My father and mother were basking in the glow of their first year of marriage. They were sitting on the porch sipping lemonade when my mom announced lovingly, “I’m already sick of looking at you. Let’s have a kid.”
Dad answered, “Ditto.”
My mom wanted a girl. I know this because they originally wanted only one kid. It was a boy. The second one was a boy. The third was a boy. That was me. They should have stopped there because, well, they had achieved perfection. They kept going.
The fourth baby was a boy. After that, my mom acted like she was at the craps table, throwing the dice hard, yelling, “Come on, daddy, give momma an X chromosome!”
On the fifth try they conceived a beautiful girl. I showed my love for my new sister by dumping a box of blocks on her head. My dad was exhausted.
My mom immediately said, “I want another girl.”
After they brought my father out of his coma, he obliged with the proper chromosome delivery and my mom had another girl. I showed my love for my newest sister by dumping a box of blocks on her head.
A big family is a drain on resources. My dad made sure you took quick showers. As soon as he heard the water running he would get out his bullhorn and stand outside the door.
“Attention! You in the shower! Hurry up! In and out of the shower like a marine!”
In the 17 years I lived at home I never got a full rinse. It wasn’t until I went to college that I got all the shampoo out of my eyes.
We consumed more food than many small nations. Safeway delivered right to our house. Phil, the delivery guy, would back his eighteen wheeler right up to our garage. My brothers and I drove forklifts into the trailer and moved pallet after pallet of bread, cereal, hamburger, fish sticks (no meat on Friday) and lots and lots and lots of milk — one year we got a letter of thanks from the governor of Wisconsin.
One rule of surviving a big family — if food is being served, shut up. You talk, you don’t eat. Somehow I never learned this rule. I’m a comedian. I liked sitting down to dinner because there was a built-in audience. “You wouldn’t believe what I did today…blah, blah, blah.” But by the time I finished with my sit-down comedy there was no food left except 5 peas and some canned cranberry slices that looked like hockey pucks.
Everyone had left the table to watch Walt Disney. Kippur, our mutt dog, would put her head on my leg. And I’m still talking. The dog is thinking, “Shut up with the stupid stories. You think you have problems. I’m a dog and I’m begging for a lousy cranberry slice shaped like a hockey puck from a hack comedian.”
Many people think Catholics have big families. This is partly because Catholics have big families. In our parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Acne, the average family had five to seven kids. Once in a while you’d meet a kid with only one brother or sister and you’d feel sorry for them. God was probably mad at them- maybe they didn’t pay their Knights of Columbus dues.
The Feehans had 7 kids, all boys. If Mrs. Feehan didn’t earn a special place in heaven for trying to raise those delinquents, there is no God. The twins, Matthew and Tommy, were my age. One day in fourth grade we were on a school bus returning from a field trip. The Feehan twins talked me into helping them throw BB’s at our classmates. One of us beaned Mrs. Ferguson, the teacher.
She hauled us in to the principal. After a short tribunal, he proclaimed us guilty of “being stupid.” One at a time he smashed a thick rubber strap on our open palms, four times per hand. My hands were mangled.
I didn’t mind the corporal punishment — I was used to that at home. But he ruined the pro golf career I knew was my ultimate destiny. That is, if I didn’t get into the NHL.
I’m still waiting to be called up.