1950 Memories of Suburban Adventures

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Baby Doll

A big change was coming to our family. Well, actually the object of the big change was tiny. Mom was having a baby. At age fifteen and a half I couldn’t wait to baby-sit.

We didn’t need to guess the baby’s birth date because Mom was having a cesarean delivery. The five of us plus Great-aunt Mary wrote our weight and sex guesses in between the open studs of the hallway wall. It was also an extremely handy place for writing phone numbers and notes. This convenience ended when Daddy-O sheet-rocked and painted the hall.

Dad and David wanted a boy to even the odds. Susan and I thought another girl would be great. Mom and Aunt Mary didn’t care about the gender as long as it was healthy, but I suspected Mom leaned toward a boy. This worried me since it seemed like her vote carried more weight. And the only name Mom had picked out was Paul Lee.

Mom worked full-time, and in 1965 at age thirty-seven was considered an older mother. Being pregnant at her age was almost scandalous.

Mom and Dad left for the hospital after Thanksgiving dinner at Aunt Nellie’s. Great-Aunt Mary, David, Susan, and I woke up early the following morning, watched television distractedly, and waiting anxiously for Dad’s phone call.

1965: Me, Dad, Mom, Paula, Susan, David

1965: Me, Dad, Mom, Paula, Susan, David

It became apparent that Mom still lacked imagination in the name department. Paul Lee was quickly converted to Paula Lee. Susan and I got our female baby.

I loved rocking and feeding my baby sister. I sang to her until I was hoarse and Mom loved having me do this. Little Paula had no choice. My off-key singing did not corrupt her and she later had a lovely voice.

Unfortunately her bowel movements were not so lovely. They started out normal and I helped change her cloth diapers. She quickly became allergic to cow milk and switched to soy. Her poopy soy diapers smelled worse than grass silage, making breathing hazardous near her changing table. Two months later her allergy subsided, soy was discontinued, and I resumed helping with poopy diaper duty.

A light sleeper, I woke up if a pin dropped. Paula’s nursery was right beside my bedroom and occupied what later became our upstairs bathroom. When she cried at night I jumped to check her diaper, give her a bottle, and rock her back to sleep.

After school I overheard Mom on the phone with one of her sisters. “I don’t know what I’d do without Mary’s help.”

My heart swelled with pride and I kept my ears tuned for Paula’s cry.

Lesson learned: Recognition and gratitude spoken to the recipient is warmly appreciated, but when it’s spoken to a third party and overheard, the recipient glows.

Related posts: Chapter Five: Name Game

Now it’s your turn: Did you have a much younger sibling?

© Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures, 2012 forward. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Yes, Mary, I had a very similar experience. My mother and bio-dad were divorced when I was maybe 5. She remarried when I was about 11. When I was nearly 15, she and my dad (step dad) had my baby sister, Maria. I adored her and, like you, loved caring for her. When mother went back to work, I babysat all that summer until school started in the fall. All my friends at school thought I was very lucky to have an adorable baby sister, and I agreed wholeheartedly!!

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Anon, in 1968 I called Paula our little Love Child, since that was a popular song by the Supremes then.
      Susan was nine years younger and I liked doing extra school-type work with her. My plan was to turn her into the scholar I should have been.

  2. I loved that lesson at the end. What a lovely older sister you were. And I’m sure, still are.

  3. That’s sweet! I was too young to remember my younger sister being born, but I have helped take care of many nieces and nephews over the years (some who have lived with me). I loved to take care of them and still do.

  4. Sunni Morris says:

    There were seven of us in nine years time so as the oldest, I suppose the youngest would be a lot younger than me. When I left home he was about 8 and my youngest sister was 9.

    You should be doing the A to Z challenge right now with all these stories. I signed up and am doing family stories for the month of April.


    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Sunni, when I was a junior in college, Paula was starting Kindergarten. I’m sure you have found this to be true too: no matter how old we get, we still treat the younger siblings as older children or young adults, and not as the parents or grandparents they have become.

  5. roberttozer says:

    Mary…lesson learned: If you’re feeling blue check out Mary’s 1950’s Memories, and she’ll quickly remedy that situation. Although, I hope your title: 1950 Memories of Suburban Adventures is the more accurate one. I’m now expecting some 1900 more fun, light-hearted, and thought provoking insights from you.
    If you were listening to one of my calls last night to my friend in Toronto, you would’ve overheard: “I’ve sent you a link to this really cool blog site. You’ve got to read her stuff. She’ll make you feel like you did when you watched the “Wonder Years” all those years ago.”
    Cheers, Mary. Here’s to another great story!

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Thank you so much, Robert. What a great compliment to start a Monday with. I don’t know how thought provoking you’ll find my dating years. People usually just bug their eyes out and shake their heads.

