Mom went to work for IRS as a seasonal worker when I was five. She worked swing shifts for a few months out of the year. I hated it when Mom was gone to work. But she would bring us little treats from the vending machines each Friday night. They would be on the kitchen counter when we got up to watch Saturday morning cartoons while Mom & Dad slept in a bit. The whole purpose of Mom’s employment was to finance a trip back to Germany.
The fall that I turned eight, the trip to Germany became possible, thanks to some families in our LDS ward. One day four families approached my parents and said that they had talked it over, and that each family would take one of us boys while Mom & Dad went to visit Dad’s family for a month. Mom & Dad were overwhelmed by this generous offer.
Dad & Mom arranged with a Volkswagen dealer to pay for a fire engine red VW Bug that they would pick up at the factory in Germany. They drove the Bug around during their stay in Europe, and then they shipped it home. I missed my parents while they were gone. The wife and mother in my host family was a school teacher that made me and her kids go to bed at 8:00 PM every night.
Our host families mowed and watered my parents’ yard. They also cleaned the home and restocked the pantry and fridge before Mom & Dad returned home. We had difficulty getting to bed the night Mom & Dad returned, but the next day was school. I still remember the distinct European scent of the items Mom & Dad brought back. Dad wanted us to get to bed, so he finally yelled at us, but it was in German. We got a laugh out of that. Mom made the four of us wear lederhosen shorts to school the next day. It wasn’t so bad for me, but it must have been harsh for my oldest brother that was in sixth grade.
My oldest brother got a newspaper route when I was 10. For the next decade, our family had one or two newspaper routes. It was a great source of learning and income for us boys, but it was truly a major pain in the tail. Sometimes Dad would take us out delivering papers in our 1969 VW Bug, especially when the weather was quite bad or when we had really huge newspapers. Sometimes we’d stand on the running boards while riding between houses. The safety Nazis would freak out about that nowadays.
When I was 15, my two older brothers spent the summer working in Hawaii planting pineapples. It seemed like such a fantastic adventure that I wanted to go. After the summer, my oldest brother went on a mission to Germany. Sometime in late winter, my parents sat the rest of us down after breakfast one Saturday morning and told us that Mom was pregnant. We were stunned. Mom said that she was initially stunned as well. Dad informed us that this meant that we would be taking a larger role in the household chores.
One day Dad was in a meeting in Salt Lake City for work when he developed an awful pain. He didn’t know what to do, so he left the meeting and started driving. He ended up driving home and honking until we came out. When Mom saw his condition, she got Dad into the back seat and had my brother shuttle her and Dad to the hospital. It turned out that he had a kidney stone. Life was pretty awful for Dad until he passed the stone.
The following summer, I ended up going to Hawaii to plant pineapples. I hated it. I endured, but there was nothing that would have gotten me to do it again. In the middle of June, I got a telegram saying that I had a new baby brother and that all was well. By the time I got home, Mom was working full time. I did a lot of child care. The next two summers I worked on the staff of Camp Loll, a Boy Scout camp up in the Tetons. During this time, my oldest brother returned from Germany and my older brother went on a mission to Finland.
The night before I was to leave on my mission to Norway, Dad pulled me aside and said that I looked like I was experiencing the same kind of anxiety that soldiers face before going into battle for the first time. While I was in the MTC, my parents took my baby brother with them to Germany, where they met my brother that was returning from Finland. They were able to spend some time with the German side of the family for the first time in years.
After I returned from Norway and went back to college, my younger brother went on a mission to Japan. All of these missions cost money, and my folks footed most of the bill for each of us. Dad worked a lot of overtime to make this all work out, but somehow it all worked out.
Next time I’ll write about the transition to being grandparents.