One of the Dayton-Family-History readers wrote to me, “Here’s a question for you… what was your recollection of growing up in a family of 5 kids? What memories stick out to you? Was the age gap a big deal? We’re you close as kids?”
I don’t remember any complicated or unpleasant consequences. Our living, eating, clothing and transportation resources seemed routine. I guess when you don’t know differently, then what exists is normal. I suppose our ancient Daytons felt normal living in a two room home back in the 1600’s on long Island. Anyway, our Paul Dayton family of seven lived in a small three bedroom, one bathroom home. I don’t remember it being more inconvenient than other homes I lived in later in life. I’ll admit it was an inconvenience needing to use the toilet when someone else was using it. There were no disasters…you accepted all circumstances.
Meals were at a table built for four (with one leaf) in a very small kitchen, but we ate as much as we wanted and never went away hungry. We had a larger dining room table with seating for 8, but that was saved only for company. Later on, Judy and I had 2 girls living in a home with 2 ½ baths, 3 bedrooms, large living room, den, kitchen with large breakfast nook and dining room, but we were no more or less crowded than in my growing up house.
Growing up, our car was a 2 door Ford Fairlane coupe. It didn’t seem crowded even though there were 3 persons in front and 4 in the rear. I have a video of everyone getting out of the car. It looks like a circus clown comedy drill, but we tolerated the accommodations well. However, once having upgraded, that becomes the new norm and you can’t go back without great inconvenience.
My life was sports. The role of a mother as a taxi driver didn’t exist. I made my own arrangements to get home after practice. Most of the time it involved walking home. After football practice, I walked home with a friend who still had about 6 miles to go. He hitchhiked or walked, after he had walked with me for ¾ miles. It was normal for him.
The age gap for the children in our family was 13-years from oldest to youngest sibling. We were never a close, touchy-feely family. The older you get, the smaller the age gap and the bigger in closeness and adoration. I’m 72 years old and closer to my siblings than ever before… especially my brother who is 9 years my younger. I didn’t know him growing up.
I was closest to my older sister mostly because of parental intervention. My parents expected me, as a 10 to 13 year old, to be a protective escort for Mary. My dad insisted on it. My sister enjoyed taking evening walks after sundown and going to the local diner to hang out with friends from town and out of town. They hung out at a table, drinking coffee and listening to the jukebox for a couple hours at a time. Mary always was telling me to stand erect so I would look taller. The point is, we got to know each other a little. My playmates were always neighborhood friends my age.
I can only vividly remember two instances of direct interaction with my brothers. I suspect there was daily happy interaction, but it was normal, not memorable.
I haven’t done these questions justice in this brief account. I wrote an autobiography for my family a few years ago, and it took about 15 chapters to answer the growing up questions. I would highly recommend that each of you write or “video” an autobiography so your descendants can carry on your legacy to future generations.