It All Started in 1953

This post has been in my head for years. Maybe since I first started my blog. I think about it each May for reasons which will become apparent. Then it drifts away and I don’t write it up. But here we go!

These little ones are my parents. They were born in the mid-1930’s.

Some years later, they started dating and wearing matching swimsuits – because they were, and still are, just that cool. (I think they were 16 and 17 years old in this picture).

In May of 1955, the cool couple got married. They were young, 19 and 20 years old.

As was common in the 1950’s, the first baby happened quick. She was born three days after their first anniversary. Those babies (all girls) kept on coming with the last one born in 1966. So, six kids in ten years. These were busy times. The photo above is not great as far as quality but I love it. (I am on the far right). This was the summer of 1966.

Time went on and their six children grew up, got married and started having babies. Just like those cool parents of theirs.

Between the six kids (now shown with lots of gray hair), 21 grandchildren were born. This began in 1979 with the birth of grand child number one, Maria. The last grand child, Julia, was born in 2001. Julia was the tie breaker making the final count eleven grand daughters and ten grand sons.

The twenty-one grandchildren are all grown up now, contributing to the world in myriad ways. We have two lawyers, one occupational therapist, two who work for Go Fund Me, a project engineer at Collins Aerospace, a director of engineering turned full time stay at home dad, a network security specialist for a brokerage firm, a professional dog trainer, a high school French teacher, a bank manager, a comedy writer who wrote for many years on the TV show, Big Bang Theory, a chef-in-training, a sports administrator at University of Arizona, a recruiter for Roblox, an esthetician, a preschool teacher, a student advisor at Stanford, a government employee in DC who works in I/T, a medical equipment sales tech at Stryker, and Julia who will be taking a job as a research technician upon graduation. This is a whole lot of brain power and it was all started by those two cool kids back in 1955.

But there is more! The 21 grand children have been busy marrying and having kids of their own. They are expanding this family greatly. My parents now have 17 great grand children.

This sweet girl, number 17, was born just a few days ago, on May 11th. (She is one of the reasons I started thinking about all of this again; when I realized we now had 38 grands and great-grands in the family)!

This picture, taken last fall, is incomplete – with about 15 people in our family not present.

I love being part of a big family. My sisters are my best friends. Having had four children within sixteen years and now knowing the work it takes to raise a big family, I cannot express my gratitude enough to my parents for their decision to have six children so close together. It wasn’t idyllic – we all argued, we created havoc. Dad was always fixing something. It was noisy and there was a lot of female energy in the house. I can remember my dad saying things like ‘go put some clothes on’ (if we walked around the house in our underwear) or ‘who is crying now’? when he would walk in and hear the tears starting up. Mom and Dad shared a car for quite a while in those early days. Mom stayed home with all of us until about 1976. I am sure she spent many, many hours washing those endless cloth diapers!! She read to us, took us to the library, taught all of us to cook, to SEW!!, and to get the chores done on Saturday mornings. Mom and Dad put up with lots of teenage angst, boy friends, and the usual drama. They put us through college and hosted six weddings.

Lots of sacrifice is necessary when you decide to have a big family. As with any family, we have all had our ups and downs. As a group, we have dealt with divorce, loss (the death of my first husband), health issues, learning disabilities and more. Life can be a challenge but we have each other to lean on through whatever comes our way.

I am not saying this is the only way. Having a big family isn’t for everyone. In fact, having children at all isn’t for everyone. But for me, it was and still is, the best way. I am very thankful to have grown up in this crazy family.

Did you grow up in a big family or small? I would love to hear your experience, if you want to share.

65 thoughts on “It All Started in 1953

  1. Kathy

    What beautiful words describing a beautiful family. So much to proud of in todays day and age where families can be divided for many reasons.
    I grew up with a large family, (#2 of 6) who all shared one bathroom getting ready for school, work, etc. I had loving parents who taught us respect, hard work, ethics, truth and caring for others in need and I chose the same path I so admired in them. I couldnโ€™t wait to become a mom in my adult life, loved babysitting in my teen years so I feel very blessed to have married for love and 3 wonderful children. Thank you for sharing these pictures of your life.

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Hi Kathy – thank you for sharing your family. Sounds very similar to mine.
      I had forgotten about the babysitting!! Most of us did lots of babysitting as teens. I loved it as well and still keep in contact with a couple of “kids” (now heading into their 50’s!!!) that I took care of. That is pretty crazy!

