Tuesday, October 3, 2017

We Get a New Baby Sister

Although over half a century has passed, it seems as if these evets happened yesterday.  I am thinking back to this time of year in 1966. There were seven children in the Loren and Genevieve Johnson family at that time.  The four Johnson girls and three Johnson boys had a contest of sorts going on. It was not a contest where we had any chance to influence the outcome, but the debate was a very heated one, nonetheless.  If the new sibling we were expecting any day was a boy, then the boys and girls would be tied at four each. If our new sibling were a girl, then the girls would be the winners and would outnumber the boys by two!  Each side was certain they would win. 

We were living in a small community called Fairview, Utah.  Fairview is in Sanpete County.  Sanpete County is right smack dab in the middle of the State. It was and likely still is an agricultural community.  The hospital where the baby was to be born was located in another small neighboring town named Mt. Pleasant.  At last the day arrived and Daddy took Mama over to the hospital.  The details of this are quite fuzzy.  I think this happened during school.  It was Wednesday, September 14, 1966.  I cannot remember for sure, but it seems we school-aged children walked home to find an empty house.  I am not certain where the younger children were, but I think a friend of Mama’s had them. Daddy came home to give us the good news.  It was especially good news for the girls in the family.  We had a new baby sister!

Mama stayed in the hospital for about a week.  During that time, Daddy went to visit Mama and the new baby often.  Back then it was not a hospital policy to allow children (with their possible attendant germs) in to visit.  Dad would come home with reports of how cute our new sister was and give us messages of love from Mama but to the younger children especially, there was no tangible proof this baby sister really existed.

At 12 ½ years of age, I was the oldest of the brood so I had added responsibilities at this time.  I was pretty much in charge of the household when I was not in school during that week. The other children who were old enough to have chores, did them. I remember thinking that we had the “cleaners” and the “messers.”  Mark (7), Julie (5) and April (2) were the designated “messers.”  They may have tried to help, but their best way to help was to don their jackets and go outside and play.  April who was just a toddler at the time needed quite a bit of tending.  I was already used to taking care of her a lot and she was a delight to tend.  I remember telling her she was, “my little friend,” and she seemed to like that designation.

Bud (Loren Jr.) was in charge of all the outside chores. He was just barely 11 years old at the time.  He along with George (the fourth child and second son—age 8) gathered in wood and coal for our fires. Bud had the added responsibility to chop the wood. The boys never had to help with the inside work because it was “woman’s” work and they had enough tasks to keep them busy outdoors. Marlene (the third child, and second daughter—age 10) and I did all the dishes.  By far the biggest chore was the laundry.  To make matters worse, we had no clothes dryer. The clothing had to be taken outdoors and hung on the line to dry.  It was an overwhelming task that never seemed to end.     

Daddy was always the one to do the grocery shopping.  Mama did not drive back then.  Getting groceries was Daddy’s responsibility new baby or not.  I think we had things like hot dogs, frozen fish sticks, frozen chicken pot pies and Campbell's Vegetable Soup for dinner.  We were used to being spoiled for breakfast.  Mama was like a short order cook.  She always had some type of mush (oatmeal, Germade, etc.), cooked.  If we did not fancy that, she would make bacon, eggs and toast for us.  We often had pancakes.  During that week she was in the hospital, we ate cold cereal for breakfast.

So the eight family members in the small home we were renting, muddled through in the best manner we could without Mama.  Always before when a new baby arrived, there were grandmas and aunts to help.  In Fairview we were away from family and on our own (with daytime childcare help for the preschoolers from one or two ladies from our church who were friends of Mama).  After what was the longest and most difficult week of my life up until that point, Daddy went to fetch Mama and our baby sister. We scurried about making sure the house was presentable for them and waited in eager anticipation to meet our new sister.

Mama was such a welcome sight as she stepped across the threshold.  We were all excited to see our new little sister, but I was most happy to see Mama and turn the job of running her household back over to her.  She “rolled up her sleeves” (so to speak) and immediately set about doing laundry. Years later, as a young mother with Mama helping me welcome my newest baby into my home, I realized how overwhelming it must have been for her, and I apologized profusely for letting her do the laundry that day.

“Oh Gemie,” she told me.  “I was so tired of lying around in bed for a week, I was glad to have something to do.”  Right or not, it made me feel a little less guilty.

Mama had always wanted to name a little girl “September.”  She had given up on having a daughter born in September, and had named her previous baby (a girl born on April 2, 1964), "April." 

“No Mama,” I remember arguing with her over her choice of name for my baby sister. “People will think you got tired of choosing baby names and just started naming them after the month they were born in.”  Mama reluctantly agreed that this was true.  I think, however, if Daddy had really liked the name "September," that would have been our new baby sister’s name.

A periodical, The Church News, came every Saturday in The Deseret News, a Utah newspaper (owned by our church) which my parents subscribed to.  I was reading the most recent copy and remember seeing an article with a picture of a young lady who lived in Hawaii.  “What do you think of this name Mama?” I queried as I shoved the article in her face.  A young woman named Marvelee Soon was pictured and identified in the article.  Mama and Daddy both loved the name.  I was proud that I was the one to find Marvelee’s name for her.  Unfortunately, as she was growing up, Marvelee was not very fond of her name.  Years later in another Church publication Marvelee (Johnson) found another article which had a Marvelee Soon Tahauri in it.  We think it was the same person, now married.   

Marvelee was such a good natured baby.  Mama confided to me how grateful she was that Marvelee was so content to just sit in her carrier and watch her work.  I remember that I tended her a lot. It was my job to dress her for Church every Sunday.  One Sunday I accidentally closed the car door on her hand as we were getting in it to leave for Church.  Her tiny fingers were bent at a 90 degree angle backwards!  I was horrified!  It was very painful to her, but the hand seemed to recover quickly from that mishap.

Marvelee has always held a special place in my heart. 

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