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We had hoped to space our babies a little father apart. Everybody kept telling us how great it was. "Two years is just right." Or more. But, as it turned out, we had five babies in five years. And this from two only children!
My Mama, another only child, would lament, "What are you trying to prove?!"
We weren't trying to prove a thing. We only wanted a family with brothers and sisters to love one another.!
It's all I ever wanted. And I loved those babies more than my life. If a conception came as a surprise, long before each was born I eagerly looked forward to the arrival, to hold my baby in my arms and to care for it. Whether we humans admit it or not, we all have a great capacity to love. We love abundantly. And it grows as it's needed.!
Thus, my dear Bill and I settled down for the long haul of raising our brood. It's been quite a journey and, even though the children have all left the nest and are self-sufficient--thank you, God!--we've discovered that parenting never stops. You get no time off for good behavior. Once a parent, always a parent. Forever needed for a piece of advice, some help in a tight place, or just a word of encouragement when our children need to hear we believe in them.!
This is not to say we've made parasites of our offspring. On the contrary, we've urged them to stand alone (but always held in the hollow of His hand), to find out who they are, to stretch and to grow toward their goals and roles in life. We've taught them, if they will only be still and listen, their pathway to Excellence will be revealed. We've told them: "Reach for your star. If you don't quite make it the first time,that's okay. We'll be here to catch you because we're a family. We love you."
Most people say good marriages begin in Heaven. Mine began in Minnesota when I was twelve years old and my husband-to-be Bill was only seventeen. One Spring my family moved from St. Louis, Missouri after buying a resort nestled on Mallard Bay in God's Country.
That first summer Bill came with his Aunt Sue, Uncle Jim and his two cousins, Jimmy and Sue, always and until this day known as The Baby. Goes to show you how nicknames can stick for life. So be careful what you call your kid. Scooter. Bootsy. Jelly-Belly. Caboose!
It was a sad time for Bill because his mother had recently passed away. There had been no warning. After only two days she died and Bill's quiet grief seemed impenetrable. He just wanted to be left alone.
But because I was only a youngster I had a hard time understanding his melancholy. I'd never lost anyone close and, although I felt his pain, I couldn't help thinking what he really needed was to play and have some fun. There is such a great gap in maturity between twelve and seventeen years. Needless to say, I decided to cheer him up whether he liked it or not.
That week we had a full camp, twenty-one kids in all. All sorts of mischief evolved. We played tricks on one another, swam, capsized boats and hid under them and, at night, played Release. I guess you could call Release an old-fashioned version of Tag. But it was different in that you hid and never came out until someone found you--released you. You couldn't move if ten-thousand mosquitoes chewed holes in your hide. Or a big black bear tried to eat you. No way would you come out; that is, unless you could make it back to home base, undetected, and slam into the Home base tree, screaming, "Free, free, free!"
During those warm summer days we practically lived in our swim suits so we could dip in and out of the lake at a moment's notice. I wore my brunette curly hair in two long braids, thick as a man's thumb. In those days this tomboy didn't think much about smelling sweet and clean. I had no time for all that icky girl stuff. Not yet.
At any rate, with all that dipping into and out of the water my hair repeatedly got soaked, then before it could dry I'd dive in again. It never occurred to me to open my braids to properly dry my hair so I wouldn't smell like a dead fish. The drip-dry routine usually lasted, at most, three days when I'd make the mistake of walking too close past my mother, who'd get one whiff of my swamp scum hair and order me to hit the shower. Seemed such a waste of time and shampoo because I'd be back in the lake within moments.
Besides I had more important things to do. Like making Bill laugh. I did silly tricks. Told corny jokes, which were the only kind I knew. But I was the only one laughing. I made dumb faces. And weird sounds. I tried everything, but nothing shook him loose. I simply could get no response from that boy. And I couldn't stand it. No one refused to laugh at me when I decided to be funny. Finally I vowed to get some reaction, or die trying.
One afternoon Bill sat alone at the end of the long wooden dock, gazing at the sky, lost in his very sad thoughts. How in the world was I going to help him? I wondered. A devious idea suddenly popped into my head. Silently I whispered a little prayer that my plan would work as I jogged in place at the top of the hill, building up courage and steam. Then I sprinted down the grassy slope, pounded onto the dock and didn't stop until I'd collided with Bill--who would someday be the father of my children--and knocked him flying into the lake. He surfaced, gasping for air and from the shock of the cold water, while I and nineteen other kids pointed and jumped up and down and rolled on the ground, laughing hysterically.
But then I watched the cold water begin to boil 'round his rigid form while his dark brown eyes grew black with rage, and I stopped laughing in mid-chuckle. He reminded me of great King Neptune rising from the deep. All he needed was his trident. He already dripped seaweed. Well, lake weed then.
If looks could kill I surely should have been dead. Bill's narrowed glare cut through me like fine-honed steel. That look, I would later learn, had a name--the Bramsch Look--and you don't ever want to see it.
Some people rant and rave when they're at the breaking point. But not my Bill. He just glares. I truly feared for my life and backed away from the edge of the dock. But the feeling suddenly evaporated because my misguided Good Samaritan mission finally broke the ice and, as Bill started laughing I whispered another prayer, this time in thanksgiving. Soon all twenty-one of us had a water fight to end all water fights. As for Bill and me, it was the start of a beautiful friendship that has lasted more or less solidly for many decades.
He would be embarrassed to hear this said, but I'm going to tell you anyway. He swears when he first met me, he thought someday I'd make someone a good wife. Something about being determined and single-minded, I think. There I was, only twelve years old. Still a virtual child! And yet he continues to hold dear, a picture of me with my long smelly braids, wearing faded blue jeans rolled to the knees, run-over penny loafers without the pennies (I spent them on bubble gum), and a grubby yellow T-shirt with iron-on Mickey Mouse decals from Pep cereal plastered all over the front, together with fish scales and worm juice. Little did he know he would someday be the man who got me for his very own good wife.
"Honey, it's an experience living with you," he has said. "I can't leave you now."
When I give him a quizzical look, then ask if he's planning an escape anytime soon, he clarifies.
"No, honey, I can't leave you because I have to see how this whole thing turns out."
And there you have the secret of my long happy marriage. Keep 'em guessing!
Receiving a whole lot of Blessings has helped,too!