A Simpler Life

I come from a family of seven children: six girls and one boy. We were born in this order: Theresa (Terri), followed a year later by Margaret (Marge), followed a year later by Leonard (Len), followed seven years later by Cynthia (Cindy) – that’s me, followed two years later by Diane, followed two years later by Rebecca (Becky), followed two years later by Janice (Jan). The six of us sisters are still very close, but sadly, our brother passed away at the age of 40 in 1989. Our parents are also deceased.

As you can well imagine, growing up with a family of seven children meant that we did not live in the lap of luxury. As a matter of fact, we spent most of our childhood living in a housing project in St. Paul, Minnesota due to the fact that our father was ill, and our mother not only had to take care of a sick husband,  but seven children as well. But when you grow up not knowing what you’re missing, wearing the hand-me-downs from two cousins and two sisters before you seemed to be a normal way of life, and you didn’t even mind it when your mother patched over the already-there patches on your favorite pair of jeans. It’s just the way life was. We made do with what we had, and if we went to bed with our tummies not quite full enough, we didn’t mind so much, because at least we had each other to commiserate with. Not that we ever starved—but let’s just say we never had leftovers!

But the day of the week we all lived for was Sunday because Sunday was the day that Grandma and Grandpa K. would visit. These were my mom’s parents, and they were German through and through. As a matter of fact, they had both immigrated from Germany, which I guess made my mom first generation German, right? Anyway, I remember how my Grandma and Grandpa would always speak a smattering of German words, and the only word I can remember my grandma calling me is “Liebchen.” There were other German words they used, but I can’t remember, for that was so very long ago. My grandpa was a trickster. He loved to chew snuff, and he would hold out his snuff box to us kids and say, “Want some? Here, it’s candy.” And then he would get this sly grin on his face, and if perchance one of the kids would actually try to take him up on his offer, he would pull the box away and say, “Too late, too late,” and then he’d shake his head and hobble away on his cane with a wicked grin on his face.

Grandma and Grandpa, 1944

Grandma and Grandpa, 1944

However, we kids loved Sunday the most because after Sunday dinner, when all the dishes were washed, dried, and put away, Grandpa would give each of kids a dime. Now I know that today a dime won’t buy much, but fifty years ago, it bought plenty. My mom and grandmother would take us children for a stroll down to the local candy store. It was then that we each were able to spend the precious money that Grandpa had given. I think my mom went just because she was happy to get out of the house, but we kids definitely went solely for the candy!

Grandpa and Grandma, 1957

When we would arrive at our destination, each of us would peruse all the candies displayed on the shelves lined behind the glass showcase they were in. There were so many choices, so many ways to mix and match! I was always very thrifty with my dime and tried to get the kinds of candy where you could buy two or three pieces for a penny, thereby ending up with more than just ten pieces of candy by the time I had spent the entire dime.

penny candy 1Remember the little sugary dots of candy that were stuck to the paper? That was one of my favorites. I also loved the root beer barrels and the sugar babies. And of course, anything chocolate! I was a chocolate fiend even back then! There were so many other kinds of candies that you could purchase for only one cent such as: bubble gum, licorice, pixie stix, sixlets,  candy cigarettes, jaw breakers, malted milk balls, peppermint sticks, tootsie rolls, lollipops, suckers, candy corn, red hots, candy necklaces, wax candy, sour balls, bit-o-honey, mary janes, and caramels. Then, when we each ordered which candies we wanted, the candy man (that’s what we called him) would pack up the goodies in a little paper sack, smaller than a regular lunch bag, and we would  hand over our dimes. We each had our own separate bag, which was a good thing, or else I’m sure many an argument would have occurred!

I think about those days often, and there are many times when I wish I could have them back again. Life was so much simpler back then. If only I had known then how precious those days would be to me now, I would have savored them even more. But I must say I will always be forever grateful that I come from a big family. Even though there has been some heartache, as there always will be, because with all those different personalities there are bound to be misunderstandings, underneath it all lies a deep abiding love which forever binds us together, for we are family.

QUOTE FOR THE DAY:  “Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do.  Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.”  ~ Alex Haley ~

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