Mom’s family had a big ol’ family reunion at Christmas that year. My great-grandma turned 80 two days before Christmas and my family threw a big party. Everybody showed up.
I don’t know a lot about this party, but from memories I’ve pieced together, I get the impression that we had a little variety show in honor of Grandma’s birthday. I remember my mom’s cousin doing a little ventriloquism act, and the whole family stood up front and sang “How Great Thou Art.” (I found both creepy. I don’t remember a lot from my very young years that wasn’t scary.)
We tried to get pictures of each family posing with Great-grandma that year.The picture my mom gave me from this endeavor was of me crying and everybody else smiling at the camera.
Everybody, except Grandma. She was holding me, whispering to me, comforting me, letting me know that everything was going to be ok and this wasn’t something I needed to fuss about.
She was always like that.
I grew to trust my great-grandma to always be there for me, always listen, always encourage, always play, laugh and just be. She was the best, in every way you could imagine.
This was a stark contrast compared to what I was used to.
I was used to situations like the photo shoot. I would do or say something (or cry, or laugh, or tug on someone’s sleeve) and my family went about what they’d been doing, never acknowledging me. And, if I expressed a negative emotion, I was most definitely ignored.
This, too, had a huge impact on who I became as I grew up. This is where I learned that no matter what I said or did, no one was going to notice or care anyway, so why bother even trying? This is where I learned the “Children [girls] should be seen and not heard” doctrine. This is where I began to withdraw and do everything I could to stay as little and insignificant as I felt.
I also have a picture of Grandma with all 6 of her great-grandbabies, ranging in age from 7 months to 6 years. Me and 5 boys. (Just wait — this situation got even worse as time progressed! Y chromosomes were plentiful in my family!) In this picture, Grandma is holding the two youngest babies (the ones under 12 months) and I’m standing next to her with a faint, sweet smile on my face.That is how I like to remember my toddler years.
On Being There
One of the things that I really loved about my childhood was story time.
My parents read to my brothers and me every single day of our lives until we left home. I developed a deep love for stories, reading and writing at a pretty young age. I was eager to learn to read because I wanted read by myself and not have to wait until Mom or Dad had time to sit down with us.
We read all kinds of books, from Winnie The Pooh to Dan Frontier to Billy and Blaze. We read Beatrix Potter, Virginia Lee Burton and Eric Carle. As we grew older, we read chapter books, like Anne of Green Gables, the Little Britches series, and Little House on the Prairie. We also read the books (fiction, historical novels and biographies) published by Bob Jones University Press. We never, ever read Curious George, Dr. Seuss or Clifford. Ok, so it wasn’t never. It was just really rare. Curious George was “Naughty George” and Dr. Seuss encouraged kids to eat rotten (green) eggs. And Clifford was just too unreal. Who really has a dog bigger than a house?
When I was 3, my two favorite books were a Little Golden Book called “The New Baby” and a…. yellow book (but NOT a Little Golden Book) called “go and hush the baby” by Betsy Byars. Yes, the title is capitalized like that. And yes, at the age of 3, I absolutely adored babies.
For my 3rd birthday, my parents gave me my very own copy of “go and hush the baby.” Today, it’s literally tattered, and I pretty much still have it memorized. (My friend doesn’t allow me to read it to her daughter because the mom in the story, according to my friend, deserves the Bad Mom of the Year award. But that’s neither here nor there. I still loved the book when I was a wee little lassie.)
For Christmas that year, my aunt gave me a red sweater with my name stitched on it. How many 3-year-olds have a personalized sweater? I felt pretty special! My great-grandma gave me a mini trunk/chest thing to keep “my stuff” in. (If I remember right, she hired someone to build it.) And, my grandma gave me a life-sized baby doll. Oh, how I loved that baby! I remember later in the day, after opening all those super gifts, after everybody else had dispersed to watch PeeWee Herman or take a nap (I had given up naps after that bad experience where I went to take a nap and woke up down a grandparent), my mom picked me up and sat me on her lap and asked me what I was going to name my baby. We had quite a discussion about this. I couldn’t for the life of me remember the name of a character in one of my favorite books, but I told my mom I wanted to give her the same name as the girl in that story about shoes. (I have no idea what book that was!!!) I remember loving a story about a girl named Emma. But the first story character that was one of my favorites that my mom suggested was Rebekah — and Rebekah became my new baby’s name.
I still have that dolly. She still naps on the bed in my mom’s spare room.
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Mari is the middle of 5 kids — and the only girl — in a male-dominant, semi-quiverfull, rather patriarchal homeschooling family. She was raised in a patriarchal church and most of her social network as a child consisted of children of patriarchal or quiverfull families. This is the story of how she was sucked into the patriarchal/quiverfull belief system, and how she was lovingly (and in some cases, not so lovingly!) escorted out. Read her blog at: http://www.marismuses.
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce