Little Sally, a five year old dressed in a pink nightie and with a mop of tangled hair, appeared. “I’m hungwy.”
I gave my best Donna Reed smile. “Give me a minute to take care of these little ones.”
An hour later, with both babies wiped, diapered, and chirping in baby talk, I dumped cereal in bowls, splashed in milk, and scooped in sugar. I stuffed the youngest baby in a high chair, then poured a chunky red glop of baby food into a bowl for her. She stuck her fingers in and smeared everything in a slushy free form mess like a finger painting, then tossed the bowl upside-down to the floor at the same time a bowl of cereal slopped across the table.
More than once I retched as I was slathered with poop while struggling to change the wiggly babies. Messes piled up like snow in a blizzard. They took naps, but never at the same time. By 4:00 Little Sally was still in her nightie so I helped her dress, then tried to brush her hair which ignited in her a fierce defiance. When the mother returned, I passed off the children then bolted.
The rest of summer continued in the same manner. Afterwards, dreams of wedded bliss and babies dimmed considerably.
In junior high, preparation for marriage began. My home economics teacher, Miss Kaaring, was a throwback from an earlier generation when teachers were not allowed to be married. Dressed in a homespun creation, sensible shoes, and with a halo of tight pin-curls pressed against her scalp, she posed before us in an Amazonian stature lecturing with unflappable convictions. She had a no-nonsense persona and must have written the syllabus while watching episodes of Donna Reed. Miss Kaaring worked to cajole us into replicas of fascinating women as we made aprons and casseroles. She gave advice to snag the perfect mate even though she’d never been united in a conjugal match. She was also in charge of sex education. With a lilting rhythmic Scandinavian accent she presented a brief lesson.
“Ladies! Do you know of urges men have?” Giggles ensued. “Keep your bodies pure ‘til you are married. Urges – men have – are nat – ural. Ven you – marry – you vill – learn more. Vhy do – men have – urges?”
“To make babies!” someone yelled. Again, laughter stirred up the mesmerized audience. Like most teenagers in those days, I had skewed information about sexual intercourse. I knew my parents had done the unimaginable three times to produce three children, but I’d had a shocking revelation when I discovered mom’s birth control hidden in the bathroom. It upset me to think my parents did the unimaginable with regularity. It didn’t fit with the cryptic messages Mom had alluded to during her talk about menstruation.
“Ya, goot. Vhat’s – da dif – ference – ‘tween da – goot girl – and da – nice girl?”
“A good girl goes on a date, goes home and goes to bed. A nice girl goes on a date, goes to bed and goes home.”
“Dat’s right. You are - smart girls. Here’s a – pamphlet – for you – to read – vit your – mudders.” The bell rang and that was that.
I knew to guard my virginity, but I was guarding another shameful secret. I had urges, too. At night, I’d sneak out to meet my boyfriend for lots of kissing and fondling. The first time I experienced a deep throbbing pleasure, I tried to disguise from him the lovely sensation. I had a vague idea about his excitement, but I was clueless about my desires. I was fearful the physical mysteries my body revealed might cause internal damage, but I didn’t care. I was hooked. Pleasure held sway over guilt, but I believed something was wickedly wrong with me.
Having been propagandized by happy TV families and home economics classes, the allure of domestic rapture captured me again. I’d get to have sex to accommodate my husband’s urges. Memories of tending real children who shit real poop, and made a marathon of housework faded away.