Once Samantha and Mina were old enough, I promised that I would take all of the girls fishing.
“Are we throwing the fish back, Daddy?” Samantha asked. “It’s better for the fish habitats if you practice catch and release.”
“Well, we’ll throw back the little ones, but some of the fish are going to become fertilizer. I try to use natural fertilizers.” Sam gave me a huge smile. She had insisted we add a recycle bin outside to do our part to help the environment. She was also happy that we didn’t own a car. She didn’t realize that it wasn’t because we were reducing our carbon footprint. It was because we couldn’t afford one.
Each of the girls took to fishing like pros. Mina and Sam were competitive about it. Unfortunately, neither of them caught much more than minnows. Sydney did better, but she had had more experience. This was not her first time. She was still pretty clumsy with her line, though.
“I didn’t fall down this time, Dad,” she said proudly when she made a successful cast.
“Good job, Pumpkin,” I enthused.
Of the girls, Sydney was the only one who caught anything worth keeping. She pulled in a nice sized goldfish that we decided to put in a bowl at home. She named her Lucia.
While I spent the day fishing with the older girls, Dilly stayed home with the babies. She was teaching Kindra how to talk. We’d both noticed that Kindra had the ability to grasp the most complex of things. She asked a lot of questions about Dilly’s new computer.
“It’s crazy Les,” Dilly told me. “I think she truly understood what I meant about saving everything to a disc so that I wouldn’t lose my work.”
“You shouldn’t be talking to her about computers, Dill,” I frowned. I didn’t want my children to grow up hooked up to computers, cell phones and MP3 players like so many kids are today. “Aren’t little girls supposed to be into unicorns, flowers, and ponies?”
“I didn’t bring up computers, Les. Honestly. Kindra wanted to know what I was doing, so I told her. I didn’t think she’d understand, but she did.”
Dilly and I are both getting older and have started to feel our age creeping up on us. Since the girls are old enough to care for themselves mostly, we have more time to focus on ourselves again. Dilly even had time to go get a make over at the salon (which we couldn’t really afford, but I felt bad that things were tight, so I let Dilly do it anyway).
“You look a little like your mom,” I said when she came back.
“I do not! You take that back!” I laughed and ran my hands through her new shorter do.
“Don’t worry,” I assured her, “I would love you even if you started acting like your mom.” Then I ducked because Dilly took a swing at me for that comment.
Our teasing ended up in the bedroom. Now that we weren’t exhausted from the kids, we had more time for that part of our relationship, too (not that exhaustion had kept us from it before…how else did we end up with 5 kids!).
Unfortunately, we didn’t think that it might be possible that we might end up with six or more kids! At the rate things were going, I had stopped worrying about Dilly not being home with the kids. She was constantly on maternity leave!
“This is all your fault, Les!” she accused me when she realized we were going to have another baby.
“What? I didn’t do it all by myself.”
“You just don’t want me to ever go back to work,” she said and she was only half joking.
“I won’t lie to you Dilly. I don’t want you going back to work. I want you to stay home. I’d support you if you quit tomorrow. But I haven’t asked you to quit.”
“What would I do all day? And how would we pay the bills?”
I was serious when I answered, “We’d find a way. And if you think you might be bored, you could always do what you said you wanted to do: write.”
“Les. I told you. I’m not good enough yet.”
“You’re pregnant again. Why not try it this time. See what happens. The worst thing would be not being published. But who really cares? You’d be writing for you.”
She looked thoughtful. I decided to leave it alone.
Dilly being pregnant again left me to care for little Ronald a lot more. I didn’t mind. I wouldn’t go so far as to say he was my favorite child, but he was our only boy, and that made him special. Besides, how could I resist his little smile? I have no idea where his black hair came from. I’m assuming he got it from Dilly. My dad had been a redhead like me and my mom had been a blonde.
Now that the girls were in school, they started bringing friends home. Calvin Sargeant was often a guest. His parents, apparently, were both in the military and one or the other was always working. He liked spending time with us because Dilly and I were always there.
