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2000: This mom raised 10 kids

by Berry Tramel Modified: May 9, 2009 at 11:02 pm •  Published: May 10, 2008

Madalene sat at the top of the stairs and cried.

"My little chickees were leaving the nest," Madalene said.

Her oldest daughter, Margaret, had just married and was leaving home. The two-story house on 14th Street would never be the same. Only nine kids were left.

That was 1977, and Madalene sat on those stairs and cried when each one left. The oldest eight kids were only nine years apart, so there were wild days in the three-bedroom house. Now grown with families of their own, Madalene's kids look back with wonder.

How did she do it?

"I don't remember her sleeping," Margaret said. "When did this woman sleep?"

John, her seventh child, remembers little things. Always having clean socks. Always having breakfast. "I grew up blind to it. Now I think, how in the world did she do these things?"

Madalene did it with organization and spunk and blood that ran pure Italian and faith and love. Lots of faith. Lots and lots of love.

"It was chaotic," Margaret said. "But it was a good place to grow up. I never heard my mother complain. Not once."

Madalene and her husband, Leroy, raised 10 kids, "and not a lemon in the bunch," she said. "They care about the important things in life."

Madalene ran a house of rules.

Everybody came home after school. Maybe there was someplace to go later, but that was to be decided after dinner.

Everybody looked presentable. You didn't look scraggly going to school, and you dressed up to go to church.

Everybody cleaned their plate. Hot meals were the standard. Meat, potatoes, vegetable and salad every night.

Madalene tells young mothers, "You can rest when you die." She did laundry every day and never let it pile. "If you get behind," she said, "then you cry.

"I can't remember going through menopause. Too busy."

She never had a breakdown. Never took a Valium. Never been on Prozac. "That's saying a lot nowadays," Madalene said.

Her word was law. When Margaret turned 16, she started driving the other kids to school in one of the two family cars. But when the next oldest, Leroy, turned 16, he wasn't allowed a turn behind the wheel. "Too feisty," Madalene said.

"You can't be popular and be a parent. It worked. My best friends are my kids."

It worked. That doesn't mean it was easy.

Space was tight. Money was tighter.

"Obviously, we didn't get all the nice things," John said. "But I never felt we were doing without."

Both Madalene and her husband had good jobs. Madalene is in her 40th year as a nurse at Mercy Hospital. She worked the graveyard shift, 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., so she could be home when the kids left for school and when they returned.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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