Ballo One and me Christmas 1953
Ballo One and me 1953

I had a completely charmed childhood.  A happy family, a prosperous time in America in the 1950’s and 60’s, no health problems.  It was like living a fantasy.  What a blessing!  I know how fortunate I was, and still am…

My brother Ray was almost three years older than I was.  He was the only fly in the ointment. He was my nemesis.  He tortured me constantly: jumping out at me from the ledge on the stairs, making scary noises at night, pinching me, stuff like that.  Nothing monumental.  And I got back at him.  I was a major tattletale, I’m sorry to say.

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Our family was fortunate.  We were able to go on vacation every year.  When I was little, we went to Myrtle Beach,  South Carolina, with either Gloria, who is pictured below with me, or her sister Juanita. But once I was about eight, we always camped and went to the East one year and the West the next.  By the time I was a teenager, I had been to almost every state, except the West Coast, and to most of the Canadian provinces, although not the far North or British Columbia.  When I was in college, we went to Mexico several times to build a school, but that’s a story for another day.

My mother employed college girls as mother’s helpers from the time I was very young.  Three of them were sisters who were each five years apart:  Gloria, Juanita and Josie.  Between Gloria and Juanita was a non-sister, Evelyn.  I shared my room with each mother’s helper, which I enjoyed.  The company, especially at night, was comforting and also enjoyable because I plied each of them to tell me about their lives.  Fascinating for a little girl to hear about the lives of college girls.  I hero-worshiped them.

But Josie was another story.  I met her when I was five and she was ten.  Gloria, Josie’s oldest sister, ten years older than she, was getting married, and I was Gloria’s flower girl.  Josie and I immediately recognized each other as kindred spirits.  We formed a very close friendship that has lasted the rest of our lives and stood the test of geographical separation and a major rift between Josie and my mother.  Josie is truly and really my Best Friend Forever.

me with Josie
Josie and me

Things changed in our family, though, as they always do in life.  Eight years after I was born, my mother gave birth to a surprise baby, my brother Tom.  At the same time we moved from town to the farm.

Josie Helm, Juanita Helm, brother Ray and Tom and me at Christmas ca. 1960
Josie, baby Tom, Juanita, Ray and me, Christmas 1960

Seven years after Tom was born, my mother had a GIANT surprise, given the fact that she had had her tubes tied with Tom’s birth: my youngest brother Chris came along.  He is fifteen years younger than me, and eighteen years younger than our older brother Ray.

Another big change was in Ray’s and my relationship.  When he turned 16 and was able to drive, my parents wouldn’t let him go out on weekend nights without me as chaperone.  Which meant that we double-dated, Ray with Suzi Brown and me with David Borton.

After that, Ray and I became very close.  It was us against the parental units.  We got our stories straight as to where we’d gone and what we’d done, to avoid the censure of or punishment by our parents (mostly our mother).  But the story of my teen years must wait for another time…  This post is about childhood.

big brother Ray and Timi in diapers
Ray and me 1952