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A Small Tribe 1

Freda Isaksen

The women of the neighborhood are waiting, listening impatiently for the news. The neighbors are whispering to each other as they meet on the street. “Rebekah is in labor, will it be another boy?”

When the expected day arrives every housewife runs to her front door when a young boy is seen running down the street shouting, “Mamma has a baby boy!”

Oi vey,” is the general response, “another boy, her fifth already.”

Two years go by and as Rebekah walks down the street the women nudge each other and whisper, “Rebekah is expecting again, maybe it’ll be a girl this time.”

The weeks go by, then everyone runs to the window as the little boy runs down the street calling out, “Mamma has another baby boy!”

Oi, Oi,” the women cry out, “that’s six already!”

Time elapses then Rebekah is seen growing bigger and bigger as she trudges to the market.

“What’ll it be this time?” is the topic of conversation during the ensuing weeks.

Rebekah has not been seen today, so her time has surely come, and yes, there’s one of her boys running down the street, shouting, “It’s a boy, Mamma has a new baby boy.”

Oi, oi, oi,” the housewives wail, “Is it her sixth, her seventh, her eighth?”

“No, it’s her ninth boy!” they cry out. “Well, that will be a household full of fine men!”

“Rebekah is pregnant again,” is the news of the day. Well ten boys will be a good round number.

The day has arrived when Rebekah has not been seen by any of the neighbors so everyone is waiting anxiously.

“Yes, here he comes, there’s the boy running down the street to give us the news.”

The women shake their heads as he calls out, “Mamma had another baby boy.”

But wait, there’s another bigger boy running behind him. “Stop, stop,” he shouts. “You’re wrong, Mamma said to tell the neighbors it’s a girl this time.”

Yes, my mother-in-law gave birth to fifteen children. Eleven survived to adulthood—nine boys first then two girls. The above incident is true; it was my husband, the eighth son, who delivered the wrong findings. After all, he didn’t know about girls.


  1. For the context of this story, see The Isaksen Family History.

Copyright Freda Isaksen 1986–2006. Permission to reuse for non-commercial purposes is granted, provided that the text is unaltered and the original source is acknowledged. For more information, contact isaksen at

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