Yes, that's me smack dab in the middle of things as usual; I am the dark haired child with glasses bottom center, holding up my whole world. I was the oldest of six and in my opinion in charge of all things. Still, I lean in that direction. From the top down is youngest sister Teresa, then brother Tom and sister Peg, then next to me in white is my sister Mary. The other girl with the impish grin is family friend Patty Dawson who ironically was about the same age as my sibling Bernie Jo who could not be in the picture as she was busy being institutionalized.
Bernie Jo had been born with a couple of birth defects and then at just a few weeks old was accidently dropped down the stairs by a neighbor boy and suffered serious head trauma. My parents tried to care for her at home but it proved too much for them as back in the early 60's there was virtually no support for parents with that burden. She managed to survive for 11 years after that finally succumbing to pneumonia while living in Dixon State Home in Dixon, Illinois.
I still feel her loss as being the oldest I was often the one who accompanied my parents most when they visited her. I was 15 when she died. All of us O'Shaughnessy kids were approximately two years apart, Bernie Jo came after Mary and before Tom. So after she passed there was this four year gap between Mary and Tom, thus forever after my parents referred to Mary and I as the older kids and Tom, Peg and Teri as the younger kids.
There does not exist a single picture of all 6 of us kids together and as far as I know this picture above is the only one with the five of us healthy kids all in one spot. Film was expensive then, as least for my lower middle class parents, and generally pictures were only taken at Christmas. I was gifted this particular photo a few months ago for my 55th birthday by my friend Gene Ruet who I grew up with in Chicago.
Gene's mother, Doris (who was living in Arizona) had died last winter and after going through some of her things he found this photo. It seems at some point my mother must have sent his mother this shot and his mother had held onto it through several moves of their own, for over 45 years. Then, when it was rediscovered Gene took the time and trouble to return it to me. Such a thoughtful gift. I love how we all look in this photo taken in the living room of our first home on Ray Street in Warrenville, Illinois circa 1971.
We were happy.
We had no idea how little money we had, how our parents struggled to feed and clothe us, how their burden of their other sick child weighed on their hearts. We knew little of world troubles like the Vietnam War. All we knew was that we had been given permission to act like some tumbling team and it made us happy.