My Big Fat Protesant Family
Dear relatives of mine, don’t go getting insulted by the title of my story. I am merely referring to numbers when I say fat.
My ancestors were, if nothing else, prolific! The above picture is one of my maternal grandparents, Curtis and Bertie Haggard. They had six children and fifteen grandchildren. I am the second from the right in the picture.
This is a picture of my paternal grandparents, Grandpa and Grandmother Payne. The children are but a few of their grandchildren. Several more were born after the photo was taken, including me! They had seven children and twenty grandchildren.
Neither set of my grandparents had large homes. In fact, they were very small, tiny even. But, that was the norm in their generation. I guess you could say that every time they got ahead, it had a mouth to feed.
Getting together with my aunts, uncles, and cousins was a treat. It happened more frequently with my mother’s side of the family, because we all lived within a five mile radius of each other. Dad’s family was spread out all over the US, the world even, because all of daddy’s brothers were in the military.
When the Haggards got together, there was a lot of food and laughter. When the Payne’s got together, there was a lot of food and arguing over politics and religion. Grandmother and Grandpa Payne were staunch democrats, and Daddy wasn’t! They all had strong opinions about everything, but politics was at the top of the list. Other conversations centered around baseball, of which they were all great fans. That was the neutralizing factor in the heated debates.
My grandmother Haggard died before I was born, so I never knew her. We all tended to hover around Papa Haggard, because he lived alone. The fact that there was no grandmother didn’t stop us from gathering at Papa’s. Not to worry, there were enough women to do the cooking, with Mother and her four sisters, Margaret, Mable, Nina, and Wanda. They were prize winning cooks, so we had the best of the best Southern cuisine.
Children…there were sooo many children. That was the best part. We didn’t have to have a single toy to play with. We played Tag, Hide-and Go-Seek, Kick-the Can, Red Rover, Hopscotch, Duck, Duck, Goose, softball, just about any outdoor game we knew. We made up a few others along the way. There were always plenty of players. We laughed and played until it got dark, at which point our games turned to catching lightening bugs. Fireflies, some people call them. The evening almost always ended with a watermelon cutting or homemade ice-cream.
Mother and Dad were both raised Methodist, but later converted to the Baptist church. That was true of both sides of the family. They started out as Methodists, but are almost all Baptists now. I don’t know why, but it is the truth.
As good Baptists did, we generally had the preacher over Sunday lunch. Sometimes we invited him to join us! Yeah, everyone had an opinion on the sermon and whether or not the preacher was worth his penance of a salary. Attitudes changed considerably when Dad became the preacher. Funny how that happens.
My parents were often criticized and ridiculed for having so many children. They had grown up in large families and they were well aware of the challenges of raising a large family. They also knew first hand all the joys of having a large family. They knew that the love, support, and dysfunction (ha ha) could not be duplicated in any other environment. We, as their children, learned that the benefits of having so many mouths to feed far outweigh the costs.
We might not have had the material things that our peers had, but we had so much more. There was always someone to play with, someone to fight with, an ear to bounce dreams and ideas off of, and a shoulder to cry on. We shared everything. Clothing, toys, food, it was all fair game.
Come to think of it, we were the wealthiest family in town.