Me’n Tiny Tim

 Merry Christmas from Mary Connealy 

I’m from a family of eight. Here they all are from last Christmas, the first time we’ve all been together since my father died about six years ago. Oh, we’ve all been together many, many times…just not all at the SAME time. That’s just really hard to arrange. This picture is lacking the brand new fiance of my nephew and the soon-to-be-born first great-grandchild.

In order, oldest to youngest my brothers and sisters–no, I won’t try and get to you identify them but the families are mostly sort of left to right from oldest to youngest…except when they’re not:


We grew up in an old farmhouse that, before it was restored to it’s glorious two-bedroom majesty, was used to store grain on my grandparents’ south forty. And when the sixth child was born we added on and turned the two bedroom house into a (brace yourself to be in awe) THREE bedroom house.

We just didn’t have nuthin’. And Christmas was an absolute joy.

My father was a farmer and we milked cows. Which amounts to everyday and early mornings. I remember we’d wake up on Christmas morning…heaven only knows how early…maybe one a.m. or three a.m. Just insane. The very first second one kid was up we were all up. I can even remember rehearsing with my brothers and sisters, because one of the bedrooms was past mom and dad’s and we had to walk through their room without waking them up. (Yeah, right we didn’t wake them up!) So we’d check every floor board for creaks and some of us would lay in mom and dad’s bed and LISTEN while others would tiptoe through. And if we heard them we’d ‘wake up’ and they’d be busted.

I remember we’d just DIVE onto that tree. Just rip into everything. Complete chaos. None of this, One Present at a Time. Everybody Watches junk for the Moore family.

And we’d be in the middle of the madness and here would come mom and dad to watch the fun. Then, once every toy had been opened and celebrated…we’d go back to bed. About the time my dad would normally get up. I don’t know how old I was when I realized we’d kept the man up almost all night. Poor guy.

He never complained. And neither did mom.

They seemed to love the wildness of it.

Anyway, I’m really, really proud of my family. Yes, we came out of that poverty…not so big a deal really, nobody had much back then, especially not in rural Nebraska. I remember my mom saying one year, “We try to spend three dollars on each child.” Think about that. 8 x 3 = $24 for Christmas. God forgive me, I spend that much on a pedicure now.

I look back and realize we were perilously close to penniless but my parents never laid that on us as a burden. I had a neighbor who says her mother used to serve them meals and say, “Eat it all, I don’t know where the next meal is coming from.” She grew up with this sense of terror and … oh, UNsafeness you might say…about money.

Not me. If my parents worried, I never heard about it. And there we all were…eight kids born in eleven years…and I never saw my mother flinch when she told us there was a baby on the way. She loved having babies. She used to hug me and say, “The man who ends up married to you is going to be so lucky.” Just sweet stuff like that. Of course she took after me with a fly swatter on occasion, too. FOR NO REASON!  (Well, maybe a reason.)

I never saw my father growl because ‘we can’t afford another kid.’ There just wasn’t any of that from my parents. They always treated us like they were so lucky to have had all these wonderful children, and we had to be such a rabble. 🙂 I dedicated my soon-to-be-released novel Gingham Mountain to my family, especially my mom. It’s about a man with a tiny house and not much money who adopts a hoard of children because he can’t stand to see a child in need. He’s my favorite hero ever.

In the picture above I’ve got 8 brothers and sisters, all married. 28 grandchildren, 5 of them now married or engaged. First great-grandchild on the way…and it’s MINE. 🙂 I am so gloating over that.

In that crowd of 49 people – and counting – as grandchildren get married and great-grandbabies can be expected to come along – out of that two bedroom farm house with three dollar Christmas presents we’ve got:

3 1/2 doctors; 9 1/2 masters degrees;  11 bachelors degrees (I’m not counting anyone twice); 5 kids in college; 3 with school beyond high school; 1 published novelist (me!); 1 serving in the Army in Iraq ……………

and a partridge in a pear tree.


