• MJ Rodriguez

Living Poor: Oh The Fun We Had

Backyard gatherings with lots of conversation!

Having so many siblings was such fun!  I remember one time when I decided that so many brothers and sisters was a drag.  I had seen that other kids had things I could not have—material things—and I thought how nice it would be to have more money so that I could have more things.  My reasoning was that if my family had fewer kids, then we would have more money.

I started with my oldest sibling that was still home (by now some of the older ones were married with families of their own) to decide which one I would wish away.  As I went down the line, I realized that I would never wish away any of them!  They were all important, each with his or her own value in my life.  It was then I realized that material things could never take the place of my family. I guess I grew up a little that day.  So I couldn't have a lot of things other kids had!  I had something many of them didn't have, and that was a close-knit family unit.

With so many in our family, we had such fun!  For some unknown reason we never had a TV (I guess we couldn't afford one), so we played together and conversed. We read, we listened to music on the radio, and we played our own music.  Dad played the guitar and sang, and four of us girls played music and we all sang harmony.  A couple of the boys also played guitars and sang.

Before I was ten, behind our house was what we called the ‘bottoms’.  The area was low, and a river ran through not far away.  Sometimes during the winter months the river would flood and the bottoms was covered with shallow water which froze.  The older kids built wooden sleds which were just long and wide enough for the torso.  They made picks from a 2-3 inch long piece of a limb that was about 1.2 inches in diameter with a nail sticking out one end.  We lay on our stomachs on the sleds and pulled ourselves over the ice with the picks. Zipping in and out between the trees, chasing each other over the shallow ice was such fun!  Neighbor kids participated and cold days were spent sledding in the bottoms! 

Then when we moved to the hills, we used the same method of sledding on the creek when it froze over.

Annie-Over was a favorite game, especially in the evening just before dusk.  We divided into two teams and stationed on opposite sides of the house.  Using a ball (preferably a soft ball or a tennis ball), one team started by yelling, Annie-Over, after which a team member would throw the ball over the house.  If the opposing team caught the ball, they ran to the other side of the house, chasing the other team.  Anyone caught was added to the team who caught the ball until no one else was left on one team.  The one with the most on the team won the game.

My sisters were older than me, so I was in the middle of all the boys.  We had so much fun playing in the woods, in the creek and around our country home.  We built a dam in the creek using rocks, sticks and sand, and finally had a hole deep enough to swim.  The boys hogged fish from under roots and rocks (I was afraid of pulling out a snake, so I abstained from that activity), and we jumped from a small bridge which crossed the creek on our property, grabbed the top of a sapling on the way down, and swung into the creek several feet below.

Across from our house a steep bluff rose almost out of the creek.  Soon after we moved to this place, we discovered that the side of the bluff was made of red sand, making it soft for a landing place.  We learned to jump off the top of the bluff onto the soft sand and slide to the bottom.  Even though our clothes were stained red from the sand, our parents never stopped us from playing there.  Needless to say, we were all very fit and healthy.

As I look back, I realize that we were very rich as we played together and enjoyed each other.  And I realize how fortunate we were to have parents who loved us and allowed us to be children while teaching us strong work ethics and high values.   Poor or not, what fun we had!

Years later the five girls still enjoyed a time of singing together.

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