      Reply
  2. SarahZ

    Oh Bernie, I am so glad you put fingers to keyboard with this one!!
    We are on similar timelines (you may remember!)! My folks were married in the 50s, had their first daughter 10 days after their first anniversary…and 6 yrs later had 5 daughters, all together, the youngest born in โ€˜64.
    we have not been quite so prolific however, with 8 grandchildren between us, and 7 great grandys…so far๐Ÿค—
    We have had many good good days and years together!
    Hugs to you, friend!๐Ÿ’—

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Hey Sarah – I had forgotten we had such similar family situations! Glad you reminded me. Not everyone produces 38 grands and great grands – our family seems to have taken the “go big or go home” philosophy to heart. Hahaha. Your boys haven’t married yet, right? So more great grandy’s might happen down the road. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  3. Wendy

    What a fun post to read, and so fun to see your mom and dad, and the (almost) whole family together! Having grown up in a small family, just my brother and I, it was always fun to hang out with friends who had more siblings. I always kinda wished I had a sister, but I’m delighted with my SIL – we get along so well, and she quilts! Thanks for sharing this post, Bernie! Happy Mother’s Day to you, your mom, and all. your sisters!

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      From what I have heard, your SIL is just like a sister to you Wendy. I am glad you have her. Happy Mother’s Day to you too!

      Reply
  4. Roseanne

    BERNIE!!!! This post brought a tear to my eyes with happiness. What a cool couple, indeed. You can see the love they share between them. It has been spread throughout all of their children, and to the new sons-in-law, and to the grands and greats. They certainly have a lot to be proud of for raising such wonderful and productive citizens. Being a part of a big family is what you knew just like my experience of being nearly an only child which was my norm. Embrace it, I say, and revel in it. I just knew that sweet Julia was the tie-breaker . . . and that you were the sweetheart on the right. This post is a keeper for its historical value – all your family will enjoy it. Possibly more than I have, but that seems doubtful. {{Hugs}} a bunch! ~smile~ Roseanne

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      The value of putting all of this into one post is partly historical. We have lots to remember, lots to be grateful for. Glad you enjoyed it Roseanne. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  5. Elana Goldberg

    Bernie, what a wonderful love story and posting. I just adore those photos of your parents as teenagers and then the entire family all in one shot!! What a blessing and joy to have so many people in your tribe. I wish you all many more years of good health and joy together!

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Hi Elana – the photo of them in swimsuits is one of my favorites. I get such a kick out of it. We are blessed as are you and your boys. I know you get the whole idea of this post. Family is everything!

      Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      All families are the best. I am grateful we were raised to really take this to heart. Hope all is well Janice!

      Reply
  6. Tracie

    Oh, I loved reading your story and seeing the photos! I grew up in a family with four girls and a boy. My husband grew up in a family with four girls and two boys; however, they were born over a large span of time, so he feels like he grew up with his one sister closest to his age. My dad grew up in a household with SEVEN BOYS โ€” my poor grandma! Her first seven grandchildren were girls, which made her happy. I loved growing up in our family that sounds much like your own experience. With one bathroom to share, we werenโ€™t always happy with one another. Now weโ€™re very thankful for each other and all the in-laws. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Oh my gosh Tracie. Your family sounds much like ours with the exception of those seven boys! Yikes!! Your grandma must have spent her days trying to keep them fed!!
      Thank you for sharing!

      Reply
  7. Debbie Miller

    Such a heart warming family story and loved all the pictures! I think you and most of your sisters really resemble your Mom!

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Thank you Debbie. I agree – my sisters and I definitely resemble my mom. Sometimes I look in the mirror and my mother is looking back at me. โ˜บ๏ธ

      Reply
  8. B2

    All I have to say is ๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ’•. What a beautiful tribute!

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Thank you! The newest great grandchild is Pattiโ€™s 7th grand child! Crazy, right?
      Hope all is well with you and Randy.

