Random Memories From a Wandering Mind; Mom, Dad and the First Five

Monday, February 04, 2013

The anniversary of Mother’s death was a few days ago and while like any good Italian-American son, I hear my Mother’s voice in my head many times a day and any anniversary causes even more memories to stir. I think most Mother’s have the ability to implant themselves forever in their children’s brains in this manner.

I often wonder if I it is simply my imagination that causes me to hear my Mother’s voice or I am really channeling her like they do on the many paranormal, ghost, clairvoyant shows on television.

So, occasionally I do test; I ask my Mother to tell me the winning lottery numbers for the next huge lottery. Until my Mother gives me the lottery numbers so I can win millions, she is a welcome pleasant memory.

If my Mother tells me the winning lottery numbers for the next huge lottery I will be rich and share my wealth with my immediate and extended family.

I was the 5th of 6 children. The twins (Henry and Joe) are 6 years older than me, Tom is four years older, and my sister Theresa is a year older. Then there is me at number 5 and bringing up the rear 6 years younger than me is my brother Nick.

My youngest brother Nick has always done double duty, bringing up the rear and being one also. If Henry, Joe, Tom, Theresa or I touched Nick or any of his things, he would cry out to Mom for protection. The nickname “Rear” has stuck with Nick in our family. Both Henry and Joe claim that they gave him the label.

The First Five; (Henry, Joe, Tom, Theresa and Marty as we called ourselves after Nick arrived) had many epic battles. Henry and Joe were usually on one side, Theresa and I on the other and Tom was the swing battler. By the time Nick was ready to battle, the First Five was so much older that we had outgrown the mob battle mentality with a few exceptions.

Both Henry and Joe claim that they came up with the First Five name. They said that the President of the USA’s family is called the First Family, so we were the First Five.

In our family, Henry and Joe claim they did, had or saw everything first. When it gets to be too much for Theresa, she’d ask “How old were you when you had your first time of the month?”

If a battle resulted in a major injury such as broken furniture or household items, damage to a house wall or door, a cut requiring stitches (actual or imagined), bump on the head or large bruises, the battle was given a name such as the “Broken Ugly TV Room Lamp”. This battle is not to be confused with the “Broken TV Room Lamp That Only Mom Liked”.

The later was the result of Henry and Joe trying to “borrow” money from Tom (9 years old), Theresa (6 years old) and Marty (5 years old). The former was a result of Tom (10 years old) trying to take Marty’s (6 years old) basketball.

All of our battles consisted of the older kids holding the younger kids while the younger kids tried with all their will to escape or deliver a damaging blow.

When my children were young, they used to love hearing the battle stories and my Mother used to love recounting them in detail. Whatever Mom did not remember, she would make-up, sometimes reenacting the battles while providing a running commentary. “Well, your Uncle Tom had your Father tied up like this and then Aunt Theresa bit Uncle Tom here and he screamed so loud that Uncle Joe came into the room and grab them all like this…..”

My Father knows the names of every battle, who was involved and what started the battle, however his version of the battle is always the same, “They started fighting and (fill-in the blank) happened.”

The First Five always preferred my Mother’s method of stopping a battle, she would find us, yell for us to stop immediately (which we did…out of fear) and then while tending to the damage or wounded while telling us how much we hurt her. Once any damage or injuries were treated and any punishments were given, the post-battle session ended and we were free to go on with our lives.

My Father would demand we stop immediately, tell us to stay there is silence while he tended to the damage or wounded. Then he would either have a long discussion with us probing our inner feelings concerning the battle or if he did not have time to do it then, he would schedule the session later in the day with us. If was like growing up with an Italian-American Dr. Phil.

When I was 8 years old I realized that my 2 - 14 year old and 1 - 12 year old brothers did not want to spend the time in our Father’s soul searching sessions, so I would tell them that if they paid me in advance (what I charged varied pending upon who was involved, the damage from the battle and if Theresa had to be paid also). If they paid, a few minutes into Dr. Dad’s session, I would begin to tear up and ask my Father if I could talk to him and only him about it. My Father would then dismiss the others to talk to me. Of course if Theresa were being paid, since had to join the private Dr. Dad sessions. Theresa usually participated.

If the cause of the battle was possession or ownership of an object, sometimes my Father would try what I later learned in Catholic School Religious studies to be the King Solomon method to resolve the battle.

