Tuesday, April 8, 2014

My Youngest Sister

I was almost 11 years old when my youngest sister was born. I think that is when the "mothering" instinct really kicks in for little girls. She was my baby from the very beginning.

My youngest brother at that time was going to start school that fall. He was terribly worried about who was going to take care of Mom while he was in school. He was so relieved when he found out there would be a new baby to take care of her.

It had been a hot summer. Mom was miserable but she had 5 children to care for so she trudged on. On top of that we lived in the same town as my grandmother who was very demanding.

Grandma would call every morning to see if my mother was ready yet to take her to the post office. When Mom would take her downtown Grandma would find all sorts of things she needed to take care of so Mom would be stranded for hours. Then when Mom came home exhausted she had a house to clean and meals to fix.

When Daddy would get home from work Grandma would call and complain about how my mother had kept her hostage while they only went to get the mail. Daddy knew better but it was a sticky situation.

My aunt had come to make her duty visit at Grandma's for the year. She would be there two weeks. While she was there my aunt and uncle and their grown children came to visit. They lived on a farm a ways from town.

It was the Fourth of July. There was a big family gathering at Grandma's house. Mom spent most of the morning cooking. The other women wandered in and out of the kitchen but offered little assistance. My sister and I were helping too but we were children and probably more in the way than anything else.
After everyone ate a huge meal, the adults retired to the living room to visit. My aunts and cousins were going to help with the dishes but Grandma proclaimed in a loud voice that my mother could take care of cleaning up so the "family" could visit.

I tried to help her but my mother was furious. She was completely worn down and worn out. After we finished the dishes she went and called her doctor. She said she was so tired and she could not take any more. He told her to go to the hospital and he admitted her. He said he would make sure she got some rest.

It was so close to time for my sister to be born that the doctor told Mom that if she felt well enough the next day he would try to induce labor. That way she would not have to pay for two hospital stays. My sister was born at 2:00 in the afternoon the day after July 4th.

Daddy brought home a picture of him holding my new sister in the parking lot of the hospital. She was so pretty. I did not wonder why they let him take her to the parking lot. After a few minutes he let us know that it was actually a picture of me when I was a baby.She looked just like me.

From the moment she came home my sister was mine. We have a tradition in the family. When a new baby comes home it is given to the youngest child to hold. That child gives it to the next one in line and so forth. When the oldest child (me) gets her turn she gets to carry the baby in and put it to bed. I hated to put her down.

My sister was a problem baby. She had colic for more than a year. When we went outside for any reason we had to keep her head covered so she would not get any wind in her face because that made the colic worse. We rocked her and tried to burp her all the time. Poor Mom. She would be up most of the night with the baby to try to keep her quiet. Daddy had to sleep so he could go to work.

That was when I started fixing breakfast for the family. Mom needed to sleep sometime. I would take care of the baby so she could get some sleep.

Then my sister's skin developed a rash. Mom tried all the usual tricks but it only seemed to get worse. The doctor recommended using Ivory soap for her bath. (99 and 44/100 % pure) Mom told him that was what she had been using. He said to try just baking soda in the water.

My sister still had the rash. The doctor said to just use plain water for the bath. She still broke out. Finally the doctor said she might be allergic to the water. Try Baby oil or Baby Magic cream instead of bathing her in water. It seemed to work as long as we alternated the two every few days.

I must mention that as she grew older her water allergy seems to be better. But she has three types of soap that she can use on her face. She will use one kind for about a week and then switch to one of the others. Otherwise she will build a reaction and not be able to use it again.

My sister was a sickly child. It seemed like it took very little for her to become very ill. She was about three years old and had pneumonia. I became her personal nurse. One day she was all tucked into my parents' bed and I was going to read her a story to put her to sleep.

She was difficult to read to. She had memorized all her stories. If you skipped a word or tried to change the story a bit she would immediately make you start over. She was not spoiled or anything, was she?

So this day I was reading to this poor sick little girl when I looked up just as her head flopped to one side and her eyes closed. I knew she was dead! Actually she was so sick and so tired at the moment that she sort of passed out into sleep instead of falling asleep.

My sister began to call me Mommy. I thought that was really cool and I did not correct her. Mom did not seem to mind so it became a habit. Until the day I took her to the grocery store with me and she called me Mommy in front of one of the boys who worked there. I had a little crush on him and was totally mortified. After that I had her call me Emma.

I took her everywhere with me. Even on dates. I had a boyfriend that she really liked and he was fine with her tagging along. We took her to a carnival. The barker for one of the games acted like he thought she was our child. We felt very grown up.

When the circus came to town we took her to the circus. We sat right next to where the elephants entered the ring. She hated the smell.

I discovered a secret that day, by the way. About halfway through the circus acts they have workers come through the audience selling candy bars. If you buy one and there is a number inside the wrapper, you get a prize in the ring that corresponds to the number.

I was a rather fetching lass if I do say so myself. The young man was flirting with me and gave me a special bar from his shirt pocket. It was a winner! If you want a winning number get them to give you the one in their shirt pocket.

My sister said she didn't feel good. It was no wonder. We had fed her every kind of candy there. She did not look well either so we took her home. Mom watched her for a while and decided that my sister was seriously ill. Off to the doctor.

My sister needed to have her appendix out. She was so brave for such a scaredy cat. They would not allow anyone to stay with her but she said she would be fine. She was.

My sister was afraid of so many things. The noise of a mixer, a blender, or any other noisy appliance. When Mom vacuumed the floor I had to take my sister to another room and keep her occupied or she would scream hysterically. When Daddy or one of my brothers would mow the lawn I held her on the porch because she was afraid of the lawn mower. And she always needed to be near someone.

There were only a few men she was not afraid of. She of course loved Daddy. She loved Grandpa and one of my uncles. That was it.

One day while I was in school Mom realized that she had not seen my sister in a while. That was unusual because she was usually under Mom's feet all the time. After an intensive search Mom found my sister in my parents' room. She was holding a bunch of hair.

She had cut her hair. She put the scissors up next to her head and cut it all off. Both sides of her head were nothing but whiskers. The back of her hair was gradually longer because it came to a point in the middle. Mom had no choice but to try to even it out somehow.

A huge lump formed on my sister's neck. It looked like a gigantic boil but it was different. It was about as big around as a quarter and the shape of a little mountain. When it did not go away Daddy took her to the doctor.

Daddy was driving a school bus at the time so she got to go with him. The high school kids on the bus fussed over her and she loved it.

The doctor lanced the lump and put a bandage over it. He told Daddy that he would need to see her every day for a couple of weeks to watch the progress. It was not a big problem. She just rode the bus with him every day.

At the end of the two weeks the lump was just a memory with a little scar for a reminder. The doctor pronounced it as healed. That was also when the doctor told my father that the reason he had been having them come in every day was because he had suspected leukemia and wanted to make sure of a diagnosis either way before upsetting our family. It was not leukemia.

As I said my sister was born the day after Independence Day. The local drive-in theater lit fireworks after dark on the Fourth of July. We lived at the very top of a hill and we could watch them off in the distance. My sister thought it was so nice of them to have fireworks for her the night before her birthday.

My sister liked being spoiled. She insisted on being called a baby for as long as she could get by with it. When she was about 8 years old she knew her time as a baby was over. She then allowed us to call her a LITTLE girl.

As you can tell I am very close to this sister. I have so many stories that I need to have another post to tell them. I will end this one only by saying that she is grown and healthy.


  1. Just watched the movie, Dirty Dancing, and thought of the character played by Jennifer Grey and called Baby.

    1. I love that movie too. Nobody puts Baby in a corner... Nobody!