  6. Morguie says:

    So you no doubt turned into a natural at being a mom yourself, with that dedication and vigilance! Bravo! As for much younger (surprise babies) siblings in our family, NO! Mom had a very difficult time through both my sis and I before and during the births. In fact, it was urged that she have tubal ligation after my sis was born…and that for my mom was the beginning of many years of her refraining from receiving the Sacraments in her beloved Catholic religion. She finally spoke to a priest once the dark ages were officially over (197?) and she was exempted from the eternal fires of hell for the life-saving birth control that was imposed via the TL . Mom was a supervising nurse at a correctional institution infirmary most of her worklife…translated: think ‘drill sergeant’ which wasn’t the most maternal disposition anyway. She developed her best maternal skills with MY girls. AMAZING. Hard to believe little grandbabies could do that!
    Even I couldn’t bear to babysit other ppl’s kids when I was a teen…yick!!!! I chose mowing lawns, walking dogs, CLEANING up dog-doo for my extra spending money as a youngster…tackling the job of tending kids was the LAST resort! Glad I got over all that…the minute I gave birth to my first girl. Been a mushy kissy, Mommy-to-all who may need a mommy, even those who aren’t mine but have less than a good one of their own to watch over them. Now a Grammie, too, so I get to do it again, sorta. 😉
    And egads, thankfully my mister has been ‘fixed’ because I am still fertile at 49!
    Womb for rent? Hmmm.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      CJ, I agree that once you have a child the maternal instincts kick in overtime. I’m getting my first grandchild next Monday (C-section). A little boy! I can’t wait. And believe me, my four children have made me wait. I thought I’d be in a hover-round by the time I got a grandchild!

      • Morguie says:

        Lol! Congratulations!!!!! Grandmas are super-heroes, you know. Can do NO WRONG in the eyes of those kids…at least for the first 5-7 years…it’s great!
        So excited for you! And your sweet baby boy! YAY! Welcome to Grandma Club!
        For what it’s worth I actually commanded my children that I should only become a Grandma when I actually looked like Granny from Bev Hillbillies! Might as well have talked to the wind, because I have been a Grammie for 6.5 years almost. At least I am able to keep up with the little guys still!!

  7. I have two younger sisters and I enjoyed taking care of them too, though I never got up in the middle of the night! It has also been fun to see my older daughter enjoy being a big sister to Molly. Big sisters rock!

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Yes, Molly, and older sisters get to be boss! Not that I ever took advantage of that. I actually made them do favors for me in order to get the privilege of shaving my legs with my electric razor. Oh, for the good old days, ha ha!

  8. Elle Knowles says:

    There was only eight years between my younger sister and myself, but eight years was a lot as I grew older. With two sisters older than me I think I was the one ‘chosen’ to babysit. They had better things to do! I didn’t resent it though. It has kept us close.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Elle, you’re right. My two sisters and I are very close despite the age difference. Once I had my own home they liked coming to spend the night.

  9. e m bahnsen says:

    Oh, my, how similar our lives are at times. My ‘baby sister’ will be – gasp! – 40 this year. My three sisters and I were THRILLED with the arrival of another sister; my only brother, however, was not. When he heard he had another sister, he ran upstairs to his bedroom (he was the only one in our family to have his own room) and slammed the door.

    Nonetheless, we helped my aging parents (Mom was 38; Dad was 40…who seemed young to me at my age of 11) with Jennifer. We played with her, we bathed her, we dressed her up like a doll, and took her for walks.

    I’m thankful that we are still so close. Thank you for sharing another delightful story!…..Ellen

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      EM, it’s interesting how back in the 1950s and 1960s the late 30s were considered waaay too old to continue having children. Now it’s not unusual to start having children at that age. I was 36 when I had my first, in 1986, and was an older mother but not considered scandalous.
      My four children are within 4 years from oldest to youngest, so the youngest was treated more like a pest by her siblings while growing up.

  10. spunkybong says:

    I have made up my mind to speak to a third party about you. Just ta make you feel good. Whom do you want me to talk ta? 😀

  11. chsuresh63 says:

    Haha! And it also proves that it is not every time that the adage holds true – that eavesdroppers never hear good about themselves 🙂

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Yes, Suresh, and I wasn’t intentionally eavesdropping (this time). I just happened to over hear my mother. Now that I think about it (40 years later) maybe she meant me to hear her.

  12. Slo-Man says:

    maybe the Slo-man’s hearing is faulty because he has never managed to overhear anything about him, good or bad… 😦

  13. Thank you, Mary for my grand entrance story! 🙂 Paige was reading it aloud at the dinner table on Sunday, while Dad and Vivian were over for dinner, and Dad commented, stating that Dave was quite disappointed he was going to have another sister, and Dad said he told David “you’ll change your mind when you see her,” Then Dad got choked up as he told me Dave said “you’re right, she’s beautiful..” makes me tear up just telling you about it… ~Paula ❤

  14. Alas no, I was an only child. I had to wait until I had my own children before I could enjoy that wonderful 2-in-the-morning daiper experience.

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