“So Dad, did you take me out here to tell me that Mom’s pregnant again?” Sydney asked on a quiet Saturday morning. She and I had gone down the ravine to do some fishing.
“What are you talking about, Syd?”
“Well, you haven’t really made an announcement and it’s getting kind of obvious.”
“We weren’t trying to hide it,” I blushed. I couldn’t figure out what was making me so uncomfortable with this conversation. It wasn’t like Sydney hadn’t been there while her mom was pregnant before.
“Well don’t worry about being an old man, Dad. If you kick the bucket, I’ll be here to take care of the family.”
I sputtered in outrage. “I am NOT an old man!”
But of course, I was getting older. I would probably be an elder by the time the latest baby was a teenager like Sydney. I was feeling my age.
Like when I bent down to play with Ronald. Anyone could hear the multiple pops that my knees made. Each pop and crack felt like a ticking bomb. How could I take care of my family if I was getting so old?
Of course Dilly thought I was ridiculous when I brought up my concerns to her. She just laughed. She would probably always be young. Her child-like nature kept her that way. It’s also what made her such a good mother.
“We’re still young, Les. I don’t plan on going gray, getting saggy boobs, or excessive wrinkles for quite some time.”
“I’d still love you with saggy boobs,” I couldn’t stop myself from saying.
“Idiot,” Dilly slapped me on the arm. “But seriously, Les. Why are you even mentioning this? It’s not like either of us is an elder yet.”
“I don’t know, Dill. I think it’s just all the worry I’ve been feeling about the money. I can’t get it out of my head and now I am stressing about not being around for all of my kids.”
“You’ll be around, Les. You’ll be there to see all of them happy and settled. You’ll probably be able to play with their children, your grandchildren. You’ll teach all those grandbabies about farming and growing things. I can just picture it.”
“We’re too young to be grandparents!” I protested, picturing Sydney or one of the other girls with some worthless boy. I didn’t really realize what I had said.
“Exactly,” Dilly returned. “Now, go out and harvest the crops. I’m going to shake my young butt with our daughter. She calls it Zumba, and it’s supposed to be exercise.”
Thinking of grandchildren made me worry about all the time that Sydney spent with boys. She didn’t seem to have any girl friends at her school. Davis Knack keeps coming over, but Sydney is always calling Calvin Sargeant. I am not really sure what their relationships are.
Syd told me that Calvin has to work a lot, which is why he hasn’t come over in awhile. He has a job at the grocery. I’m pretty proud of him. He’s so hard working. However, that Davis is a wastrel, if you ask me. All he seems to be capable of doing is playing chess. He wants to be a Chess Legend. What the heck is that? It isn’t a real job!
At school the twins have a lot of friends, but only Mina seems to play with them. Samantha has taken up painting. She coerced Dilly and I into purchasing an easel (which we found at the consignment shop for considerably less money). When she isn’t recycling everything in sight, she’s painting on her easel with organic-based paints.
Mina, on the other hand, is always going over to other kids’ houses to play. Her particular friend seems to be Kristofer Drill. Like Calvin, Kris’ parents are both in the military. Alma Drill, a woman I had met when we first moved here, was Kris’ mom. I remember that she hadn’t really approved of my family and our farming efforts. I wonder if she knows that her son is hanging around with a farmer’s daughter.
Like a good parent, I asked Mina about her friend’s family. I wasn’t trying to gossip, but I didn’t want Alma to be as rude to my daughter as she was to me. Alma may not approve of working outdoors, but that isn’t a reason to not like a child.
“Oh, Kris lives with his dad mostly. His parents are divorced and his mom is always destroyed,” Mina told me innocently.
“Do you mean Deployed?” I asked.
“Yeah. She’s never home.”
“Ah,” I grunted.
“Kris’ dad’s got a pretty nice garden,” Mina continued. “Not as nice as our farm, though.”
I felt reassured. Mina continued to talk about her friend, and I realized that he must like the outdoors as much as she did. She said they were always playing in his backyard or out on the hill behind his house. “He thinks he’s all that at tag, Dad, but I am always able to tag him out. He just brags ‘cause he’s a boy.”
I still have a lot of difficulty relating to my younger daughter, Kindra. I hardly know how to talk to her. She’s always got her nose in a book or she’s working on extra homework. She’s in accelerated classes at school. Dilly had sat down to help her do homework one night and found out that Kindra was bored in her classes. She immediately took her to the school and had her tested. Kindra’s IQ is off the charts. She is almost a savant—especially with math.
