Progression run today, I was thinking about cool and groovy.
Another decade had passed and the 1970s were quickly approaching. In 1967, the family had moved to a house in Mt. Prospect. As the 70s began, there was a disruption in the “FORCE”. The family was very unsteady and uneven with four girls and five boys. Dinners were conducted at a long table that came from the convent across the street. This table resembled a long, board of directors, conference table. There was a time in my life when mom, dad, and all nine children would gather around the table for dinner every single night. The boys knew that they were the majority and when any issue needed to be discussed, partisan-politics ruled the day. This frustrated the girls considerably. Issues like: Where should we go for a picnic this weekend? What color should we paint the basement stairs? Should we go to 9:30 or 11:15 mass this Sunday? Enthusiastic discussions about a topic were usually followed by a vote, which the boys always won.
Something had to give. There was no doubt that the girls were under-represented and some thought that the balance had to change. Partisan politics were eating at the fabric of the family. Nobody was happy with the uneven balance. Mom was the first to notice that things were about to change. The morning sickness started in late 1969 and she began to hope for a Jennifer, the name that had eluded her through nine children. She started to make the subtle suggestions which turned to adamant demands. Dad’s demands were simple and needed no discussion.
With the 70s in full swing and summer approaching, my mother was waiting for a baby. Things were not as groovy as they could have been. Nobody in the family ever knew whether it was a boy or a girl but there was much speculation. At the board of directors table one night during dinner one of the girls exclaimed that a chance encounter with a fortune-teller at the bakery today predicted mom was going to have a girl. This was roundly dismissed by the males at the table and even countered with an ad-hoc story of a balloon salesman that gave mom a blue balloon for free. This could mean only one thing, the balance of power would go to super-majority in favor of the boys. Speculation and innuendo ran amok. My mother was vociferous in not only the baby being a girl but the girl being a Jennifer. She had gone as far as to say, even if it was a boy, it would still be Jennifer. July of 1970 was approaching and the issue would be settled once and for all. JPD boldly proclaimed that “A house divided cannot stand”, we were going to have to work together. The girls huffed and the boys puffed. My mom stewed and JPD sensed dissention in the ranks.
A very hot July was doubly uncomfortable because of the lack of central air in the house. The upstairs was like a Mississippi state prison, one of the brothers fashioned himself after “Cool Hand Luke”. The baby was due at the end of July and the baby could not come soon enough. July turned to August and still, no baby. Michael K. the friendly deacon from the rectory across the street came over almost every day to ask mom if today was the day. By August 15th, mom was ready to tell the nice deacon that today was the day to jump in a lake. She was too nice to tell him anything but the whole neighborhood was thinking about the birth day.
Conversations with Dr. H from Resurrection Hospital assured mom that all was fine and even though he was the head honcho at Resurrection, he would be the doctor for the delivery at Lutheran General. Mom had no clout at Lutheran. She was working up a long term plan to change this but in the short term she would have to toe the line.
August 17, 1970 dawned hot and humid. The boys were holding their slight majority and the girls were hoping for a new day to dawn. It was a Monday and plans had been in place to get mom to the hospital. When mom’s water broke early they jumped in the car and drove to Lutheran General. This was not the normal labor, it took a little longer. Mom was ready throw the doctor out the window when he recounted his recent trip to Tuscany for the fifth time. The baby was trying to create some additional drama to the three week wait drama that the baby had already created. The tension was palpable.
Finally the baby was born and mom triumphantly exclaimed “it’s a girl”! I remember distinctly that there was a lunar eclipse the night before. This was proof positive that the planets were coming back into line. What about the name? There were now five girls and five boys in the family. The boys were secretly relieved to give up the responsibility of the majority and the girls were elated to regain parity. The children immediately vowed to work together and the family began to function again. JPD was insisting that this little girl be named after his own mother, Margaret. Mom wanted Jennifer but eventually relented to create peace on I-Oka Street once and for all.
Margaret Mary was born into this world and brought symmetry back to the family. Things were cool and groovy again. When mom was shown the door after only two days at the hospital, she vowed that she would be back. Mom achieved her goal when, after having ten children, studied very hard and became a nurse. She worked for many decades with the OB GYNs at Lutheran General Hospital. Everyone immediately adopted the name Meg for the sweet little baby and she was now the baby of the family. Children from all over the neighborhood descended on our driveway as the baby arrived back “home”. Margaret Mary was quickly adopted by all the children as the baby of the neighborhood. You had to reserve the right to push the stroller weeks in advance. Margaret Mary was appropriately named after dad’s mom and sister because every time she smiled she reminded everyone of their favorite Margaret. Everyone, neighbors, friends, family or total strangers treated Meg as their very own. She remains the baby of the family to this day.
The baby of the family. Favorite song today, The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy) performed by Simon and Garfunkel.