50 years ago today I was a week into a new school (5th grade) and staying with my Aunt Mary, who made me braunschweiger sandwiches for lunch, with lettuce, mayo and pickle relish. The Hohmanns were an energetic bunch (uncle, aunt, 2 teenagers, 2 gradeschoolers) — I could never quite tell if they were having an argument or just being loud. Despite the delicious brownbag lunches Aunt Mary made me and despite the fact that I got to sleep with my cool cousin Barbara in her amazing canopy bed, I would have preferred being with my mom and dad in our new house three blocks away. Same for my brother Tom, who should have been enjoying his three temporary brothers. But my mother was having a baby — back in the day when women got to lounge around the hospital for a week, especially if the doctor knew she had a new house and three other kids waiting for her attention. (My sister Ellen got parcelled out to our grandparents.)
At school, I’d been put in a fifth grade class where the teacher yelled all day and gave us group punishments, like writing out “I must not talk in school” a hundred times. So I took it upon myself to go to the principal’s office and tell her that a mistake had been made. I needed to be in the other fifth grade classroom, where the “smart” kids were. Didn’t they know anything?
It was my eleventh birthday. I was a little stressed out. But the news came that day: my birthday present was a baby sister. (Not that Ellen wasn’t good, but she was already 2-1/2 and slipping out of my control. And she had been presented to me as a living doll not as my very own birthday present.)
My dad came by Aunt Mary’s house for dinner. I guess my parents had a few things on their minds too — his present for me was a card and a $5 bill. And yet, I can still feel the thrill, the absolute glow of that moment… standing next to my dad in the doorway of the Hohmann kitchen, with a fortune of crisp green cash to spend however I wanted. And the birthday sister.
I can hardly believe that newborn is 50 years old today. Happy Birthday, Kathleen Anne!
(I wonder how I spent that five bucks…)