The school put Kindra in classes for gifted students and advanced her an entire grade level. Pretty soon even Dilly couldn’t help her with her homework. The only person who seemed able to give Kindra any assistance was Sydney. A lot of the work Kindra was doing was the same stuff Sydney was doing at her school—that’s how advanced Kindra was.
Though the twins loved their younger sister, they really had trouble dealing with her. One morning during breakfast Samantha was talking about the concert she was given free tickets to go see.
“It was so awesome! The conductor waved his stick and all the people started to play.”
“It’s a baton,” Mina said.
“You know, there is a science to a pleasing bit of music. I read a book that said music was like math,” Kindra interjected.
Everyone was silent. What do you say to that? Dilly finally managed, “Maybe you can take up an instrument when you’re older. You like science and math, Kindra. You’d probably be good at music.”
“Oh, I don’t think I’ll have time. I want to join the chess club and the physics club.”
“What is physics?” Mina asked. “Is that like P.E.?”
“No, stupid! It’s science!”
“I’m not stupid!” Mina cried.
“You are so!” Kindra said.
“Don’t call Mina stupid, Nerd!” Samantha defended her twin.
Finally I had to intervene in order to be able to eat my pancakes in peace.
“Go outside and play,” I said. “But clean up your dishes first!”
Pretty soon Dilly went into labor again. We left Sydney at home to watch the kids, and we headed to the hospital. When we returned, we had our sixth daughter, Melinda, in our arms. She reminded me a lot of her oldest sister, Sydney.
Since she was a girl, we decided to put her in the same room as Syd and Kindra. We could have kept her with Ronald, but he would be a child soon and it wouldn’t have been appropriate for him to share a room with his sister.
Unfortunately, Kindra wasn’t a heavy sleeper like Sydney. She wasn’t too happy to be woken up in the middle of the night on occasion. But what could we do? We still didn’t have enough money to add another bathroom let alone add another bedroom.
I know it was hard for Kindra to study and do her homework in her room with a baby crying, but it couldn’t be avoided.
“I just wish I could read in peace!” Kindra often huffed in annoyance. “I hate babies. I’m never going to have a baby!”
“Don’t say that Kindra!” Sydney would try to soothe her. “Babies are wonderful. You’ll want to have a large family some day. Wait and see.” Sydney had always loved children. She just couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t love babies.
Pretty soon it was time for the twins to join their older sister in high school. We threw them a party, of course. I was surprised when Sydney invited Calvin to the party and he actually showed up. It was his day off from the grocery.
“Hey, Mr. Fields,” he greeted me. “Hey, Mrs. Fields.”
“Hello Calvin,” Dilly said. “It’s nice to see you again. How’s your job going?”
“Oh, it’s fine. I bag groceries and help people out to their cars.”
“That sounds interesting.”
Calvin shrugged. “It keeps me busy, and I was able to buy this really sweet Sloppy Jalopy that I plan to fix up.” Hearing that Calvin, a teenager, had bought a car made me ashamed that I still hadn’t been able to afford one for our family.
“Cars are bad for the environment,” Samantha said after Calvin had described his new ride. “You should have bought a hybrid if you had to buy a car.”
“Don’t be rude, Sam,” Sydney chided. “Calvin can have a car. He needs it to go to work and go home again.”
Mina was the first of the girls to transition into a teen. I was stunned by her. She looked like me, according to Dilly, but that couldn’t be true because she was just beautiful. I know that Kristofer Drill thought so. At the party he got this dazed look on his face when he saw her. I could almost smell trouble. I’d have to keep an eye on him.
Samantha was also lovely, but not in the same stunning way. She seemed to find humor in everything now that she was a teen. However, this sense of humor did not diminish her sensitivity to the environment.
Not long after the twins became teens, Ronald became old enough to go to school. He seems to have gained a love of music. Dilly says he’s a natural. He could even play tunes on his Xylophone. Like Mina and Sydney, Ronald also inherited Dilly’s poor eyesight. He had to be immediately fitted for a pair of glasses.
Little Melinda also got a bit bigger. Our last child is no longer an infant. I love all of my children, but I sincerely hope that she is our last one in diapers. I would like to be finished with potty training forever! I was sort of happy to see that my red hair was passed to another of our children. My dad always said that red hair was lucky. Melinda looked just like Mina as a toddler except that she has more hair. Dilly says that both girls look just like me.