Welcome back to 'Fine Lines', the Friday feature in which we give a sentimental, sometimes-critical, far more wizened look at the children's and YA books we loved in our youth. This week, guest writer and novelist Laura Lippman takes on two books, 'Cheaper by the Dozen' and 'Belles on their Toes', and - Sweetheart, get her rewrite! — unearths a major scoop.We made quite a sight rolling along in the car, with the top down. As we passed through cities and villages, we caused a stir equaled only by a circus parade . . . Whenever the crowds gathered at some intersection where we were stopped by traffic, the inevitable question came sooner or later. "How do you feed all those kids, Mister?" Dad would ponder for a minute. Then, rearing back so those on the outskirts could hear, he'd say as if had just thought it up: "Well, they come cheaper by the dozen, you know."
As it turned out, Ernestine's tonsils were recessed and bigger than the doctor expected. It was a little messy to get at them, and Mr. Coggin, the movie cameraman, was sick in the waste basket. ‘Don't stop cranking,' Dad shouted at him, ‘or your tonsils will be next. I'll pull them out by the roots, myself. Crank, by jingo, crank.'"
"But I don't think the doctors know what they're talking about," Dad said. [Of course not! The stupid doctors didn't even know how inefficiently they were performing surgery until Frank Gilbreth showed them his home movies of tonsillectomies.] Mother knew the answer Dad wanted. ‘I don't see how twelve children would be much more trouble than ten," she told him.
There was a change in Mother after Dad died. A change in looks and a change in manners. Before her marriage, all Mother's decisions had been made by her parents. After the marriage, the decisions were made by Dad. . . . While Dad lived, Mother was afraid of fast driving, of airplanes, of walking alone at night. When there was lighting, she went in a dark closet and held her ears. When things went wrong at dinner, she sometimes burst into tears and had to leave the table. She made public speeches, but she dreaded them. Now, suddenly, she wasn't afraid any more, because there was nothing to be afraid of. Now nothing could ever upset her because the thing that mattered most had been upset. None of us ever saw her weep again.