"You gotta be kidding me", my mother said, when the bunch of us, my brothers and sisters and a friend, played the biggest practical joke on a babysitter that was not cooperating with us.
In those days, you heard the moniker "kids had to be seen and not heard". Well in my family, that didn't fly because everyone had an opinion, even the youngest. Some of the biggest family decisions started with the kid's ideas for dinner, travel and amusement parks. We even moved across the country based on our fascination with caving for gold.
It was sort of a free for all at our house. You could go to sleep when you wanted to over the weekend, and eat ice cream before dinner. Don't worry, we all grew up just fine.
It was a Saturday, and all the neighborhood women decided they would go out and get their hair done. Typically it was an all day event- they went to the city, and found a fabulous place to have lunch and they would bring back a New York Pizza, if we behaved with the babysitter.
Our usual beloved sitter could not make it that day, as she was training a horse. This was her passion, and we all understood since we loved animals. At our house, because of allergies, we were not allowed to have pets except a green parakeet, a mouse we called Chips and a tank full of guppies.
Barbara the babysitter, walked in with a big purse with magazines peeking out and treats, like Fritoes, Coca Cola, potato chips and the list goes on. Of course five of us thought that these snacks were for us. Not.
Barbara told us to set ourselves up in front of the television and watch the Brady Bunch and cartoons. "If you get bored"she said, go to your rooms and watch your dozens of guppies swimming around the tank. Did she want to hypnotize us?
As the day progressed, a neighbor was standing below our two story window and returning some garden tools. I had a glass of water in my hand, and thought I would add some fresh water to my fish tank. I don't know why I did this, but I poured this tall glass of water on Mrs. Hecker's new hairdo, and she let out a yogurt curdling scream that caused Barbara to run to the front door. Mrs Hecker was besides herself, and warned Barbara that if she didn't get us kids in shape, she was going to tell our parents to discipline us big time.
One thing after the other, the mischief ensued. We loved to play bumper cars, and I piled three of the kids in a little electric car. Of course there were some steering problems and the car kept bumping into the ottoman where Barbara's feet were stretched out. She was deep into her snacks and had to pop a handful of chips in her mouth before the next bumper car whollop.
You could tell that Barbara was starting to boil, and lo and behold she started yelling. Well that didn't fly, so my brothers and sisters and I devised a plan. I called Roseann on the sly, and told her that our baby sitter was no fun. I didn't like that she was yelling. Roseanne was my buddy and partner for pranks, and we quickly devised a plan. She had a chicken and a well trained pig in her backyard, and she agreed that she would bring over the critters when I gave the signal, which was a knock on our living room window. At the signal, Roseanne would unleash them in the house.
At this point things got a little crazy, and Barbara who was making chocolate chip cookies for herself started running after us with a spatuala. All five of us kids at this time began running around the house, and quite unexpectedly, the parakeet figured out how to get out of the cage, and started to chase after my brother. You could hear the parakeet imitating the babysitter, and it sounded like "WAWAWA". Mark was running behind Barbara who was frantically running after me with that pancake flipper. At this exact moment, I knocked on the living room window, and the second shift came in to be part of the craziness. My friend unleashed her pig, and chicken who somehow got into formation, and became part of the manic Conga line.
I rember the moment in this whirlwind of frantic hilarity. Barbara stopped, and looked at me, and said "What's going on?", and I then turn to my brothers and ask the same question. The pig because it was in unfamiliar territory pee peed on the floor, and all of us were sliding on the wood floors. Barbara called her mom, and at this point a clean up campaign started. It reminded me of the Dr. Suess characters Thing One and Thing Two, clean up campaign before the Mom came home. We didn't get into a lot of trouble, but we had a lot of explaining to do.
Years later I called Barbara to catch up and she said "Turn around us fair play". We both laughed, and she told me that she wrote a story that won a contest, but changed the plot line. Instead of the kids tricking the baby sitter, she wrote about the practical jokes she had up her sleeve, with my mom's permission.