The year 1960 was a census year.
Mama must have known that a photographer and reporter from The Commercial Appeal would be coming to our home because she had us all get dressed in our Sunday clothes. We children crowded around our parents in the tiny living room for one of the few photographs we have with all of us together, from fourteen-year old Mary Alice to the youngest, Robert Anthony, who was about four.
The article was headlined “Recall Old Lady in the Shoe? Well Meet the Hanrahans.” Mama hardly looked like an old lady to me, though we had taken to pulling out the silver strands that were beginning to show in her mid-length black hair.
“Leave them in,” she protested. “I’ve earned every one.”
The hook of the news story was the fact that Mama could not fit all her children’s names on the census form that year. In the photo Mama is seated, pen in hand, filling out the form. Daddy stands behind her with his ever-present Roi Tan cigar in the hand that rests on her shoulder, and with his other hand he is counting his children.
One of census questions asked, “Did you work at any time last week?” Mama’s answer was telling:
“I rise every day about 6 a.m. and work about three-fourths of the time until near midnight. That’s about 16 hours a day and times seven for the week.”
…We children then were like a globe of dandelion seeds, barely holding together before being scattered by the wayward winds.