My parents would have murdered us had they known what we were up to.
When you have 10 children, a vacation away from them is something special. My parents had headed off to Mexico in 1965. A woman from a local agency had been hired to look after us.
Her name was Mrs. Dupe, and we had a surprise for her.
No sooner were my parents out the door then the little ones took up the chant: “Rick’s coming home today!”
Their excited voices sent Mrs. Dupe to the Hilroy notebook my mother had compiled with details on each of us – what we liked to eat, when we went to bed – it was all in the notebook.
But she couldn’t find a kid named Rick.
As the oldest, I was sought out for the answer.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Dupe,” I told her sadly. “Mom and Dad should have told you, but it’s not easy to find someone who’ll agree to look after all 11 of us.”
“Eleven? I thought there were ten.”
“No,” I replied. “Rick’s been in prison up at Kingston, but he’s getting out today.”
Mrs. Dupe grew quiet.
We were just sitting down to dinner when the kitchen door to the outside burst open. It was Rick, and he looked like the little gangster we’d made him out to be. Clad in a black leather jacket and tight blue jeans, cigarette dangling from his lips, he took in the scene as the startled Mrs. Dupe eyed him warily.
My five youngest brothers and sisters excitedly rushed to wrap their arms around him – just as we had rehearsed and trained them to do.
“Are you the Rent-a Mom?” Rick demanded of Mrs. Dupe, who nodded her head. “Then fix me something to eat!” he ordered.
Mrs. Dupe did as ordered. The rest of the evening revolved around Rick and his harrowing prison tales. Mrs. Dupe listened with increasing horror.
The next morning, my brother Larry and I awoke to the certain knowledge we were doomed. As architects of the little joke, we began to fear Mrs. Dupe might use it as an excuse to abandon us.
Our neighbour Larry Evers, aka “Rick,” fled the house as we got ready to confess our crime.
Fortunately, the remarkable and kindly Mrs. Dupe had a sense of humour. She never told our parents what wicked little delinquents we really were.
She would continue to look after us for years when my parents took one of their rare holidays.
For fear of my father’s wrath, the story of how we duped Mrs. Dupe became one of those unspoken family legends.