As a child I identified with the “old woman who lived in a shoe.” I was not the old woman. I was one of the “so many children, she didn’t know what to do.”

Gail Caiazzo, third from left, with her siblings, from left, Bobby, Patty, Marie, Carol, Johnny, Rosie and Suzanne. Photo courtesy of Gail Caiazzo

Our mom was a devout French Catholic, let’s start with that. I was No. 3 in the birth order, and the babies just kept coming. Since disposable diapers had not yet been invented, the bathroom always had at least one pail of soiled diapers soaking.

The sound of a baby crying was a constant reminder of the newest arrival. Mom was a strong proponent of child labor and would put me to work rocking a carriage to lull my sister Carol to sleep. I generally chose to lie on the floor to accomplish the task by pushing and pulling the carriage with my foot. Talk about boring!

Baby No. 6 was the first pregnancy for Mom that ended a little sooner than expected. Because she had already given birth five times, she knew immediately to call my dad home from work.

He instructed the five of us to get in the car and then carried Mom out to gently place her in the front seat. When we arrived at the hospital, Dad told us all to stay in the car and not get out.

Hours passed before we saw any sign of him. When he finally appeared, he had purchased a box of Ritz crackers. He gave the box to my older brother with explicit orders to share with his sisters. Big mistake. For each cracker Bobby gave us girls, he then gave himself two.

Eventually darkness came and we all fell asleep, hungry and hot, crammed into the car.

Sometime much later that night, Dad came to tell us we now had a new brother. Our newest sibling had some challenges to overcome before he would be well enough to come home.

Shortly after Johnny’s birth we moved to Maine. When my parents announced that No. 7 was on the way, I blurted out, ”We are getting another baby?” To which Mom replied, “Aren’t you going to love the new baby?”

I would have been a little more than 7 years old and still recall my response: “Yes, but if you were not having it, I wouldn’t have to love it.”

Two years later baby No. 8 arrived, bringing the final total to two boys and six girls. Literally, never a dull moment.

The first sister I rocked in the carriage is the only sibling we have lost. She had a stroke from which she never fully recovered. Thankfully, she was blessed to have a devoted daughter to take care of her during her final days.

Now we are scattered all over the country and rarely see each other. Those eight children had 23 children. (The pope would be pleased.)

Even though the miles prevent us from spending time together, there is no doubt the love is there. Because when you have siblings, you cannot choose if you love them, you just have to love them.

I still don’t like Ritz.

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