There is nothing better than having baby sisters. I was blessed with three of them, Jeannie, Kathy, and Janice. I also have another treasured sister, Marsha, who is almost a year older than me as well as three younger brothers, Keith, Jim, and Don.
I wanted to write a little here about a sweet memory of my two youngest sisters,Kathy and Janice, after I found this picture of them in their matching yellow flower girl dresses. These were the little girls who were born after I’d finally grown up enough to be able to help with baby care, which happens very young in large families.
Disposable diapers weren’t commonly used in the 50’s or early 60’s, so changing diapers involved using those very large diaper pins which could really inflict a painful injury if not handled deftly. Our Mom was of the two-pin school of thought— one on either side, rather than just one in the front. This involved twice the risk of injury, but by placing a couple of fingers inside the diaper, between the pin and the baby, the sharp pin would always hit your fingers first, rather than the baby’s torso if you were clumsy. (It ensured a very speedy learning process!) Of course, Mom didn’t just hand us a baby and say “Go to it!” She knew that Marsha and I had already learned to be extra cautious, by pinning diapers on our own baby dolls first.
Baby bottles, in those years, were limited to those simple glass bottles with the measurements stamped into them and rubber nipples attached with plastic rings. There were no high-tech bottles containing plastic bag inserts or special tube and valve systems then, to avoid the baby sucking in a lot of air if fed improperly. So even under the best circumstances, much more frequent burping was necessary.
While it might be much easier for a five year-old today, to properly bottle-feed a baby sibling for his or her busy mother, back then we quickly learned the more complicated method in a big hurry. Our reasons were selfish. If we didn’t hold the bottle up high enough the baby would suck in and swallow air. If she swallowed air she would need to be burped a lot more often. If she wasn’t burped often enough she would scream a lot. If she screamed a lot, nobody would be having any fun! So each of us girls, in turn, learned to be little mothers to somebody younger, as the new babies came along.
The two pretty little flower girls, in their flouncy yellow dresses, were like tiny princesses that day at our cousin Donna Lynne’s wedding. As a concession to agreeing to do the “very grown up job” of serving coffee and tea to the wedding guests, Marsha and I were each finally allowed to wear our first pair of nylon stockings. On the same day, Kathy and Janice were wearing their very last pair of fancy ruffled baby bloomers, under their bouncy crinolines.
Marsha and I were probably as proud of them as Mom was that day. We too, felt a maternal pride in their angelic appearance and sweet conduct—and of our role in teaching them to hold their bouquets just so, and to step ever so lightly down the aisle in time to the music —neither too fast nor too slow— and to not pull off their fancy head bands because they were “Too scratchy!” or yank off their little white gloves because they were “Too tight!”
Yes, Janice Mary and Katherine Marie, I for one was very proud of both of you on that day— just as much as I was when each of you joined me in the role of real motherhood a few decades later.
And now that you are both grandmothers… I find it almost impossible to believe, because in some ways you will always be my babies too!