Monday, January 23, 2012

The Truth Will Out

Working on the Senior Citizen History Project (here) has necessitated sorting through hundreds of old family photographs to find just the right ones to illustrate each page of text. This is not a job for the faint of heart (or the short of time). Every photo elicits memories within memories. For instance:

This was taken shortly after I was brought home from the hospital. That's my three year old brother FP in the foreground, the one with his arm across his forehead in, "Jeez, do we have to keep her?" mode.

Not only had my mother been away for two weeks, she came home carrying a squalling, wet, no-fun-at-all baby sister. Poor FP. Things did not get better as I got older. I was a selfish, prying, demanding little kid, wanting whatever FP was playing with at the moment. "Give it to Nin-nin," was my battle cry.

"I'll give it to Nin-nin," my mother would say through gritted teeth, her hands itching to deposit me in a room by myself until I shaped up. (Apparently my Memere had no qualms about administering swift justice. When she caught me biting her precious FP's ear in order to wrest a toy from him, she chased me around her house with a leather clothes whip!)

When he was four, FP was offered a deal too good to pass up. The chicken feed man who supplied my father's chicken farm with sacks of grain offered to buy me for a dollar.

CF man: "That's a cute little sister you have there."

FP: "Nah." (No way was I cute!)

CF man: "She'd just about fit into one of these empty sacks, don't you think?"

FP: "Yeah." His eyes must have lit up at the thought.

This conversation was overheard by my father who, though a bit taken aback, stayed quiet to see what would develop.

CF man: "I'll give you a dollar for her."

FP: "Okay."

The chicken man reached in the back of his pickup truck for an empty burlap sack. Then he reached into his wallet for a dollar bill. FP must have had a change of heart as he took the bill. Perhaps he realized that I was about to be hauled off in a sack and that might not necessarily be a good thing. He began to cry. My mother came out to see what he was howling about.

"FPC!" she exclaimed, using all three of his names as my father explained. "You give that man his money back right now! You can't sell your sister!" At which point my brother forfeited the dollar and was marched into the house for a half hour in the punishment chair (another memory offshoot for another time).

That was the official version that was handed down with other family lore. My brother now claims he remembers another ending. He says the chicken feed man offered him $10 and the only reason he started to cry was because he thought for that amount of money he might have to go along to help take care of me.


Brian Miller said...

haha...there was a time i might have taken a quarter for my

Molly said...

"One sister for sale!
One sister for sale!
One crying and spying sister for sale! I'm really not kidding,
So who'll start the bidding?
Do I hear a dollar?
A nickel?
A penny?........"

Did FP grow up to be Shel Silverstein by any chance?

Hilary said...

Too funny. My sister wanted to trade me in for a toy firetruck.

I love the expression on your brother's face in the photo.. it's wonderful And your mother.. I think you look just like her.

Barbara said...

My 3-year-old son's first words concerning his sister were: Let's just leave her at the hops-pital. I guess some things never change!

What a great project. I think genealogy is best told in the form of stories. They are much more interesting than dates!

Brian Hayes said...

Precious. Warm. True telling. Kitchen chronicles becoming adventure stories....

Out on the prairie said...

a nice dual ending

steven said...

i love how memories change their shape but not their intent!!! this is a lovely story. more more..... steven

Tabor said...

Great story. Memories are remembered differently by others...that is for sure.

Pauline said...

Brian - my brother's position in the family tale and his current one let me know we're still siblings ;)

ha Molly - I wish!

Hilary - is she older or younger? And a fire truck, not a doll? Funny. I've been told I look a lot like my mother. That delights me :)

Barbara - I wish I'd asked more questions of my parents and grandparents.

Brian H - we are bags of stories, are we not?

Thanks OOTP :) FP still maintains that I don't remember anything correctly!

Steven - soon you will be saying, stop! stop! as I regale you with more and more ;)

Tabor - at one point when I was writing a human interest column for the newspaper and stories such as this would creep in, my brother absolutely forbid me to write anything about him as he said I had everything all wrong!

Reya Mellicker said...

It's not selfish to be a child! Aww you were sweet and feral, like every other toddler.

The picture is awesome! What fin.

Hilary said...

Pauline: She's older by 4 years. And yes, she wanted a fire truck very badly. :)

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

My second daughter came out yelling and didn't stop for a year . Her big sister would haul ot the biscuit tin and suggest giving her a biscuit .
I didn't , but eldest and I got through an alarming number of McVities Digestive before the year was up !

Pauline said...

Reya - I was a terror according to all counts.

Hilary - did she ever get one despite the fact that your folks kept you?

SAS - I've known a number of families who say the second child was their biggest challenge! Thanks for stopping by.

Marion said...

I love your stories. Just love them. This one is so funny, I really love the look on your brother's face when you came home from the hospital, haha!

I certainly wanted to trade in my younger sister and would easily have taken a dollar for her, ha!

I think this is the best project and one I'd like to do. You are so lucky to have photos. I have the bare minimum, but each one has a story behind it as well. I understand about the slow-going...xx

Barbara Shallue said...

That photo (and the memory that goes with it) are priceless! How wonderful that you're taking the time to get these down.

Judith said...

You do look JUST like your mother --- as you do in other photos.

No one ever offered me a cent for my baby sister. I would have snapped it up.