A Packet of Kids

Benjamin B. Ferencz

As a teenage camp counselor, I sometimes had as many as a dozen kids in my group, I thought it was such fun that I would have paid for the entertainment—if I had any money, which I didn’t. Anyone who has had children knows that they can be a joy. They can also be a source of pain. I wanted twelve kids. I figured it was cheaper by the dozen. Our first four children were all born in Nuremberg between I949 and 1953. We started with a bang, if I may use the term. To protect the health of the mother, the doctor advised that we should stop there. My dream of a dozen was gone.

Our oldest daughter, who was very young when she was born, we named Carol, which she later changed to Keri. She came to us in the U.S. Army Hospital, and she was free. (There were no delivery charges.) I believe our next daughter, Robin Eve, also came without cost. The third, my son Donald, carried a slight charge. Our fourth, and last, child is named Nina Dale, and we had to pay the normal medical bills to the U.S. army hospital. I felt I was entitled to an en gros wholesale discount, but perhaps the army was trying to discourage the drain on their facilities.

Despite the usual childhood transgressions, life with the kids at home was also fun. We romped and wrestled in front of the fireplace, we subscribed to the opera and the ballet, and bought tickets to Broadway shows to which the children were taken one at a time. When I returned from a trip abroad it was like Santa Claus paying a visit. First choice of gifts was given to the child who earned the most points for chores well done. I doubt if they noticed that some of the gifts had been pre-selected by Mama and were hidden in the trunk of our car before I produced the “foreign imports.”

All of our children were encouraged to take music lessons. Being a democratic household, they could choose their own instruments of entertainment or torture. The older girls were beginning to play the upright piano we bought for a song and which Mama repaired. Keri was also quite good on the flute. Don played the clarinet I bought him directly from the manufacturer, M. Boufet, outside of Paris. Don also tootled on a bevy of wind instruments I periodically picked up in a music shop in Berlin. In later years he became a bagpipe enthusiast. Nina practiced the violin. She had no difficulty carrying the case or the fiddle but there was some question whether she could carry a tune. She loved that instrument and practiced faithfully, forcing the family to flee the house! When I was not traveling, I tucked each child into bed after telling them a story that ended with a moral. In short, by any normal standard, it was a very happy home.