they had just hit ten years old, it felt like they had known each other since birth and actually they probably had. Their fathers Dan and Bob were brothers. They had lived in the country like Katie and her family growing up, in this same house with their parents. Then Uncle Bob was off for the city as soon as he was old enough and met a girl there named Kaitlin shortly after and married her.
Kathie's dad married a couple of years later to Katie's mother Mary, but as it all turned out, Mandy had two older sisters and that was all, while Mandy had only one older sister and brother and two baby brothers. Mandy was the baby of her family and Kathie was in the middle, kind of, since she was the oldest of her younger brothers. Mandy and she had lots of fun with Kathie's brothers for years now, but they were off playing boys games as they aged and these cousins could no longer pretend they had babies, playing with them for hours and giving Kathie’s mom a break even feeding them bottles and getting them to sleep under a big oak where they had a quilt spread for their babies and them; so when their babies went to sleep these cousins had tea as Mandy had taught Kathie how to do, as Mandy had watched her mother and friends in the big city.
You lifted your little finger on the hand that held the tiny cup of cold spring water, which they called tea, of course, and you talked real fancy and asked each other how things had been since their last meeting. Once they did this with real questions and answers they both were anxious to know then, they would talk about fashion and the theater and gossip about someone neither knew. It was fun and as they giggled and rolled laughing, waking the babies, it was about time for them to be up from their naps anyway. They were not to have naps too long so they would sleep well at night, and they always did. Then always up with the roosters, their dad would say. They would take the babies back and put them in a space built just for them to play while they were so little so everyone knew they would be safe. They washed the babies’ faces, hands, and arms, but left the diapering for Kathie's mom. Her mom was glad to have the babies back by now for an excuse to get a break from her cousin's mom, Kaitlin.
Mandy was only allowed to call her mom, Mother, and she had to call her dad, Father. That sounded strange to Kathie. She never knew anyone else who didn't say mom and dad or mommy and daddy. Either or both.
Kathie had heard her mom say she could only take so much at a time. She didn't ask what that meant exactly, but she knew she meant Kaitlin, Mandy's mother, who really, for the most part, ignored Kathie and all children. She just had to admit, she said, she was not meant to be a mother, she was meant to be in theater and children were just too much work and responsibility. They had cost her the career she had longed for.always. Guiltily, she added, she did love them of course, with Kathie and her mom thinking she surely did not. Well, Kathie assumed her mom agreed with her thoughts.
It was sad that Mandy's father always gave her a big hug goodbye while her mother only waved her a silky handkerchief goodbye, with orders to not ruin her clothes while she was there. It was an insulting remark to Kathie and her mom. Just a parting hateful remark to remind them how little she thought of them and their home. As if they had not gotten her message in her many previous remarks while she was there.
Except for church, Mandy wore Kathie's clothes so they could get as dirty as they wanted and even jump in the river with everything on. Kaitlin's life was mostly going to the theater with her many friends and the many tea parties they had to discuss the day after and the clothing style that was becoming the rage. This, Mandy would watch to make sure she remembered as much as she could to tell her country cousin, giving them hours of fun, making fun of it and pretending to be sophisticated ladies. Something they neither truly desired to be, but done all in fun.
Mandy was her father's little girl, she would never become sophisticated her mother said and her father said he was glad of it and made fun too behind her Mother's back to get Mandy to giggle.
There was always something new, Kaitlin did not like boredom, she was all for the excitement of city living. Bob almost always made her come on these boring trips to bring their daughter for the summer and of course, she loved her daughter in her own way but this gave her weeks to be out all she wanted with no responsibilities, knowing her older two could look after themselves.
Now Kathie's two youngest brothers who she was mostly responsible for looking after had started school. They were old enough now to have several chores making it easier on her since her older sister only did inside chores. Kathie did not mind at all when she was needed to look after her little brothers. She was just an outside girl. Woods, trees, flowers, sky, clouds, just everything in nature to look at, was her love. She would never change there, she knew, even when she grew up with children of her own.
She loved being barefoot and that was fine around the house and nearby river. Shoes were needed usually on rough tree bark climbing trees and rocky ground running long errands or to be seen in public and church. Winter too, of course, meant socks and boots but these summer days were a delight with sand and cool grass under her feet. Amanda was starting to be just like her. Even the rain didn't bother them at all. Dewy grass was not half bad either early in the morning, running out to do the chores. Mary made them keep a towel on the porch to dry their feet and legs to not be tracking in the house but that was alright and didn't take but a minute.
Mary Made Delicious Country Meals
Mary's suppers always smelled so good. Usually, they would have eaten by now but for Kaitlin’s rules of etiquette. Her mom put it off as long as she could, but this was country and things to be done on schedule according to their life, not Kaitlin’s. Children got hungry and needed to be fed! She never stayed more than one night, twice a year and there had been a time or two she did not make both trips. Those had been really fun, just having Uncle Bob show up. Then everyone was relaxed and there were much fun and laughter.
