One At A Time ( How To Raise Nine Children, Happily)

“What saves a man is to take one step.

Then another step.

It is always the same step,

But you have to take it”

Antoine St Exubery

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All nine of us showed up for my nephew’s wedding in Florida this weekend.

I asked a few of my siblings to tell me tales about our childhood. I am working on a book, Summer, about a great big family in the 60’s. Of course I am using our rich heritage as fodder.

Chrissie, the oldest child in our family, offered up many great stories. One of my favorites is about her and my brother, Fred.

Fred is the second child born into the chaotic miracle of our family. He’s a talented writer, a generous listener and a walking talking example of love in action.

When he was 4, he and my 6-year-old sister Chrissie wanted to help my mom by waxing my parent’s bedroom floor.

The two of them searched low and lower, one looking in the cabinet under the bathroom sink and one searching in the nightstand. Chrissie found cold cream and Fred found loose tobacco.  Each declaring that they had found the perfect ingredient for the special floor wax, they decided to mix the tobacco with the cold cream into a paste, an exfoliant of sorts, perfect for cleaning.

The tobacco smelled great and the cold cream made mom’s skin smooth, right? They thought they would end up with a great smelling, smooth and shiny masterpiece.

Then, the little geniuses proceeded to “scrub” every inch of the bedroom floor, ending up with a white brown waxy mess.

My sister couldn’t remember what my parents did when they got home. I’m guessing there was yelling and punishments.

And, I am betting my life that in the dark of the night, my mom and dad had a good laugh, and a nice snuggle together.

They had 7 more children. My mom told me that every time one of her babies reached about 9 months old, she’d look at the back of their sweet little head in the bathtub and decide that she just had to have another.

“Honey, I just couldn’t resist. Something about those little necks and the back of their head. I just couldn’t resist. Gosh I loved my babies.”

Today, I was holding my one-year-old grand niece and I checked out the back of her precious little head.

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My mom was exactly right.

I asked my mom  how she did it. How did she and my dad raise 9 children?

“One at a time, I guess. We just took it one child at a time.”

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

One step, one box, one word, one apology, one envelope, one kiss, one hug, one goodbye, one phone call.

I’m guessing we can do just about anything, as long as we remember.

Just take it one step, one breath, one action, at a time.

One. Step.

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said,

“Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

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