      Reply
  9. Robin Kinnard

    I always thought there was something special about your folks and their big, beautiful family. So wonderful to read about the history and details. Such a legacy of love.
    And those matching swimsuits! ๐Ÿ’–
    What a gift your written words are to your family. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  10. Torry

    I am one of seven, with six of us surviving. I am the oldest. My brother, Butch, died when he was in the first grade, and I was in the second grade.
    Those of us surviving are: girl, boy, girl, boy, girl, boy. I also love being part of a big family. We have given our mother 13 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren.
    (Our father is dead.)
    When we were young, my mother would make all of our clothes. When we went to the fair, Mama would dress us all in matching shirts. That way, if one of us got lost, she could tell the police that “The missing one is dressed just like these.”
    We never got lost, but she was ready!

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Torry – Your family sounds lovely! I am sorry to hear about your little brother, Butch. I cannot imagine losing a child.
      I love the story about the matching clothes at the fair. How sweet! And, how on earth did your mom have time to make so many matching outfits?? My mom did sew for us but I don’t remember a whole set of matching outfits. I do remember a dress she made for me for 8th grade graduation. I LOVED it. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  11. Eva

    Bernie, its hard to find the right words. Read it yesterday evening and got as well tears in my eyes when I read it again. As a stranger I see a happy young girl on the staircase. And the pic of the young people in matching swim dresses โ€ฆ amazing. The wedding picture is so elegant! What a good taste โ€ฆ
    Love the hole story. You mentioned ups and downs and your words how you described the childhood are brilliant. My interest is often a little bit to hear about grandparents. Where are they coming from. Are there european routes? America was the land of hope and glory in the poor times last century.
    I love this stories knowing my live is completely different.
    And now I can understand that there are a lot of loveones you have to give a quilt. I am wondering, there is a lot of fabric in the meantime in my drawers and it mist be worth to give as a present.
    Thank you for this fantastic story and the view inside these times. Tell your parents they have a fan in Germany! Great couple! i think your familiy has a โ€žfamiliy story conservatorโ€œ now .. your writing is so nice! It is important to write it down for all these grand-grand children.

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Hello Eva, As always, I love and appreciate the notes you leave on my posts.
      My parents are both first generation Americans. My mother’s parents were born in Italy. Her mother came to the USA as a little girl. Her father came over as a young teenager. My father’s parents are from Spain.
      Do you come from a large or small family?
      I do love to give quilts to people. I have made a quilt for my parents and several of my sisters but not everyone. I try to give a baby quilt when the great grand children are born though I haven’t given one to all of them. There are so many!!!

      Take care,
      Bernie

      Reply
  12. Diane

    I really enjoyed your family story accompanied with pictures! Your parents look awesome. A real love story!

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Thank you Diane. We are very fortunate (and grateful) that Mom and Dad are so healthy. Not everyone is as lucky at 88 years old. I am glad you enjoyed our story. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  13. Nanette Chopin Cook

    What a beautiful family story of love. I wish I could have been born in your family. Your parents should be so proud of what they started and through them America is stronger with all that brain power. What a life you have been blessed with! Hugs

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      What a sweet thing to say Nanette! That is my thought as well – through them and their work, they have greatly contributed to our society. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  14. Beth @ Cooking UP Quilts

    I love this post Bernie! It’s so heartwarming to hear your story and see all the wonderful pictures. I grew up in a big family as well, there are 6 of us kids. I have 3 sisters and 2 brothers. Our family isn’t as big as yours – only 12 grandchildren and 7 grands, but we are a boisterous, loud, and loving group. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Hi Beth – your family sounds much like ours! Having a big group makes for busy and noisy holiday celebrations. Lots of weddings too! We have one in September (they were actually married during Covid times so are now having the reception) and another one in fall of 2024. Very fun to see the grand children becoming adults! We are blessed for sure.

      Reply
  15. CarolE

    What a lovely story you have told! I enjoyed reading your post. I grew up with four siblings and we are all very close with each other as adults. There are ten grandchildren and three great-grandchildren with another one on the way.

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Thank you Carol! How exciting to have a new baby on the way. Will this baby receive a quilt from you??
      So nice of you to share your experience with us. Enjoy your day. (-:

      Reply
      1. CarolE

        Most definitely a baby quilt will be in the making! I am just waiting for the gender reveal in a couple of weeks.

        Reply
  16. Marsha

    This was a delightful read! I’m so glad you shared your story. My mom was one of 11 children in a farming community where almost all of my 40 cousins attended the same school in the 60’s & 70″s. Growing up I thought everyone had 40 cousins!?! We played together in school and got together a lot on weekends-it was so fun! My husband is one of 8 kids but it never bothered me when we were dating b/c I was used to a big family. We recently celebrated my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday. 8 kids+spouses+21 grands+spouses+20 great grands=65 people in attendance. It was quite a crowd!