God bless you all this holiday season, from Mary Connealy and all of us at Petticoats & Pistols


Website | + posts

Author of Romantic Comedy...with Cowboys including the bestselling Kincaid Brides Series

9 thoughts on “Me’n Tiny Tim”

  1. What a nice looking family, Mary. I enjoyed seeing them all. And I’m impressed that so many of you have succeeded in your career fields. My goodness! Course, I’d hate to see those half people who are doctors and have degrees. 🙂

    I got a big lump in my throat when I read about your mother spending $3.00 a piece on you kids. I’m sure that was a small fortune to her. Your parents and mine sure had their struggles. But we turned out alright.

  2. Happy Christmas and New Years to you!!

    My first husband was born/raised on a Nebraska dairy farm — Columbus. Large family, too — eight altogether. Though our marriage ended, I have nothing but great memories of visiting Nebraska and my in-laws, and seeing the barn, and … well, all that.

    I grew up in the city, the second in a family of four kids. My dad was very comfortably white-collar, my mom was stay-at-home, and yet there are so many similarities when it comes to describing Christmas morning (or pre-dawn!). It was the same mayhem, ripping and tearing at wrapping paper, and oooohing and aaaaahing, and jumping around joyfully at what Santa had left for us — all of this in the dark of night yet! And yes, we’d go back to bed, clutching some new toy left to us by Santa, and then get up once more, this time in sunlight — but we’d dress in our brand new Christmas finery (always with new, black, patent leather shoes!) and go to Mass.

    Wonderful times ….

  3. Hi, Mary, What a wonderful family! I was surrounded
    by large families, going way back. I’m the eldest of nine, both my parents were middle children in a
    family of ten. Most of my Dad’s siblings had four or five or six children. I think we could have populated a small town all on our own!!

    Pat Cochran

  4. Mary, what a wonderful family! I didn’t grow up on a farm but in small town Nebraska. I caome from a large family. Each of my parents had 9 siblings. I come from a family of 7 kids. Now there are 76 of us if just my family get together. way too many for one place so it hasn’t happened for many many years. Many Christmases were so much fun with only one package for each of us. I married an only child and have lived on a farm all of my married life. I never milked the cows, a very wise woman told me to never learn – my mother-in-law. Someday if we all gather in one place I will share the group photo.
    Happy New Year!

  5. Mary, great picture! Knowing your some of your family, I teared up when I read about your dedication of Gingham Mountain. I’m so proud of you just being your neighbor. I can’t imagine how proud your family must be! I’m SO enjoying your websites and blogs! I’m sorry to have just now stumbled onto them. I hope your trip to Texas was good. Sorry I couldn’t make it to this book signing. I’ll let my friend and sister-in-law know about your next ones in Texas.

  6. Wonderful looking family there Mary! Got a bit misty over your dedication in your new novel as well as your wonderful memories of Christmas morning and family.
    Thanks for sharing!

  7. Mary,

    I enjoyed hearing about your big family. Sounds like my dad’s family. He was the youngest of ten kids, and I had a billion cousins. I miss the old days of eating at my aunt’s house with all kinds of great food and so many people you could hardly move. I’m looking forward to your next book. Sounds great!

  8. Hey Mary,
    I have a question for you. Would it be possible to sneak an extra person in there, a not-related person, and would anybody know? 🙂 That’s kind of how it was at my parents house this Christmas too. It was the blizzard weekend—my brother Dennis had to meet each of us at the highway with a tractor just to get us in. Crazy people.
    Later, Karen

  9. Mary, Well, This isn’t exactly how I remember it. I remember only being able to open the joint presents. Like a game and one thing for ourselves, but having to wait for some of them until Grandma got there to see us open some. But you’re right, total chaos. Then you forgot the part about milking cows, then piling all of us in the car and driving 3 hours to Grandma Frew’s house in Crete for the big family Christmas dinner, then back and milking cows again that night. We’d fall sleep on top of each other in the back of the station wagon. No seat belts to be seen anywhere in those days. Nila

Comments are closed.