Growing up in such a large family meant that we all learned the value of sharing early on. Even if we didn’t always like it, we came to appreciate it. It meant we all got our fair share of whatever it was we had to divvy up between us. Mom and Dad tried especially hard to be fair and make sure no one felt left out or shorted.
Many memories around sharing have to do with food. Believe me, none of us ever went hungry unless we chose to. There was plenty of food for every meal. My mom spent hours every day and decades of her life feeding a growing brood. She took her job seriously and always prepared a full meal with meat, potatoes, vegetable and some kind of dessert. Most meals included something we had grown or raised ourselves on our farm.
It would sometimes get interesting if there was one of something left (I really liked hot dogs when we had them). Who would get the last one? Sometimes that decision got heated. Mostly though, we all left the table satisfied. There weren’t often leftovers. Large quantities were needed just to feed us once, much less twice.
When it came to being fair, I think of two examples where fair and square went hand in hand. Birthdays weren’t a huge deal growing up, but they were still special. The tradition included Mom making an angel food cake and frosting from scratch. She would cover the hole in the top of the cake with a graham cracker and frost over it.
The coveted frosted cracker went to the birthday girl or boy. Talk about delayed gratification. We had to wait a year for our frosted graham cracker. But we all got cake and ice cream at least, and when you are a family of fifteen, birthdays were fairly frequent.
Sometimes that ice cream for the cake came in a pail, but it also often came in a half gallon square. To ensure that the square would feed all of us, Mom would open the box up to reveal the nicely shaped ice cream square. Then, she would take a knife and carefully cut the ice cream in slices as evenly sized as she could. We would each get our slice, though we still sometimes “discussed” who got a little bigger slice.
That may explain why, as an adult living on my own, I was known to buy one of those ice cream squares, sit down with a spoon, and eat as much of it as I wanted before putting it back in the freezer. It was a new concept: no one I had to share with. I enjoyed that freedom, but have found far more value over my lifetime from those lessons in sharing and fairness.