Tyler came home from Vietnam in 1969 because his twins were born quite premature and very tiny. Two little boys fighting to breathe while their lungs developed. They weighed two something and one something and it was not thought that they would live. Tyler, who had spent his time in Vietnam in the motor pool thanks to the many hours spent with Hobart with his head under a car hood, was released on a hardship discharge. Even though he was not a combat troop, he had seen enough to last a lifetime and did not want to talk about it. The winter was spent visiting the hospital and waiting for the twins to add weight. Sara, always an anxious woman, held up remarkably well once Tyler got home. One twin was a great concern to the doctors; they were quite negative about his chances.
This was the first Taylor family crisis in which life and death of an infant was involved. My mom and dad had friends whose young daughter was killed in a farm accident and our favorite aunt died of kidney disease. But these guys were babies and they were Tyler’s babies. The Taylors rallied to help Tyler and Sara by lavishing lots of home cooking, love, and attention on them.
By summer the twins were both home and doing very well. They were curly blonds like Tyler had been and their intelligence was already obvious. Tyler and Sara bought a mobile home and some land out in the same sticks where Annie’s family lived.
Gertie and Jason also had a boy, also curly blond hair, but much chubbier – a very smiley social butterfly who had charmed his way into all our hearts. I was the only one of the first four without a husband and a child and Augusta was feeling it. One day she tried to fix me up with a poor, unsuspecting door-to-door pots and pans salesman. I still insisted that I was not interested in marriage or children, but to Augusta this was just some poor self-image denial crap. A life without marriage and children was unfathomable to her. Luke we did not talk about.
With four babies, well three newborns and one toddler, Sundays were one long baby fest. I did love all my nephews and my niece and clamored to hold them just like all my sisters and my mom did. They never touched the floor when they were at gramma’s. As soon as one person looked ready to set a child down, a new set of arms appeared to whisk the child away.
It was the summer of the above ground pool. Everyone decided we would finally get a swimming pool so Hobart picked up a kit for an 8-foot diameter pool. An 8-foot circle had be cleared, although a spot was chosen that took advantage of whatever grassless spots were left. All stones had to be cleared from the space and sand laid down and raked out level. Then the plastic retaining wall could be put together, the liner smoothed into place, and the caps that held the liner could be snapped over the liner. The filter was assembled and placed but would not be turned on until the pool was full. This project was much easier than the cellar wall project and was actually completed in one Sunday. The guys, Dean, Tyler, Jason and Robert got quite drunk on beer. Hobart was grouchy and disapproving. By the end of the day the hose was in the pool, the babies were cranky and Hobart was somewhat mollified with a good barbecue.
Sundays that summer were spent in the pool and the backyard, although the moms, Felicity, Gertie, and Sara, spent most of their time watching babies and helping with lunch and dinner. The guys spent most of their time working on cars, standing around with beers, belching, farting, getting hot and sweaty, and finally jumping in the pool. Sometimes they got a little too fried and threw women in the pool who were not even dressed for swimming. Hobart knew his sons liked their beers, but he never realized how much until drinking was not intermixed with work, but instead with recreation and hijinks. It was obvious that Hobart regretted putting up that pool.
The Taylors started to have arguments about child rearing. After all there were three new adults in the family who had not been raised in the Taylor household. Dean had spent a lot of time at our house as a teenager and he also grew up in Smithvale, but his mom was a stern no-nonsense kind of woman. He did not have brother, just three sisters. Felicity and Dean did not always see eye-to-eye where Abby was concerned, Felicity coming down on the side of being at the baby’s beck and call, Dean on the side of letting the child cry sometimes. The Taylors were not sympathetic to Dean. Sara was just a plain fuss-budget, perfectly reasonable probably considering the boys had almost died, but still miles away from the laid back Taylor style. She had the number for Poison Control memorized, and, if speed dial had been available then, the number would have been programmed in. Gertie’s Jason was from a very dysfunctional family and he was a Southern boy. He still talked about rebels and Yankees and nothing Gertie did with his son satisfied him. (He did think of the baby as “his”.) The Taylor clan absorbed the newcomers, but was altered by them. There is nothing like a big, friendly family, though, and we changed them too.
Robert was also showing signs of settling down. One of Morgan’s friends was hanging around and Robert was not pushing this Ellen girl away. He was embarrassed about it, God forbid anyone should tease him (Mr. Torture), but when they thought they could avoid notice by the big mouths (Tyler, Dean and Jason) they say side-by-side on the couch, not saying much, but obviously intent on proximity.
My life had nothing in common with my brothers and sisters lives. They had no idea how my life went from day to day and I’m sure they did not want to know. I liked my life but I knew better than to share too many of the details. Obviously, they knew Annie and had met Linda. They knew about Lena by reputation, but had never met her, and they knew Luke because he used to hang out with Robert. They knew about my losing my job and about the Austin Healey, but we did not discuss the job search I was supposed to be conducting or how I was paying for the car. I suspected they talked about me a lot when I wasn’t around.
When I was home with the Taylors, however, I did as the Taylors did. If I arrived stoned, I left straight, not being a big drinker. I held babies, discussed babies, cooked, set tables, did dishes and swam like everyone else. But I didn’t fit in like everyone else and I thought they were the backward ones, the ones who were marching out of tune with the times. And even though I didn’t fit in, I kept going home, not wanting to completely surrender my membership in the Taylor clan. And I wouldn’t have missed the babies for anything, but I would have been happy to miss Augusta’s concern and Hobart’s disregard.I was in the 60’s, but my family was still in the 50’s. And I knew how to inhale.