He frequently ate with us. He didn’t even mind Dilly’s vegetarian cooking. “We don’t eat this stuff at my house, Mr. Fields,” he’d say to me. “I like it. My mom and dad like microwave food and soup.”
Sometimes I think Calvin came home with the girls so that he could hang out with me. I couldn’t help but wonder where his own father was. Didn’t his dad ever play with him? I didn’t mind tossing the ball for him, but it was sad that his dad wasn’t there. The kid was pretty good. I’d be proud if he were my son.
Pretty soon it was time for Kindra and Sydney’s birthdays. We had a small party out on the porch. Dilly insisted. She invited all of her friends and Sydney’s friends from school.
The one good thing about the party (other than seeing my girls having such a good time) was that Dilly also invited her friend Edna, who was a local publisher. Dilly had asked Edna to evaluate some of her work to see if it was worth publishing.
“She said yes, Les!” Dilly enthused after all of the guests left. “She wants me to submit a few chapters, but she told me that there was no doubt in her mind that my work would sell. Did you hear that Les? No doubt!” Dilly danced a little jig in the kitchen. I just laughed and admired her rear end as it wiggled.
“I told you.”
Kindra grew into a serious girl who seemed to be as much of a workaholic as me. She was always on the move doing something whether it was studying, playing chess, or cleaning up. I liked her work ethic, something I tried to instill in all of the girls, but at the same time, I wanted her to have fun. She never seemed to smile.
Sydney ended up needing glasses as a teen. I didn’t think this detracted from her looks at all. In fact, I worried that she was so pretty that I’d have to worry about boys always calling the house. I had my eye on the ones we’d invited to the party. Already I knew they were looking her over.
But over all, Sydney hadn’t changed much as a teen. She was still clumsy—she broke the faucet while cleaning up the cake plates after the party! She was also still as family oriented as me. Being a teenager, the first thing she offered to do was babysit for her brother and sisters.
Don’t get me wrong. We really appreciated the help with the younger kids, but when Syd offered to help me take care of the farm, I was ecstatic! This is what my dad must have felt like when I offered to help him. And, once she started helping, I quickly realized that she was a natural. She had the Fields family green thumb. With her assistance, I managed to double our output, which was a good thing.
With a sixth baby on the way, Dilly and I were always worrying about money. We stretched our bills as thinly as we could.
“We’re going to have to add a bathroom soon, Dilly,” I worried. “Girls need more bathrooms, right?”
“I don’t know Les. I didn’t have sisters. I think we’ll be ok. We’ll make do.”
“But we can’t add another bedroom,” I continued. I hadn’t really heard her. “The new baby will just have to sleep in Ronald’s room…but what if it’s another girl”?”
“Les, calm down!” Dilly put her hand on my shoulder.
“You’re the one who says we can make things work,” Dilly assured me. “I know we can. This new baby will have everything it needs. We’ll be fine.” It took a little more convincing, but I did manage to snap out of my worries. Dilly was right. I had been right. We would be fine. We’d make do.
“You’re right, Dill. I’m sorry. We’re doing fine. The farm’s actually doing quite well.”
“I suppose this is a bad time to tell you that I quit my job.”
“I’m going to write, Les. It’s what you’ve been encouraging me to do for years.”
“Don’t worry Les. I got an advance on my first few chapters. It isn’t a lot, but if this book does well…”
I was thrown back into my money panic, but I had to be supportive of my wife who had been reluctant to jump into writing. I was getting what I’d always wanted, but now that it was real, I wasn’t so sure it was such a good thing.
“Are you sure, Dilly?”
“Yeah. I believe in us. I am beginning to believe it me, too.”
And so during our fifth pregnancy, Dilly wrote her first novel. It did moderately well. It wouldn’t make us rich, but the publishers offered her another book deal. Once her name was known, Edna told Dilly that it would be easier to sell her books and market them so Dilly would get higher royalties.
“Unless you turn out to be a budding J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyers,” Edna joked. “Then we’ll make millions right off the bat!”
I didn’t think it had been that easy for either of those authors, but I was really hoping that Dilly’s book would take off.