This Was The Start Of It All
It was a tiny house. But we were together; that was an advantage that I didn’t know I had. So, what is an advantage? Let me explain:
On our block, a family of six children lost their Dad in a car accident. The two oldest were boys, and now they were co-dads.
They grew up capable and they showed leadership; their responsibilities started then.
There weren’t many large families around anymore, so from that household, there was a playmate for each of us. I had two girls to chum with!
Was that an advantage with all those brothers around me? It must have been.
They Had Lots Of Great Toys!
I think it takes practice to become a responsible and reliable adult. For them, It started when their Dad died and the whole house was full of gifts.
Could all these toys make up for the loss of their Dad? My young mind wanted to understand if this was even possible.
They had community support because their Mom did not have a job. They had bicycles, wagons, and cars we could drive with pedals for our feet.
The girls had really big dolls, and easy-bake ovens. There were lots of books and some pretty nice clothes.
Could this be an advantage arising from their disaster?
Dad built our house and he didn’t even know that he could do it. Mom said he could, so that settled it. He just needed confidence. Dad agreed; we would move.
We Had The Advantage Of A New House
That meant that by moving, we had to leave our friends behind. Maybe they could visit us? That was unlikely as these were the early days of two-car families.
Most people had just one black and white TV in the house. No cell phones, no computers, no Smart TVs or side-by-side refrigerators, and no microwaves……I don’t know how we managed.
Mom and Dad drew their plans, evenings and weekends, working at the kitchen table. They stored the paperwork on Dad’s workbench downstairs; out of harm’s way.
I was with another little girl from our street and decided to play with fire in the basement. So when I lit the wad of paper in my hand, I panicked and tossed it onto the pile of designs for the house!
Those papers contained more than a year of drawings and measurements and all the information my parents had gleaned over the last four years.
They recorded where they needed inspections throughout the build. It contained all they knew.
Their hopes and dreams became ashes in a few seconds. Now they had to start over. I was frozen to the spot; my friend ran away! (SURPRISE!)
I have tried to minimize the event in my mind, but it has not been easy.
Strangely I don’t remember my punishment, and I’m sure there was one. But I realized then, that I lived in the same house, with the most positive person I knew. And she was on my side!
Mom, in her usual optimistic style, concluded that now their mistakes were gone and they could start fresh. Dad wouldn’t remember all the little details they haggled over.
Yes, this was an advantage after all.
Enter: The Murky Unknown
It takes courage to build a house when you have never built one before. What were they thinking? We were a single-income household of five children, and Mom was four months pregnant for my next little brother!
I just turned seven.
Now I was expected to grow up with two older brothers and two younger brothers and I was stuck in the middle!……And so, that’s what I did.
Allan arrived six days after Christmas, and his older brother – by five years – had his birthday the next day…..on New Year’s Day!
And you must know all the stories about how the WHOLE WORLD celebrated New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day!…… Because it was their birthday! This was an advantage well disguised.
The Die Is Cast
Mom and Dad bought two acres of land outside the city. Seems like there were a lot of other people who had decided to do the same thing.
Still, it wasn’t a popular idea.
There were always skeptics.
“You will be living outside the city and it will take you 20 minutes to get to work. At 25 cents a gallon for gas, It gets expensive to live outside the city on a small acreage with six children”.
Ah, but we were not going home to the hot city. We were living in a new house, that we built ourselves, with plenty of room around us!
We may have risked leaving a derelict semi-detached house in the city, to live in a home of our own in a two-acre suburb.
The risk had taken on a whole new challenge. If not now, when?
Were There More Advantages to Come?
Secretly, I was kind of glad that we made the move out of the city. We had trees, and grass and the house was spacious!
There was a big willow tree in the new backyard which we climbed all the time. The branches started up high and I needed a ladder to pull myself up.
Our whole county was flat, so it was nice to see over the houses across the street.
I loved the feeling of the breeze on my face, and the seclusion of sitting up so high.
My brother said, “Dad just called you.” When Dad called, we answered in person. Immediately. That’s when my brother, Ken, took the ladder away.
That meant I had to hang from the lowest branch and I was supposed to jump. But I looked down and it was too high!
“No, it isn’t”, Ken said. “It just looks high. It’s not even 2 feet off the ground. You’ll see, it’s not too high at all. But you’re just a girl, so you can’t do what us guys can do”.
He sure knew how to push my buttons! Did he really expect to get away with junk like that?
Apparently, he didn’t know who he was dealing with.
I let myself drop from the lowest branch. Ken said, “not bad,,,,.for a girl”! (High praise indeed!)
It was higher than 2 feet! But I hit the ground and went to see what Dad wanted from me.
Hey, where’s Dad? “He’s not home from work yet”.
Let me make this perfectly clear: I did not grow up, I was dragged up by these brothers of mine!
But what an advantage it was to have them.
The upside was that there was always someone to talk to. Al was like my baby and I practically raised him myself. He was a cute little guy!
Even though I was stuck with four brothers in the house!
What an advantage it was to come from a large family. How nice to have siblings when we got older. As a kid, I thought this was a terrible arrangement.
I was sure that being an only child was the way to go. How wrong I was.
The reason I know that I was wrong, was the evidence: I was NOT an only child. I was given siblings. What makes me think that I could do a better job of arranging my life?
Siblings help us to be competitive in the world. They teach us to be considerate of others, but vying for a good position is the greatest equalizer of all.
More Space For Me
I should be the last person in our household to complain about space. Four boys shared a huge room next door, but, there were four people in that room!……If I could describe those guys as people!
My sister was seven years older than me, and when she left home I had my own room at eleven years old! How cool was that?
Well, it had to be cool because I was so sad that she was moving out. She was my big sister!
This had to be classified as a disaster. This could have only one redeeming feature…….
This was My room now.
It was the advantage I was looking for, in the bad news. Something to give me hope and not feel her absence from her empty part of the room.
This wasn’t instant gratification; I knew I would have to work at it.
So I found something to do. I already knew the rudiments of sewing so I started to make things that I could wear.
When you are a creative person, it’s amazing what a little downtime will do.
You start to think.
I didn’t think that I had never made my own clothes before. But I did think that “maybe I want one of those”. So I tried to make it.
I continued to improve until I became a super-sewer.
I found the hobby I was looking for. Hobbies are like antiques: don’t own one unless you love it and are going to use it.
I did not pick the lemons, but I used them to make lemonade…..
So this is the benefit, the advantage, that came to me. I was forced to swap sharing with my sister for my own bedroom.
This was not my idea, but it was in the design for my life. In those days of shared bedrooms, this was a huge advantage.
What I lost on the swings, I gained on the roundabout.