Risey Shiney!!

‘Risey Shiney! Let me hear your feet on the floor’, my mother called up the stairs. She wanted to make sure we would be up before she left for her job as a nurse in a local hospital. A foot or two went obligingly out of the school busblanket on the side of the bed and pounded on the floor. We’re up, someone said, and promptly went back to sleep.

I have fond memories of getting ready for school in the morning. Five girls, four boys and one bathroom. The bathroom was a busy place and when one of us needed to get in we would pound on the door hoping the occupant would hurry. The person in the bathroom would holler ‘Occupied!’ (That word was ours way before the Occupy Wall St people thought of using it.) Many a dance was done outside the bathroom door, accompanied with, ‘Hurry, I gotta goooo.” A sister might open the door and let another sister in because after all two girls can share a bathroom and I remember a few good conversations with one of us on the loo and another at the sink.

Anyway, we would all be scurrying around getting ready and one of us would see the bus coming down the hill past Hergenrother’s farm heading toward our house. The shout would go out, ‘Heeere comes the buuusss.’ (2 syllables on buu…uuss) Here is one of the nice things about big families. We are all in this ‘getting on the bus’ thing together. Invariably one of us was not quite ready – usually it was one of the girls.   ‘Walk slow, walk slow,’ the sluggard would say. So one of the brothers would walk out and when he was almost to the bus, then the second sibling stepped out the door. And the pattern continued. It was a little like a bridal procession. Watch. Wait. Walk. One by one. In this way we could have an extra 2 or 3 minutes and the last person  would have time to take the rollers out of her hair, find schoolbooks, and saunter out of the house just in the nick of time.

At least that’s the way I remember it. And I – and I suspect other of my siblings, nieces and nephews – have used those very same words to raise slumbering children. Risey shiney!

This post isby the second sister and middle child.


I just finished reading a series of adventure books written for middle school kids. I know, I know, I’m long past middle school – but they were fun! They featured a brother and sister involved in ancient Egyptian magic. The conflict was between order and chaos, and words were extremely powerful in the struggle. Words were called the “divine instruments of creation.” I couldn’t help thinking how true that is. “Let there be light, and there was light.”

Words are a wonder. I recently saw the play “The Miracle Worker” and was struck again with the power of words. It was words that freed Helen Keller from her personal prison.

Words were such a loved thing in our house. Our parents loved reading. I’ll always remember how choked up our daddy got as he was reading the end of “These Happy Golden Years” to us three littlest girls. Our mom loved crossword puzzles, Scrabble, Boggle, and getting a perfect score on Reader’s Digest’s “How to Increase Your Word Power” quiz each month. She was almost impossible to beat at anything involving words. I guess it was inevitable. Take a plentiful supply of words, add in a couple of creative parents and kids, and strange things can happen. Language is the one thing on the planet that truly does evolve, and at our house, it evolved with a vengeance! Whether it was “drexdriss” (breakfast) or “cryodoctyl” (crocodile) from our baby sister, or “raggy-eyed aggit” (rabbit) from our mom, words did funny things around our house. 

And names – well, names are words, after all, so they were fair game, too. Our mother went from being called “Motherly” to “Therlify” to the grand title of “The Therlified One.” And even my Siamese kitten wasn’t spared. Her full title – composed of names from the current radio news and intended to be spoken rhythmically, with a rising pitch and a pronounced crescendo – was “Mahatma Ghandi Gunnar Jarring Ra-wal-pindi.” Our baby sister was Marjorie, or Mahzadeek, or just Maz, or Nubbin (probably a reference to her tininess) which then became Nubbin Toofle (for no discernible reason at all) and so it went. 

What fun it all was! And I must confess that in my own home, it’s happening all over again . . .