We raised our seven children in a house that was built in 1900. It was the biggest house on the street. And to this day, my children’s friends always remember it as the biggest, busiest and best house in the neighborhood.
We had seven children and counting…if you included all of the friends, nieces and nephews. My husband used to say, as long as I count seven heads in the bed at night we’re good. He was not a detail person. So I always made sure they were the right heads.
The backyard had a garage, a basketball court, and a driveway that served as a cut through to the next street. Some of the kids that cut through we knew and others we did not but everyone was respectful.
My sons always left the basketball out underneath the rim so that anyone passing through could take a shot if they wanted.
Everyone, even the strangers, knew the rules. Take the basketball with you and there would be no replacement. Needless to say, we never lost that ball.
Our poor neighbor, a lovely elderly lady everyone called Nanny, would shake her head and smile at the children running up and down the driveway. “Land sake,” she would say. Since we shared a driveway, Nanny always got valet service whenever she pulled up to or backed out of her garage.
That was the other rule, if you’re playing in the backyard, you had garage door duty every time Nanny came home from church or shopping. Another rule that was never broken.
By all appearances it was a pretty busy yard especially in summer with kids riding their bikes in and out, playing kickball in the street, throwing around a baseball and climbing a few trees every now and then.
And then one day it all stopped. There wasn’t a kid to be found anywhere. I was suspicious. And so I took a walk back to the backyard. And as I approached the garage, it sounded like there was a party going on inside. Shouting and laughing and cheering.
I pushed open the door, and what did I see? The garage converted to a casino and a huge gaming wheel made out of cardboard, and a table with numbers was front and center. Above the table, a sign read Big Six. My youngest son Aldo was running a “small business” helped by his two older brothers Guido and Vito.
Of course I cleared the premises. Now I knew how Jesus felt clearing the temple. The neighborhood kids left in a hurry.
“Couldn’t you open a lemonade stand?” I yelled. And then I added for good measure, “You’re all grounded!” And that includes you too – I pointed to the few remaining kids that were brave enough to wait to collect their winnings.
They protested, “But we saw a wheel just like it at the Feast!”
They did have a point there. As I marched my boys into the house it occurred to me. Why should I punish myself? Having those three in the house together on a hot summer day was probably not a good idea. So I changed my tack and decided to send them back out instead.
But not before they apologized, promised they wouldn’t do it again and agreed to clean the garage out from top to bottom starting with the casino. They were as good as their word – and with my sons you could always bet on that!