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      That is much like us Marsha! Except my husband grew up in a quiet household with one brother. So it took him some getting used to our large family. Love hearing about the 90th birthday celebration! That is definitely a big crowd!!

      Reply
  17. Kathleen Kingsbury

    You have a beautiful family. And I love that you share them here on your blog. I always look forward to your posts.

    Reply
  18. Faye

    I loved reading this. I am from a family of 3, we grew up on a small farm and are still extremely close. Our parents were married in the late 50’s and we grew up in the 60’s early 70’s. There are 9 grandkids and so far 3 great grandkids. Our parents have passed but, we all get together at least once a month for a pot luck dinner and a game night. It has been fun to watch this tradition pass down to the next generation.

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Dinner and game night sounds like so much fun. How great you live close enough to each other to do this.
      Passing the family value to the next generation is great. Thank you for sharing Faye.

      Reply
  19. Charlotte M.

    Bernie, I so enjoyed reading about your big family. I am number 5 of 7, born in 1957. I so fondly remember all those growing up years in our big noisy house. My dad passed away when I was 16, but by then the kids older than me were leaving home anyway, and life was changing. There are only 5 of us still living now. Our family seems to be shrinking. My parents had seven grand children, one of which is no longer with us. The next generation after that had 7 also, one of which passed away recently so now only 6. Sadly we are not close as we were growing up. It makes me happy to hear that you and your family are all still close.

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Hi Charlotte – love reading your story but sad to hear of the losses you have experienced. I hope you are able to spend time with your children/grand children. It is so special to be with your family. Enjoy them!

      Reply
  20. Sherry

    I was also raised in a large family, I have five sisters and two brothers. I thought that I would have just a couple of kids and be content with that. Well, things did not go as I had thought they would. We have six children and twenty five grandchildren. I had not planned my life that way but wouldn’t change a thing. We both retired four years ago and have been married almost 51 years.

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Wow! You can totally relate. I hope you live close to the grand children and get to see them often. Enjoy retirement and this big family you and your husband created!

      Reply
  21. Mari

    What a sweet post, Bernie. And lovely pictures! Your mom has some strong genes– I think Julia looks just like her in that teenage picture. I also have a big family, and in families like that you always have a friend. In my case, you always have a foe as well, but always make up. It has gotten even better as adults. Though I’m still envious of your five sisters! I have brothers instead! Give everyone a hug and count your happy blessings. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      It is true, we did become even closer as we got older. I suppose we appreciate each other much more now. We are accepting of each person’s differences and realize most things are really unimportant.
      Mom certainly passed on a strong gene pool. I see her in each of us.
      Definitely counting my blessings Mari. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Thank you Karrin! I know you have a close knit family – you have shared pictures of your kids and grand children a number of times. It makes me happy to see them. You all seem to enjoy each other’s company. I am sorry you lost your parents too early though. That must have been rough for you. Thanks for leaving a note.

      Reply
  22. CABOBBIE

    This post is lovely and I have enjoyed the comments. My family was small, only 3 + Mom & Dad. Most years Dad traveled all week for his job, taking the family car with him. We had 5 cousins 3 uncles, & 2 grandmothers in the same town. Both grandfathers had passed by 1957. Weekends were busy but fun. The family has gotten smaller, those still living do keep in touch although we are spread all over the country. Loved your post.

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Hi Bobbie – Isn’t it hard to imagine being home with little kids and no car? Did you live in an area where your mom could walk to the grocery if needed? Or did you have some public transportation? I know we lived a block away from the grocery store so that came in handy when I was a kid. I grew up down the street from one grandmother (my grandpa passed away when I was 8) and abut 3 miles from the other grand parents. Families aren’t as close geographically these days. People move all over the place!
      Thanks for contributing to the stories – I am glad you enjoyed this post. I love reading the comments. It is really interesting to me!

      Reply
  23. Kathleen McCormick

    What a beautiful story! I can’t imagine one sister let alone 5! I have 4 younger brothers, so a large family but not a lot of female energy in it. We were close at times, less close at other times. Both sets of grandparents were born here, but some of their parents were not. I only have one son, but we made sure he spent a fair amount of time with my siblings’s children so he would have some experience of extended family. Love the pictures of so many of you together – what a blessing.

