Now, which one are you?
Growing up in a large family had its advantages and disadvantages. One of the disadvantages was that it was hard to establish an identity among so many siblings.
I spent my entire life answering, “Now, which one are you?” to people who only knew me as “one of the Estep girls”. They could never tell one of us from the other. Even my poor father had trouble putting the right name to the right face and settled with calling each one of his daughters, “Sis”.
We didn’t have to be invited to a party to have fun. We could have our own party. Nor was there a need to join a choir since there were enough altos, sopranos, and tenors among us to fill up the Mormon Tabernacle.
Whenever I hear Johnny Cash sing, “Daddy Sang Bass”, I remember what a good singing voice Daddy had. Only he sang baritone.
In a family so large, there was no middle child . . . there were middle children, which is where I fit in. I must have been twelve years old before I realized my name wasn’t “Tend to the Baby”, because that was always my job. I didn’t mind, though. It meant I could sit in the front porch swing and read my precious Modern Screen Magazine while I held the baby on my lap. I couldn’t read enough about my favorite movie stars. (I planned to go to Hollywood to sing in the movies and marry John Payne when I grew up.)
When someone asked my whereabouts, Mama’s usual reply was, “Oh, she’s on the front porch tending to the baby with her nose stuck in a movie magazine” — my nose, not the baby’s.
The hedge row in front of the house grew switches as fast as Mama could use them up. As youngsters, we literally could not agree on anything. Nine times out of ten, these disagreements ended in a fight, which meant a switching from Mama. To add insult to injury, she made us fetch our own switch. If I brought back one that was too small, she turned me right around and sent me back for another. I made a lot of trips back and forth until I got one that satisfied her — I called it stalling, but it didn’t work. I tried leaving all the leaves on it so it wouldn’t sting, but that didn’t work either. She just stripped them off until the switch was as clean as a whistle and did it smart when it made contact with my bare legs!
Sometimes I avoided a whipping by outrunning her. “You’ll catch it when I do get ahold of you,” she would yell. But she soon forgot about it. There was always tomorrow, though, when I might not be so lucky. As I recall, Daddy never whipped us and we obeyed him as though he were “God the Father”. But Mama, now Mama whipped us every little whip stitch and we weren’t a bit afraid of her.
When it came time to do the supper dishes, the scene that took place in our kitchen would put one in mind of Wide World of Wrestling. Mama would make one of us wash and another one dry. The sister I was paired with would always disappear into the bathroom when it was her turn to dry. I tell you, no dose of Ex Lax was as effective as a drainer full of dishes was to her. I would tell on her and a free-for-all would begin with the two of us slapping each other with dishtowels and slinging dishwater all over the kitchen. Then here would come Mama with that switch in her hand. This was a nightly ritual at our house. You could count on it.
Beef Cabbage Soup
1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1 green pepper
1 large onion
1 small head of cabbage
1 can kidney beans
1 quart canned tomatoes
1 quart tomato juice
1 can beef consommé
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
Chop cabbage, onion and green pepper into small pieces. Brown ground beef with onion and green peppers. Drain well. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until all vegetables are tender.