Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mom and Me and Coffee Before Sunup

This is me, the one Mom saw on my first Mother's Day nearly 70 years ago. The "Danny" was written across my hat by me at about age 9 or 10. People called me "Danny" until I threatened to rip out their lungs.

My hair was bright red, curly and would become shoulder length before Mom decided it might be a good idea to cut it. Everybody thought I was a girl. I carried a doll. Don't remember the doll's name, but I do remember it was a doll and not an "action figure," which is what my son called his dolls.

I was Mom's sixth kid. She had us in threes until she couldn't. That means three in diapers, three in diapers, two in diapers. I once heard Mom tell a good friend, asking how she managed "with all those kids," that "anything after five doesn't make much difference." I counted up on my fingers and felt, for the first time, my place in the pecking order. I was not happy.

I don't remember celebrating Mother's Day when I was a kid, but I suspect Dad showered Mom with whatever he could afford. He was good about that. We kids didn't think much about it, I suspect, because there was always this competition among us about everything and when you're sixth, it is often more intense than it would be if you were, say first or last. They always seemed to me to be the most important, especially the baby after Paul was born.

I don't recall being jealous about the distribution of attention, even though there was a competitive element to it. Mom did what she could and I think we understood there were too many of us for a whole lot of special treatment--except for the baby. My attention came early in the morning when I got out of bed before everybody else did so Mom would let me drink coffee. I always felt like I was breaking the law. Not much coffee, just cream and a lot of sugar. Mom called it a coffee milkshake. But that was my time, my attention and I treasure it to this day. On special occasions, mom would serve me a slice of cinnamon toast (real butter) with my coffee. I felt like the king of something.

Mom could do that. Even if I was just sixth.

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