I know my number.
Ever hear anyone say, "That girl is a 10"? Well, I'm an "eight." I'm not talking about my looks. (And hey, I "could" be, OK?) I mean I'm the eighth of 10 children.
I am also a stand-up comic. Sometimes during a show I mention that I come from a big family, and someone in the audience will yell, "Me too!" I ask them, "What number are you?" If they don't answer, I can tell they are deluding themselves - how big a family can it be if they don't even have a number? Sheesh.
Really big families operate like military campaigns - there is a protocol for each area of activity. For instance, breakfast is served in shifts, and if your school bell rings earliest, you get the first pancakes. It's basic triage.
So any idiot can see that, if you don't know your number, you are part of the problem, not part of the solution. When your P.I.C. (parent in charge) yells, "Seven through 10, front and center!" you have to be on deck, or else the system breaks down, and chaos ensues, and you get no pancakes, Missy. Tough break, but you should have known your number.
Being an "eight," pecking order isn't the only issue I have about food. "Stouffer's Family Style?" I don't think so. The scariest words in the English language are "serves six." And I am the only woman I know who prefers dark-meat chicken. Comes from never having tasted that white stuff until my brothers got married and moved out of the house. I'm not kidding.
My multitudinous upbringing also gave me an odd sense of fairness. My mother would open up a half-gallon block of ice cream, fold the carton down on all sides and cut it with a knife. Those servings weren't just equal - they were "identical."
Communal dining also leaves one vulnerable to the sneak attack, the long-term effect of which renders a girl incapable of dining in a leisurely fashion, ever. A companion once remarked, "You're eating that salmon as if someone's about to take it away from you." Like "that's" so far-fetched. An "eight," my friend, has at least seven natural enemies.
You really needed to know your number on laundry day (just an expression - we did laundry all day, every day). My mother would mark an "X" in a short collar each time it was handed down to the next kid. Number five's shirts had five X's in the collars. I have no older sisters - but I "do" have seven older brothers. That should be good for a get-out-of-therapy-free card, don't you think?
Books on birth order say that "middle" children (which, I guess, in my family, would be numbers two through nine) are more creative. I think that's true. We found some fairly creative places to hide leftovers. Scavengers numbered in the double digits.
Do people from small families look at things differently? I've got no clue. I came into the world with a ready-made softball team of siblings, so my whole frame of reference is mob rule. I never got the first slice of anything. (On the other hand, I was never bored, and I never understood kids who complained that they were. Swing sets, my foot - didn't they have brothers and sisters?)
People from smaller families may not have some of these issues. There are probably "ones" and "twos" walking around who can unwrap a candy bar without looking both ways. Heck, even some of my older brothers may remember what it's like to only slice things in four - well, eight - pieces. Not me. I think maybe I am actually more comfortable in the second seating. Even if I outlive all my siblings, I'll still be an "eight."
But, hey, at least I know my number. And there's no telling when someone's going to ask.
Marian Kelly, a comedian, lives in Seneca.
I know my number.