From an early age, I was dubbed “the little mother”. What a label to pin upon a girl who would later grow up wanting a college education, not a brood of her own. I was the little mother; the one most likely to respond to someone who needed care of some kind or another. I wasn’t an animal lover. In fact, fur gave me the creeps as did anything that slithered. How easy it was to think I could be good with kids. I was extremely proficient with my nieces and nephews; strict, in fact. But this was still no true indication that I wanted to be housebound with four children some day, worrying about their schooling and social activities in anything like the hot climate of the Sixties.
The older siblings had followed in the family footprint: the elder daughter had married and become a housewife; the only son had learned the family trade. It may have been the Sixties in America, but in our household we were still just “off the boat”; to suggest other than the patriarchal path laid out before you was to be quickly dismissed, often implying an unacceptability of some ethereal, mysterious sort.
I was an exceptional student who was floundering through my teenage years, engaged in the routine tasks and expectations of the household. Our family ethics demanded good behavior, common sense, and perfection; these were not multiple-choice goals. Right and wrong were clearly defined on either side of our front door. I decided to keep my career dreams among friends, favorite teachers and kind, forward-thinking counselors. Better to remain obedient and under the radar until absolutely necessary. Hopefully by then, the fatherly support would come around.
In the meantime, my attentions were normally upon little toddlers or men over fifty, either of whom I soon learned were extremely appreciative of a young girl’s loving and trusting nature.