Kathie's mom thanked the Lord it was not more often that she visited, she had been heard to say a time or two. Not in front of company, of course. Mandy would be spending the summer as she had for the last couple of years and Kathie's mom loved her almost, if not, as much as her own children she had said to Kathie and the whole family, many times. She was sorely missed when she was not there. There were not so many giggles and laughs with just one little girl.
Maybe summers here had helped Mandy, she would be glad to know it might. This fancy wife of Uncle Bob's sat on the satin chair Dad had bought Kathie's mom for Christmas last winter, calling her his queen and it was so beautiful even Mary rarely sat in it, but of course, it suited Kaitlin as she filed her nails and blew at them holding them up for examination. She wore silk stockings and high heeled shoes with her legs always crossed and her hair was piled high on her head and coiled with silver combs. She probably should have been in theater Kathie thought, she always looked like she was posing for a picture.
Mandy's Mother Kaitlin
Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder
Kathie and Mary thought she was very beautiful but even though she was not supposed to have overheard her mom and dad talking, Kaitlin was not younger than Mary as she claimed to be. Her two older daughters were really only Mandy’s half-sisters and Uncle Bob was not their daddy. They were big girls when Uncle Bob married their mother. Kathie thought she almost had that figured out but it didn’t matter anyway. They never came here to the farm so she didn’t give it much thought. Uncle Bob loved Kaitlin and was happy, so that was all that mattered, Mom and Dad agreed. Sometimes love is blind her mom had said. Kathie, when she had nothing better to do, would try to picture what blind love meant; but she would never know that one and could never ask since she had been eavesdropping.
Mary was never anything but kind but it sometimes even made Kathie mad the way Kaitlin always sat so prissy and although at first, she thought she was so beautiful and looked like a princess with the high heels and fancy dresses, it just did not seem normal you would dress like that all the time. Mary worked really hard having company and there was much to do as it was and Kaitlin never once offered to even put her dish in the sink much less wash one.
The cousins gladly did them though, talking and laughing, while looking out the big windows over the sink at the river in the distance, past all the shade trees and grapevines. They loved these summers together, it would be sad when it ever had to end but they never thought of that day ever coming. They had always wished they could spend more than summers together, those months in between seemed so long, but maybe that was what made the summers so good.
Kaitlin would sit and fan herself even with a very cool breeze blowing all through the house but probably hot from those tight, fancy clothes, and just out of the blue she would ask Mary who had labored all day if she would mind bringing her a cold drink. That always made Kathie's mom's face flush red so Kathie knew at least that one thing made her mad but she never heard her once bring it up, once.
Out of Sight Out of Mind
Kaitlin would be gone early the next morning. She had not seen much of Uncle Bob. After he helped her dad with chores outside they had gone into town to make some papers legal so after her dad had paid so much money to Uncle Bob the farm and their house would be all theirs since their daddy had left it to them both. Her dad had been paying Uncle Bob for years now and Mary wanted it made legal since it was now paid in full. Mary had noticed Kathie had heard and told her it was important she never bring up grown-up’s business. Somehow Kathie didn’t even need to ask, she understood not trusting Kaitlin. It was sad she had to be Mandy’s mother, but Mandy had taken more after her dad, Uncle Bob, who was as sweet and good as her own dad so she had turned out alright it seemed.
Summer really started as soon as Kaitlin was out of the house the next morning heading home with Uncle Bob. Mary had almost held her breath until their farm and house was all legally theirs and not even Kaitlin could frustrate her now. They had been paying fifteen years now and all this time she had never once heard Kaitlin bring it up which made her almost certain she knew none of the details, but now it did not matter and this would be such a good summer, she would see to it!
Boys Will Be Boys
Fun Work and Play
Mary had to do nothing to make those girls happy. Kathie's cousin knew the schedule well by now and she helped her right after breakfast get all her chores done and they ran squealing to the river. The hotter the days got the better that cold water felt!
The boys played around the edges the first few days because of the new excitement and they could swim but they were not allowed out in the deep without a parent so they soon got bored and headed for the woods to hunt arrowheads. Kathie rarely had to check on them unless they got quiet, which was not likely to happen.
Mom or Dad and sometimes both would come down with them in evenings when things got done up fast and this was a good time of year when everything was planted but far from harvest. Animal care was about all there was to do. The bare fields unused were not near high enough yet to cut for hay.
It was getting very close to time to be getting all those wild strawberries though. There would be strawberry pies and strawberry with rhubarb pies. Hands full of strawberries, when no one was looking, went just right down without any washing. They didn’t care about dirt, it tasted pretty good to them mixed with strawberries. Later would be blackberries and raspberries. Growing up on a farm was always fun!
Really, summer fun had just begun!
© 2018 Jackie Lynnley