Column - Sibling survivalryMy poor mother. She deserves to be recognized on Mother’s Day for surviving nine kids. I know I barely did. As the youngest, I was a constant source of amusement for all eight, who thought picking on the “baby” was a good time.
By: Jo Colvin, Alexandria Echo Press
My poor mother. She deserves to be recognized on Mother’s Day for surviving nine kids. I know I barely did. As the youngest, I was a constant source of amusement for all eight, who thought picking on the “baby” was a good time. Their methods of torture were endless.
They thought it was really funny to put my hand in warm water when I was sleeping so I would wet the bed. It usually worked. Poor Mom thought she had a chronic bedwetter on her hands until I finally figured out what they were doing when I was 10.
Once while I was sleeping, they fed me cookies made by our neighbor, who thought us poor, starving Colvin kids were so desperate that even WE would eat her horrible concoctions that a dog wouldn’t touch. I woke up gagging on bone-dry, cherry-disaster cookies. But hey, no wet bed!
They told me on a frequent basis that I was adopted.
They tormented me with the creepy antique doll that I swore was going to come to life and kill me. The mean brother would put her under my covers and prop her up in windows as if she got there herself. When Mom was gone, he would chase me around the house with her, shake her in my face, and say in his scariest doll voice, “I’m going to kill you…”
He also used to hang me over the banister by my ankles and pretend to drop me down the stairs below.
One sister thought it was funny to put a blanket over my head and pretend to suffocate me. When faced with the possibility of death by sibling, I did what any little kid did. I screamed. Mom was no help. Instead of beating the crap out of my tormentor, she would nonchalantly say, “You know, Jo, if you wouldn’t scream, she wouldn’t do it.” Thanks, Mom.
The mean (and violent) sister socked me in the stomach so hard I fainted and landed on the cement one inch away from a deep mud puddle. She also told me that if I didn’t learn how to tie my shoes, they wouldn’t let me go to kindergarten. I would cry when Mom left if she was home.
They all told me that if I let a leg or arm hang off the bed at night, the monster hiding underneath would chew it off. To this day I have to have every inch of my body covered before I can fall asleep.
They called me all kinds of nice, loving names. Like Piggy Murphy.
They pretended to sit on my imaginary friends and crush them. And they teased me for having imaginary friends (to this day I remember their names and what they looked like).
They used to scream “DOG PILE!” and all heap on top of me at once, which elicited more screams that Mom ignored. Her theory – “they’re not actually going to let you die.”
One would hold my arms down while another would tickle my armpits. I never thought tickling was supposed to hurt.
They hid in the bushes in front of the house and jumped out at me when I least expected it.
Despite the horrors that I endured, having that many siblings made for a mostly idyllic childhood.
I always had someone to play with. They taught me how to swim and ice skate and ride a bike. They gave me shoulder rides and played hide and seek. I always had someone to answer every question I had (they were more than willing to tell me everything I needed to know, way before I needed to know it). Our holidays were boisterous and joyful and noisy. They shared their artistic, academic and musical talents with me. They were hysterically funny and still are. To this day, when four of us girls get together, all we do is laugh. We’re talking pee-your-pants-get-a-headache-my-face-hurts kind of laughing.
Sure, there were moments when I wished I was an only child, and I’m sure Mom did too. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything (except for the mean brother and violent sister). They are the reason I can look back on my childhood with a happy glow of contentment. They are the reason I can appreciate aloneness. They gave me the ability to laugh at almost everything and have a sense of humor. I know that they will always be there for me and that they really do love me. My Mom and my sisters are my best friends.
Above all, they are the ones who taught me that no matter what life throws at you, never, ever let them hear you scream.
Mom must have done something right.
“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.