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Hi Kathleen – Isn’t it interesting how families have all sorts of different dynamics. Hope you are able to stay in contact with your brothers. It is hard at times, especially if people spread out geographically. One of my sons lives in Brooklyn NY so I don’t see him nearly as often as I would like to. (I am going out there at the end of the month – I’m sooo excited for that trip!). Thank you for sharing your family!! I bet your house was loud and your mom must have felt like she couldn’t keep enough food in the house. I know I felt that when my boys were teens.

      Reply
  24. Karen

    I love hearing of other large families! My parents married in 1950 and had 12 children in 17 years (one set of twins) not all of us had children but there are a lot of grandchildren and great-grands. sadly my parents have been gone for awhile, dad died back in 1993 and mom in 2014. I would have to sit down and list everyone to get a head count. Large families are not for everyone of course, you grow up on a very limited income usually and sharing is something you learn from a very early age – girls back then learned to be little moms at 10 years old or so – I remember changing diapers (cloth) and feeding babies from a very early age – we had 3 girls, then 8 boys and then a little girl who is still spoiled rotten after all those boys. I only had 2 children and wanted 4 – (husband came from a family of 2 need I say more he didn’t want more). One of my girls has no children by choice and other 2 – my family is quite small and I do wish it was larger.

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      What a great story about your family Karen! Thank you for sharing it. I hope you live close to your grand children so you can spend time with them.

      Reply
  25. Diann@LittlePenguinQuilts

    What a lovely post about your family, Bernie! I enjoyed seeing the photos and learning about your parents and you and your sisters are just beautiful. I am the oldest of four and my husband is one of six siblings, so we had pretty big families growing up. We’re all spread out all over the country these days, and I miss seeing more of both sides of the family. Lots of good memories, though!

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      It is a shame that the family has spread far and wide. One of my sons lives in New York which means I only see him once a year or so. Next week I am flying out to Brooklyn to spend 5 days with him and his wife. I am super excited about it. I am not a big city person but I really want to have more time with him. Thankfully, most of our family lives on the west coast. California, WA, Colorado covers the bulk of the family. This makes it easier to stay in contact.

      Reply
  26. Yvonne from Quilting Jetgirl

    I grew up in a small, dysfunctional family. As a result, no children for me – I can’t fathom my parents as the grandparents to my children. I married into a lovely family that is also small but has big roots, and I’m glad for the kindness and care they extend to me.

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Sometimes we choose other ways to build a family. I am very happy that your in-laws are filling that role for you Yvonne.

      Reply
  27. Linda at Texas Quilt Gal

    Oh Bernie I loved your post and am so glad you finally did it. What a legacy your parents started from their young love. Don’t you just love the “young” photos of our parents? What happiness you all share, and your love just shines through the photos. Your parents are so sweet!
    My parents had two sons and then I was their surprise (I didn’t know this until I was grown!), and my oldest brother had 3 children and I had two. Our other brother and his wife chose not to have children, but they were marvelous as uncle and aunt! Our son married into a family of six children, and he really embraced and loves the bigger family. They all vacation each year, and he is very close to his in-law family. We only have 5 grandchildren, but we hope to see our family grow, especially since I am the only one left of my family.

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      One thing I love about your family is the spread in ages between your two sets of grand children. You are enjoying all phases of toddler, child, and teen. It sure seems like you enjoy it. I suspect you will continue to watch your family grow as those teens become adults.
      As for those photos – yes! I love them. There aren’t too many of them but it is so fun to see Mom and Dad as kids and young parents.

      Reply
  28. Preeti Harris

    I love everything about this post. The pictures are priceless particularly the matching swimsuits and the lovely wedding from 1955. Thank you for sharing. May your family continue to thrive and prosper!

    Reply
  29. Alycia Quilts

    This was a great post!! Those two cool cats just have to feel so surrounded by love with all of you!!! Super great post!!!

    Reply
  30. Raewyn

    What a fabulous post. And wonderful photos – that is some gathering! My aunty worked out recently that her, Mum and their siblings had 100 descendants between them. I thought that was impressive enough (and it’s ben a long time since we’ve had a full family gathering!)!

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Wow!! That is a huge family – Very cool. It would be very difficult to get that many people together. Thank you for sharing though. Love to hear this!

      Reply

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