As the oldest, I had more responsibility than the other kids. When we were little, I sometimes made them breakfast, and as we got older I had to babysit them a lot. When we went on trips, I had to pack the luggage for the entire family into the truck, and it often seemed like most of the big chores fell to me.
I received a few perks for this. I usually got the best seat in the car, I got to stay up late playing games, plus I could hang out with the adults and listen to them talking. On most Sunday nights after church Mom and Dad would go to someone’s house and much of the time I opted to sit around the table and listen to them talk. I didn’t want to play with the “little” kids, but I sure felt important listening to Dad talk about stuff.
Growing up, it was so much fun having brothers and sisters. I believe that living in a household with siblings allows you to be successful later in life because it teaches you to survive, share and get along. Not to say that being an only child is bad, but having brothers and sisters does make playing, moving, working and traveling a lot more fun.
I take great comfort in knowing that I have three other people in this world who will always be there for me no matter what happens, and I hope the same is true for them.
Lottie is two years younger than me, and she is very strong-willed. We constantly fought when we were kids and she got me into plenty of trouble. Nobody talked back to Dad, except Lottie. I used to be amazed at the things she could say to him without getting in trouble. If I even rolled my eyes or did anything to suggest an attitude, he would have killed me. But Lottie would argue with Dad and sometimes even win! I will never understand how she managed it.
When she was little, Lottie sucked her thumb and pulled her hair out until she was six. There are a few photos that show her completely bald because of this habit. After she lost all of her hair, she would be sitting and watching TV, sucking her thumb and pulling out tufts of carpet to rub against her face. Who knows why she did it.
As much as she talks now, you would not believe that Lottie had a lisp when she was little. When she was sleeping, she moved all over the bed and would kick anything close to her. When we lived in the pig house, which you’ll read about later, almost every night she would wake me up with a kick, and she was constantly grinding her teeth while she was slept.
I was bigger than her and fought with her a lot, but I was not allowed to wrestle or hurt her. She knew just how to cry and yell and tell Dad I’d hit her, which got me into a lot of trouble. I would tell Dad, “I didn’t touch her,” but he would look at me and say, “She is a girl and you have to be careful with her.”
She was also mean. She fought, hit, kicked and was the biggest tattletale ever. Like all Jettons, she loved to be in charge. She always had a wide group of friends, but she seemed to get into fights and have conflicts with them a lot more often than I did. I was better at compromising and getting along with others, while Lottie stood her ground.
Lottie was tough. She played a variety of sports, and in our games with neighborhood kids I always wanted her on my team. She was also very determined. She never gave up and always pushed herself hard. We were a lot alike in those two ways, which caused us to fight even more. But we did spend a lot of time playing together, and I have many good memories of our fun times growing up. In the pages to come, you will read about us building forts, exploring tunnels, catching locusts and just having a fun time as brother and sister.
Ruth is five years younger than me and as the middle child, with two very strong-willed older siblings, she learned more subtle techniques to survive. She could not overpower Lottie or me, and Courts was protected by Mom and Dad, so Ruth became the drama queen.
We called her Miss Piggy growing up because no matter where Mom hid the candy, Ruth could always find it. In those days, we seldom got candy or soda, but if it was in the house Miss Piggy knew it. She was also a very good salesperson. She sold everything they ever offer kids to sell at school and she outsold all of the other Girl Scouts when it came to annual cookie sales.
Ruth always complained that she was sick or hurt. She did not try to be tough like Lottie and I. Band-Aids were a scarce commodity at our house and to use one you had to be cut up really bad. I never wanted to use one because Dad said Band-Aids were for sissies, but Ruth was constantly asking Mom if she could put a Band-Aid on any small hurt she had. She wouldn’t even be bleeding and Mom would give in and let her put a Band-Aid on.
She was constantly asking Mom to check her temperature to see if she had a fever. We had this strip you put on your forehead and it would turn red if you had a fever and she walked around with that on her head all the time. If anyone in the family got sick with a cold, fever, or any other problem, it would not be long before Ruth would start coughing and claiming she’d caught it too.
When one of us had a cold, Mom used to put Vicks salve on our throat and then wrap a rag—warmed from sitting on the heater duct—around our neck before bed. The next morning we had to wash off all the Vicks, which was usually cold and clammy. I hated doing this, but Mom said it would help us get over the cold. But she’d also say that if we didn’t wash it off first thing in the morning, we would become even sicker. Ruth must have loved the Vicks treatment, because anytime one of the rest of us had to go through it, she would be in line telling Mom that her throat hurt and she needed a rag on her neck, too.
I missed Ruth’s high school years because I was already gone, but she played sports and always had plenty of friends. She made friends easily, and I don’t recall her having trouble getting along with others. Like most of us Jettons, she didn’t like following rules and wanted to do things her own way. She was also very determined and was not one to give up.
Even though Ruth was a drama queen and played to the crowd, out of all of us kids she listened to Mom and Dad the best and never got into any trouble. She seemed incapable of telling a lie, and when she tried she would always get caught. In a house with four kids you had to fight to survive and Ruth managed just fine. When your sister Emily was growing up she had blonde hair and reminded me a lot of Ruth, although Emily was much tougher.
Courts was called the Precious Pearl. I think Dad gave him that nickname because he said Mom spoiled Courts, but Dad sure took it easy on him too. While Courts didn’t try to backtalk Dad like Lottie, he sure seemed to get away with murder. He is six years younger than me and I was not around for any of his teenage years, but as a little boy he did things that would have gotten me killed!
He had a real big head when he was a baby. When you looked at him you saw this little bitty body and huge head. He looked like Charlie Brown. I remember him sitting around in just his diaper, with dirt all over him and snot coming out of his nose.
I don’t know if I would say Courts was shy, but compared to me, Lottie and Ruth, Courts was the quiet one. I don’t remember him crying a lot as a baby and he was reasonably content as a young boy. We all bossed him around and he seemed to follow orders rather well. Of course with a bunch of strong-willed Jettons around, he really had no choice.
He is a lot like Mom: caring, patient, helpful and kind. Courts took after the Lewis’s in temperament but he was always short and stocky like Dad. As he grew, he became all muscle and very quick. I tried to get him into distance running when he was younger, but he had a lot of short, quick speed and didn’t like long distance running at all. While he is the quiet one he’s very funny and joins in all the normal Jetton jokes.
He was named after Courts Redford; a well-known Baptist preacher who has a building named after him at Southwest Baptist University (SBU). From the time he was small to when I left the house, Courts and I shared a room and I was always in charge of making sure he was ready to go to church or school. When he was little, I tied his shoes, got his clothes on and dragged him along to wherever we had to go. As you might imagine, I pushed him hard and didn’t try to spoil him at all.
Courts was a very relaxed, easy-going boy. He didn’t get too excited and always had fun playing with us. He was always in the background and never caused much trouble, but Dad can tell you some great stories about his high school years after I moved out. As your brother Will was growing up he reminded me a lot of Courts.
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