In the Bible the story is in Kings 3:16-28. Two women who both claimed that a baby was theirs came to King Solomon for a decision. King Solomon decided to get a sword and said that there was only one fair solution: the live baby must be split in two, each woman receiving half of the child. One woman said to divide the baby. The second woman said to give the baby to the other woman instead of killing the baby by cutting the baby in half. King Solomon decided that only the real mother would not want to have and baby killed and gave the baby to the second woman.

If my Father played King Solomon, those of us involved in the battle had to be careful. If it were a battle between my sister and any of the boys, in a King Dad situation, we always let her have it for two basic reasons. The older boys knew that upsetting their younger sister would eventually cause them trouble with Mom or Dad. I knew that my sister was the only one that of the First Five that could not out muscle me and I needed her support in the battles with our older brothers.

The older boys knew that our Father in his King Dad mode would dive an object if necessary. I was too young to remember Dad sawing a baseball bat in half and have been told that it only happened once, however the older boys did remember and learned you have to tread carefully in a Kind Dad situation.

At times, we would ask King Dad to let us talk for a while and we would negotiate a settlement amongst ourselves and then share the settlement with King Dad. Our Father was always proudest of these moments. He felt he was teaching us life lessons and he was.

The reason I knew the Bible as a child is that I attended Catholic Elementary School. In Catholic Elementary School along with the basics of reading, writing, arithmetic, history, physical education, etc., we always had Religious Studies. Looking at the title Religious Studies, which was taught daily, you would think that we were exposed to the various religions of the world.

If you thought that, you were wrong. A better title for the course would have been Catholic Religious Studies, because if it were not Catholic, we were not studying it.

After I was born, my Mother decided to become a Certified Public Account and obtained her CPA license when I was 4 years old. My Mother went to work because she wanted to have a career and family.

From a life at home standpoint it was not a great loss to the First Five that Mom was working. My Mother could not cook. We had a saying, “If Mom cooks; you don’t eat!” This saying was adopted in a modified version by my Mother’s Grandchildren. The Grandchildren’s version was “If Grandmom cooks; you don’t eat!”

When my Father came home from work, he prepared dinner and Mom assisted him, under his watchful eye. I can recall sitting down to the evening meal and prior to taking a particular dish, asking did Mom help or did Mom try to cook this.

After my brother Nick arrived, my Mother was a working CPA with 6 children and a great husband. My Father was my Maternal Grandparents favorite in-law. Yet, my Maternal Grandmother was embarrassed by my Mother’s inability to cook. All 4 of my Grandparents and all my Aunts and Uncles are/were excellent cooks.

I can remember cooking and yes I mean cooking my own food if necessary before I was in the 1st grade. I could fry an egg, make a grilled sandwich, heat Campbell’s soup or warm-up leftovers, and clean-up after myself and not burn down the house! All of the children could.

Concerning my Mother’s cooking; anytime a member of her or my Father’s family teased her too much about her lack of cooking skills, she would respond “I do your taxes for free every year and I hope I don’t make a mistake this year that costs you a lot of money. Maybe you want to pay someone to do your taxes.”

Her comment was usually prompted a quick apology from the offending family member and laughter from those listening.
Share This Post With Others
Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Your blog was so fun to read. Just picturing your big family to an only child brings a smile!!
    1943 days ago
    We have our peculiarities in our families, don't we?

    I have many funny memories, but my sister and I didn't get along. Mom would say, "Wait 'till your father gets home!" We didn't fear until he came home. Generally, he didn't do anything to us unless he was a witness to it. Maybe Mom never told him what we did. For awhile, there was a cartoon titled, "Wait until your father gets home!"

    Mom was an excellent cook. Her problem was that she was not always wide awake in the morning. Several times she put oatmeal into a coffee cup instead of a cereal bowl. The table had to be properly set for each meal and you had to sit at the table to eat. There was none of this business of carrying food into the living room, eating standing up, no TV trays.

    Our neighbor's wife died and he asked Mom if he could pay her for board and eat lunch and supper at our house. Mom baked nearly everyday and we had homemade bread, donuts, pies and cinnamon rolls depending on what she baked for the day. Our neighbor was at the table one night and we saw him put his napkin to his mouth and get a strange look on his face. We didn't know what was wrong. He had put sugar in his coffee and there were two screws in the sugar in the sugar bowl. I don't know how Mom filled it without noticing them. She would put bits of things in dishes in the cabinets until she could take them to the basement. He opened the napkin and we burst into laughter. Thank God, he hadn't choked on them!

