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~Monday~  While having lunch with my parents for their 'tween birthdays on Saturday, I decided to take advantage of one of the few remaining living sources that could verify a story that I've been telling for years—and have repeated recently a couple of times in the context of the election of the new pope.

I'm from a very Catholic family who, as you will see, relied heavily on the rhythm method for birth control. They either had a lot of rhythm or no rhythm at all, depending on how you look at it.

So, here's the story as I've told it over the years:

My (maternal) great-great grandmother had 24 kids—21 boys and 3 girls. That's two dozen eggs for breakfast—and only one each!

And my (maternal) great-grandmother had 18 kids.

So, my great-great-grandmother had 24, my great-grandmother had 18, my grandmother had 8, my mom had 3, and I had zero. Who says we don't learn from our mistakes?

Oh, and I had four great-uncles who were priests and three great-aunts who were nuns.

So that's how it's gone down—year after year, for as long as I can remember telling it.

Almost without exception, whenever I've told this story, some time in the flow above, two questions get interjected about all those kids:

  1. Did they all live?

  2. Were any of them twins (or multiple births)?

I've always answered yes and no, respectively, to those questions.

And, typically, somewhere along the way, someone would say (especially about the one who had 24 kids), "She must have been pregnant all of her life," or "Was there ever a time she wasn't pregnant?"

And here's the actual story as told by my mother this weekend:

My paternal great-grandmother, had 21 kids—18 boys and 3 girls.

So right there, my story is spurious in two ways—it wasn't my maternal great-great-grandmother, but my paternal great-grandmother, and it was 21 kids total, not 24.

Unfortunately, that ruins my two dozen eggs joke. It also ruins that last line about "learning our lesson" over time as each generation had fewer kids. Although, it's still true—just not as dramatic.

On the plus side, I did get the three girls part right, and it was my maternal great-grandmother who had the 18 kids, and that was the correct total.

Now, about those "four great-uncles who were priests" and "three great-aunts who were nuns," I learned:

  • Of the four priests—they were all on my paternal side, and three of them were brothers (out of those 18 boys), but the fourth one was the son of one of the other of those brothers, which makes my claim that "I had four great-uncles who were priests" wrong. It was actually three great-uncles and one cousin once removed.

  • And about those "three" nuns—there was one on my paternal great-grandmother's side, so one of those three precious girls of 21 kids became a nun. And of those three precious girls of 18 kids on my maternal great-grandmother's side, only one became a nun. However one of the other ones, worked with the nuns, and although she never became a nun, she never married either. So, for all intents and purposes, she was a nun—or a Lesbian. The third girl of that family did marry. So the bottom line here is that my story must be amended to say two, not three, great-aunts were nuns.

Other things I learned during the discussion:

  1. On the paternal side:

    • That great-grandfather was a farmer and they owned a three-story home in Three-Rivers, Montreal. And by a three-story home, I mean in the sense of those New England style homes where each floor is a whole different apartment, where the landlord typically lived on the first floor, and rented the two floor above to different families.

    • In this case, however, the family started off on the first floor, and as the family grew to those 21 kids, the kids moved up a floor as they got older, and babies arrived to live on the first floor, until they had all three floors filled up.

    • All of these kids lived, and they were all single births.

  2. On the maternal side:

    • That great-grandfather worked in "the mills," which I assume were the textile mills, since they eventually moved to Fall River, MA (which is where my parents were born), coming from Leominster, Maine.

    • All of these kids lived, and they were all single births.

Final thoughts and observations:

  • Speaking of Lesbians, with all of those damn kids, not to mention the number of priests and nuns, there had to be other gay people in those families. I mean just going with the (arguable, I know) estimate of 10% of the population being gay, at least 4 of them should have been gay. Hmmm. Four gays. Four priests. Things that make you go hmmmmm. With that said, I'm not saying any of them were, I'm just saying it makes me wonder.

  • My mother tells the story of having so many cousins that she once dated a boy for a week or two before she realized they were cousins. This is even more understandable now that I realize that those 21 kids on her dad's side and the 18 kids on her mom's side were all of the same generation. God knows how many kids all of them had in total, all of whom would have been my mother's first cousins.

  • I wonder how many times I am going to stumble telling this story in the future, as I remember to update these facts, and work on a new routine since I can't deadpan the two dozen eggs and generational lessons shtick anymore.

  • The fact that I had this story wrong could also very well mean that my mother has the story wrong, too. Unfortunately, of her seven siblings, there is only one living brother, whom I'm not really in touch with, to corroborate this story. However, I'm thinking of my two cousins once removed, and their parents, my first cousin and his wife, who's mother I would still consider a trustworthy source, who could share her version of this story if it happens to come up, say, at the next Lachapelle family gathering. Wink. [Tara] Wink. [Ryan] Nudge. [Pam] Nudge. [Rene]




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