In the Beginning
During my first sixteen months on earth, I was the apple of my parents' eyes. I was number one, the first-born, slightly defective, but still pretty cute, brown-eyed and blond. Then, along came Judy. Judy, with her dark curly hair, big blue eyes, dimples, perfect little mouth...pretty and cute. I was yesterday's news, old before my time, consigned to the sidelines. Judy was serene, happily accepting the parental devotion heaped upon her. Strangers stopped my mother on the street, just to exclaim over the perfection of the "little doll," while I hung onto mommy's skirt, twisting my tongue into a knot.
Still, I had it better than Marilyn, number three, the third girl born in two and a half years, when Daddy had wanted a boy, and Mommy had wanted to stop the baby parade after Judy was born. Mommy persuaded the doctor to remove her overly fruitful uterus, shortly after Marilyn's birth. There would be no additional pesky kids, robbing her of her youth and freedom. Not that Marilyn made many demands. She lay in her crib, smiling happily in response to any shred of attention paid her, requesting no more than Mom was willing to give, which was very little. Mom was very busy visiting with other young housewives in the neighborhood, drinking lots of coffee and discussing the inadequacies of her husband and her life in general. Then Daddy would come home from his job in the Oakland shipyard, find Marilyn lying in her crib, with an overflowing diaper, and yell at Mom for not taking care of the baby. I remember him holding the baby in the bathroom sink, rinsing her off under the faucet. Mom would yell back at him, asking him how he'd like it if he were stuck in the house all day with a bunch of kids and nothing to do except housework. Then he would say how it sure didn't look like she had been doing any housework, and just what did she do all day, anyway?
During one of these oft-repeated discussions, I saw little Judy heading for the open front door. Since the adults were not paying attention, I decided that I should administer some much-needed discipline. I grabbed a candlestick from its holder and proceeded to whack her on the head until she stopped walking and started crying. Those big, blue eyes were overflowing, by the time Mommy and Daddy heard the ruckus. And, in the first of many unjust reactions to my earnest attempts to improve my sister's behavior, I got a spanking, while the miscreant was comforted.
Housing in the Bay area was tight, and Dad decided to make a little extra money, by renting out our third bedroom. Marge and Elaine became part of our little family. At that point, two sailors became frequent visitors to our house. I thought they were very handsome, with their bell-bottomed trousers and white caps. They were Alf and Harold, Daddy's cousins, who were stationed in San Francisco. They quickly hooked up with Elaine and Marge, and romance was in the air. Mommy talked a lot with Elaine and Marge, and sometimes there were more than two sailors in the house, and sometimes Mommy went for drives with the sailors. Mommy and Daddy fought a lot, and Daddy said that if she could go for drives with sailors, maybe he should go for drives with Marge. I just wished they would stop fighting and that someone would change Marilyn's diaper, because she didn't smell so good.