My Big Family
“He preached on Hell like he was born and raised there!” Mother loved to tease my dad about the passion with which he delivered a sermon. His face would turn beet red and his voice would rise to a fever pitch. I tell you, the man could preach!
Sundays were very structured for our family of eight. There were no questions asked on Saturday night about whether or not we would be going to church the next day. It was understood! The girls had to sleep in curlers or pin curls. Needless to say, we didn’t get much sleep, due to the hard, plastic prongs, pressing into the scalp. Heaven forbid that we go to church with straight hair!
Baths were taken on Saturday night. There was never enough hot water for eight baths. After the first two, we heated pots of water on the stove eyes to add to the cold water so the rest of us could have a warm bath. It didn’t take long to take a bath in the winter, because the only source of heat was a pot bellied, wood stove in the living room. That meant that all of the other rooms, including the bathroom were freezing cold.
Mother and Dad were excellent time managers, else we would never have made it anywhere on time. Sunday mornings were particularly challenging. Sonny and Curtis were the oldest, followed by Donna, Jeanneane, me, and Suzanne. The girls would line up outside the bathroom, which we all shared. Daddy would put soap on a washrag and scrub our faces until they turned beet red. I can still remember how my face burned from it. He was a believer in shiny faces! It’s a wonder we had any skin left to dry. Dad and my brothers took turns in the bathroom, shaving. Sometimes, I got to sit and watch Daddy as he lathered his face with the shaving brush.
My father had not yet become a minister, but we were always at church. Sunday morning, evening, Wednesday night prayer meeting, Bible school, revivals, anything that happened at the church, the Paynes were in attendance.
We had an old 1947 Chevrolet. It was big and bulky, just like our family. We had assigned positioning to be able to fit everyone in the car. I say positioning, rather than seating, because my place in the car was on the floor in the back, between the knees of my older brother. As I recall, I was about four or five years old. Seat belts had not yet been invented and apparently, neither had birth control!
None-the-less, we were on the way to church one Sunday morning and I was wiggling and squirming, trying to get comfortable. Not that it was entirely possible to get comfortable, given my position in the car, but this day I was really miserable. After much whining and complaining, my brother began to investigate the reason for my discomfort. He discovered that Donna had put my coat on me with the coat hanger still in it!
Gathering the family together for the ride home was no easy chore, either. One Sunday, I found myself at the church alone. I asked some of the adults if they had seen my mother or daddy. Their car was gone and the cell phone was forty years from being invented. I told a gentleman that they were probably at Cas Walker grocery story buying rolls for Sunday dinner. Someone drove me to the store and sure ‘nuff, there sat our car with my brothers and sisters in it. None of them had even realized that I was missing! I probably got extra dessert that day, or some attempt to make it up to me.