    My Dad was on call 24 hours a day before the state decided to give DNR officers regular working hours. Mom was his unpaid secretary. Dad was a game warden and a man called about a "buck" in his hen house. Mom took the message and wrote the info Dad would need when he returned the call (no cell phones back then). She asked if it had horns (antlers) and the man laughed and said it was feathered out a bit. When Dad called the man, Dad was wondering how a buck got into a hen house. Mom had misunderstood the man, he said there was a duck in his hen house. We ribbed her about that for many years.

    She was a jokester too. One of my friends from high school came to spend the weekend at our house. Mom made tomato and lettuce sandwiches for us, but she put a napkin into one of my friend's sandwiches. When my friend bit into her sandwich, she couldn't bite through the napkin. Mom was in the kitchen watching through a pass through to the dining room and holding her hand over her mouth laughing.

    My cousins and one of their friends and me and one of my friends went on a camping trip with Dad to Dolly Sods. There is nothing there but boulders, rock cliffs and huckleberry bushes. The wind whips across it and the trees have no branches on one side. We set up camp and a thunderstorm hit and lightening was striking fairly close by. We ended up camping at the house but water came in under the sides of the tents. My cousins moved their sleeping bags to the garage and my friend and I slept in a homemade trailer Dad had made to haul things in. He had fashioned a cap of sorts out of plywood with a canvas flap at the back.

    We had a cocoa drinking contest, a baked bean eating contest which resulted in a farting contest. We were laughing so hard that Dad came out of the house. My friend and I couldn't see him coming and she yelled, "Listen! Listen! Listen! It's going to be a big one! He yanked open the flap and stuck his head in the trailer just as she let it rip. I had to cover my face with a pillow because I was crying with laughter as were my cousins. Dad stated yelling at us about the noise and stormed back to the house. My ribs hurt from laughing so hard.

    The next night, Mom told us to get close to the basement window at such and such a time. My parents bedroom was in the basement of a rancher that Dad had built for Mom. We couldn't see because the lights were out. Then we heard, "What the _ ell! Those da_ ned kids!" and we took off. I slept in a tree in the woods that night. Mom had short-sheeted their bed and Dad couldn't stretch out his legs as he tried to get into the bed. He thought we did it and came out of the house in his undershorts to chase us. He was like a 40-year-old teenager, whatever we were doing, he would try it.

    My husband had 9 siblings. One of his brothers accidentally backed over another brother with a farm tractor. He was yelling, "Don't tell Dad! I'll be your best friend for life!" They put the injured boy into the back of a pickup truck and drove him to the hospital. He had a ruptured spleen and other injuries, but lived with no permanent problems.

    My kids loved family get-togethers and hearing what they called "war stories." When my husband and his younger brothers were young, they slept three to a bed. One wet the bed, but it was always blamed on the youngest. At one family gathering, the youngest brother said he always got the blame, but it was my husband that was the guilty one, but his two brothers lied about it. I wonder how his parents survived with 10 kids.

    1952 days ago
    Great blog and great family memories! Thank you for sharing, it made me laugh (and remember fond battles with my own siblings!)
    1954 days ago
    You are too funny. My Dad also had to cook for himself at an early age. He said because he was so short, he had to stand on a chair to fry his bacon and eggs. Keep those blogs coming!
    1955 days ago
  • LINDA!
    So funny!
    1956 days ago
    Love your blogs, Marty !! My mom was a wonderful cook. My dad used to say my mom's good cooking was the reason he packed on so much weight. eh-hem.

    Okay, since we're talking food memories, do you know what I could cook when I was a kid ? A fried egg and baloney sandwich ! Mind your arteries. But, back in the day, families used to save bacon fat in a metal can on the kitchen counter. First, I'd fry the baloney in a bit of the bacon fat and vegetable oil until the edges were black and crispy. That came out of the pan and it went the egg to fry. The fried egg and baloney went between two slices of Wonder bread. Oh don't forget the ketchup. Had to use ketchup !

    It's no wonder I was a chubby child !! Honestly, of foods from my youth that I miss, I miss that fried egg and baloney sandwich.

