My parents drove us from Scarborough to Houlton to visit family every summer in the late ’50s and early ’60s. North of Bangor, the two-lane roads passed through miles of forests. My oldest sister sat up front, and my two younger sisters, brother and I occupied the back in those pre-seatbelt days. Somewhere in that long drive, boredom and my youngest sister’s incessant cooing to her dog, Prince, caused us to grab the little dog and hurl it from the window. My sister cried, and my sister, brother and I howled with laughter. This was less cruel than it appears: Prince was merely a figment of my sister’s active imagination.

Peter Vose, his brother and their three sisters created their own world as children, complete with jokes, imaginary pets and other diversions. Photo courtesy of Peter Vose

Meanwhile my parents drove on, oblivious to the drama unfolding in the backseat. In a family where we children outnumbered adults by more than two to one, two realities co-existed. My parents’ world revolved around responsibilities and jobs with occasional breaks. My siblings’ world focused on fun, conflict and emotions. Sometimes the emotion sparked hilarity. Often at dinner, something would cause us children to burst into laughter;  that laughter sparked more and more until our mystified parents sternly admonished us to stop our uncontrollable giggling. These warnings only increased our hilarity, and we had to leave the table to regain control.

We were close in age – only seven years separated the oldest from the youngest, and we were often playmates. Since the distractions technology provides were unavailable, we created our own diversions. One involved racing around the basement screaming the name of a soup – the Habitant, if memory serves – that had, for some now-forgotten reason, morphed into a villain.

Shortly after my youngest brother started first grade, my mother returned to work as an English teacher at King Junior High School, as it was then known. By Friday she would be exhausted and cranky. To keep her happy and to ensure we would be allowed to go out with friends or watch television that evening, we sprang into action as soon as we arrived home from school. We changed all the beds, started the laundry, dusted and vacuumed the house. When my mother arrived, we urged her to have a cup of tea in bed while we cooked a simple dinner. These experiences turned us into a team, which, even in our 60s and 70s, we remain.

My mother, who found my father’s family a bit trying at times, once said, “There is nothing a Vose likes more than to see another Vose coming.”  That is true for me and my siblings, and we know we are fortunate to have found in the trials, tribulations and triumphs of early childhood people whose values we share and with whom those early bonds of love endure.

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