The baby of the family
When I was a little girl my sisters would give me twenty five cents to sing Jeremiah was a Bull Frog. They were all a good bit older, teenagers and young adults by the time I was four or five. I can still see myself in stretchy pants and a white t-shirt and a big cowlick in my hair standing before them with my little hip jutted out to one side. They loved it. I loved it.
Growing up the baby of seven sisters was a privileged position. My six older sisters adored me. When they were away in St. Johns working they would bring me little gifts on the weekend. Mostly they would let me hang around their rooms as they got dressed and ready to go out for the evening. I remember them trying on outfits and pulling shirts over their heads when it was not quite right. Every so often I would get kicked out of the room, but mostly I sat on the bed and watched.
Their lives were full and interesting to me. Friends came and went. They were working and in school and had friends coming and going. They went to parties and dances while I stayed home. The house was busy when they were around and I loved all the action.
I remember inspecting the boys they brought home wondering if they would be nice to me. Most were. I would wake up on Saturday morning and go down to see who slept on our couch. There was often a guy on the couch and I would sit in the big chair with the floral slip cover and talk to them before my attending sister woke up. Some I could tell were irritated to be awake but some were just fun. Like Jack Brown. I remember him with his big round head of brown hair asking me all kinds of questions and smiling his cute smile at me. I just remember feeling liked instead of tolerated. He talked to me like I was a grown up.
When the sisters were away and the house was quiet I was a child who visited the older people in the neighbourhood. I would go around to the different houses and sit in their kitchens and have a little snack or a peppermint nob and ask questions and tell them what was going in our house. A lot of my little life was spent with older people. Mrs. Eileen, Mrs. Kitty and Mrs. Edna were my regulars.
Mrs. Eileen always had candy and sometimes she had these homemade shortbread cookies with pink marshmallow and coconut on them. Mrs. Edna was famous for her date square that were always just on the edge of being burnt but still perfect. Mrs. Kitty had a boy Joey who was a few years older than me who collected worms and sometimes I would buy a can to go fishing. She also had a husband Mr. Jack who had a fiddle. I don't remember eating there but I likely did. I liked to stand by the door in their dark kitchen with the big stove and watch dark haired Kitty look after everyone.
When you are little enough you can just drop in and not really get in the way and you can watch the goings on and you can take a lot in. With a little one people just go about their business. I was listening and I was watching. Kinda like now. I am still the same.
When I came back home my mother would ask what so and so was doing and I would tell her Mr. Jim was on the daybed asleep, or Mr. Bernie was getting capelin. I would tell her about the pink marshmallow. I remember reporting on those squares especially. They were a wonder to me.
I loved the freedom of my childhood. I loved the opportunity I had to watch the adult world before I became one myself. I took things in and carry them with me still. Small things that seem meaningless but somehow all those small things contributed to how I am today. They shaped me. Those adoring sisters, the old neighbours in their shaky old clapboard houses on a hill above the sea, a mother who let me wander all helped me become myself. And I carry it all with me still.
- Deanne Fitzpatrick