    I could make lots of other stuff too. I could make my own pasta sauce by the time I was 11. I was 9 or 10 making that sandwich.

    1956 days ago
    Love it! My mama can't cook for a spit either - it's hilarious when she tries. Love hearing sibling stories. I don't have any, nor want them, but love seeing/hearing about the relationships between those that do.

    Thanks for sharing!
    1957 days ago
    I loved your story Marty.
    Your family is very similar to mine. I am the only girl with 5 brothers.
    I also had the Catholic grade school education as you described.
    My mother did cook, although begrudingly, I think.
    She learned to cook from my father, who was a cook in the Korean War.
    Was your sister a tomboy?
    I certainly was. Anything a boy could do, I could do better. Much to the disappointment of my parents I didn't turn out to be a girly girl.
    My mother was a stay-at-home full-time mom when my older brother was born.
    The discipline was always: "Just wait till your father gets home."
    My poor dad.
    Anyway, great story.
    1958 days ago

    Comment edited on: 2/5/2013 9:34:11 PM
    I need to write and write. Also, save all of these stories for your future DNA that is sure to howl as they read. I was also raised in Catholic at your memories...
    1958 days ago
    This is family. Inside stories and lots of them!!! I still say you need to write!!! And write...and have such a gift. I would love to hear your sister's version of life!!! Keep Sparkin'!! (BTW...I'm 'rear' in my family and as I read your blog to my sister, (she's almost 15 years older than me) she LOL about the similarities. My brothers and cousins grew up on the same street for several years. Uncles and Dad had to rescue cousin Charlie when the gang was playing cowboys and indians and decided to hang the bandit. The rope was around his neck and over the tree limb when the men stopped the execution.
    1958 days ago
  • DOODIE59
    Thank you for sharing, Marty. I love to hear those -- well, I'll say it -- happy family memories. I wish everyone had them. You are lucky to belong to that close knit family. Enjoy them, every moment:)
    1959 days ago
  • FROSTY99
    Thanks for sharing your family and your memories of your childhood. Going down memory lane is such a personal experience and to share yours with us was so great-it is what makes us who we are today.

    1959 days ago
  • JACKIE542
    Love it! emoticon Your stories always make me laugh, Thank you.
    1959 days ago

    Comment edited on: 2/4/2013 7:25:05 PM
  • HOLLYM48
    wow, what a fun and large family. Great memories and I bet you had several laughs as you wrote this blog and thought back to all those good times!
    Thanks for sharing it with us.
    1959 days ago
    HI EVERYONE! Just wanted to clarify my previous post on this blog, which I found delightfully deep, as is so typical of Marty: I am a psychotherapist and us psychotherapists just loooove deep stuff with family memories and all the wonderful stuff that makes us human beings so very delightfully complex. Just in case anyone thought I was passing judgement or diagnosing at a distance or implying anything other than a great appreciation for the depth of human experience in our amazing families, THERE WAS NOTHING OF THE SORT MEANT! Honest and truly. I have an equally complex family background, whcih means I am HUMAN. Maybe not as deep as Marty and maybe my humor just doesn't come across - but my comment was meant caringly and humorously and deeply! Spark ON!
    1959 days ago
  • BOVEY63
    Fun memories - sounds like a wonderful gowing up!
    1959 days ago
    Wonderful blog Marty - these rich memories make you the person - and the parent - you are today and it was wonderful to get an insight. Thank you for sharing.

    1959 days ago
    Wonderful stories/memories about your family and childhood,i was laughing out loud a few times!You have a gift for writing!Did you ever consider writing a book? emoticon emoticon
    1959 days ago
    Love this and I love your family Marty!
    1959 days ago
    Since I am a psychotherapist by trade, I found this blog, um, "very interesting"!
    1959 days ago
    Wow! Such great memories.
    1959 days ago
  • JSPIN74
    emoticon emoticon
    1959 days ago
    Awesome! My mom and dad handled problems in similar fashion. Always dreaded the later lecture most.
    1959 days ago
  • POPSY190
    This is a truly evocative account of family life. Your parents come through as great characters, full of love, humour and wisdom. Thank you.
    1959 days ago
    Great blog, Marty & you crack me up.
    1959 days ago
  • Add Your Comment to the Blog Post

    Log in to post a comment

    Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.