Let's Reminisce: Birth order and a caboose
By Jerry Lincecum
Aug 5, 2019
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One of my favorite topics for discussion with elderwriters is entitled “Birth Order and Family Relationships: First Born, Middle Child and Caboose.”  Recently I took a fresh look at this subject when my youngest sister, Margie, born when I was 17, celebrated her 60th birthday, complete with reminiscences of her birth from all four siblings plus some other members of the extended family.


One sister started our reminiscing by recalling that we awoke to the news of a new family member, and then as we kids got off the bus at the old Jewett school, the teachers were gathered outside; when Jerry announced Margie's arrival, they all applauded.  That was her first standing ovation. 


Later when the new baby came home from the hospital, the excited welcoming party included one of our five-year-old cousins who thought she knew all about babies because she had a new litter of kittens.  She had one of my sisters profoundly alarmed because she insisted that Margie's eyes wouldn't open for several weeks.  Fortunately, her mother advised that human babies didn’t behave like kittens.


Another sister remembered that after Margie arrived they didn't care to play with dolls much anymore.  She was also a favorite with the whole community, especially the older folks, because she was the youngest kid on Round Prairie for some years.  


These reminiscences prompted me to discover some parallels between generations.  My mother’s oldest brother was born in 1898, so he was 18 when Mother arrived in 1916, and it was that fall when he went to Texas A&M for a freshman year.  It’s a close parallel to the fact that I was 17 when Margie arrived and I was already making plans to go to A&M the next year.  


Another parallel is that my mother’s mother (Grandmother Rissie) was born in 1875, so she was 40 when Mother arrived.  Then for a contrast I thought about the fact that Rissie’s brother (and our nearest neighbor) Uncle Leland and his wife had three girls and one boy whereas Rissie and her husband (my grandfather Jones) had three boys and one girl. 


On a deeper, more profound level, remembering the birth of my youngest sibling led me to think about a brother, Robert, who arrived when I was about two years old but he was stillborn.  It was only by accident that I learned about this child who would have made such a great difference to my life had he lived. 


While visiting the cemetery with Mother when I was about ten, I discovered a small tombstone for Robert David Lincecum, infant son of Jack and Mildred Lincecum.  It bore a single date June 24, 1944.  As Mother struggled to explain, I, with a child’s self-centered outlook, demanded to know why I had never been told.  Many years later I asked Daddy for details, but Mother and I never discussed it.


As I look back now, I can see that the loss of this child made me the focus of even greater love and attention that I was already receiving as a first-born.  On the other hand, without knowing it I had been deprived of the potential for a close sibling relationship like the one my dad enjoyed with his brother Wayne.  I cannot imagine the pain and suffering felt by my parents, especially my mother, and I admire the fact that they did not let this tragic loss damage their other children’s lives.


I’m happy to have been grown up in a large family and enjoyed good relationships with my siblings, including the “caboose” who came along when I was already looking forward to moving out and transitioning to a more independent life in college. 


Jerry Lincecum is a retired Austin College professor who now teaches classes for older adults who want to write their life stories.  He welcomes your reminiscences on any subject: jlincecum@me.com