the one where i interview my mother

IMG_3278This is my mom sometime between 1960 and 1980, so that would make her somewhere between 20 and 40. I wish I could be more precise. I just know that this picture is very old.

My mother’s name is Susan Whalen. She was born in 1942 (yes, my mother is 72 years old) and she’s really awesome. Her favorite things are the beach, writing, and those little sugary orange slice gummies. She met my father in the eighth grade and together they would go on to raise a family of eleven kids. Five are biological and six are adopted.  I would put a picture of all of us here, but there are only about 3 of those in existence because there are way too many of us… The oldest is around 50, and I’m the youngest at 19 years old. So, in light of this incredibly large, strange family that my mother created, I decided to interview her about it.

What made you decide to have so many kids?

baby me adult susan

That’s me as a small(ish) baby circa 1995.

I love babies of all shapes, sizes, and colors. They’re beautiful. I had my first child when I was around 21 and adopted my last child, at age 53. That was you!

Haha, yeah! Fifty-three is kind of old, though, Ma. Why did you keep adopting?

Like I said, I love babies. I grew up in a kind of a hard house-hold. I’ve always felt a need to give, give, give. I felt like my purpose in life was to give little tiny babies a better life.

Did that ever get hard? Having all those little kids running around?

Your father was a lawyer, so he was gone most of the day. But I did have a lot of help. When you have so many kids, eventually you reach a point where the older ones are smart enough to take care of the littler ones.

What was your favorite part about having all those kids?

Definitely the holidays. From the time you were born to the time you were about 11 or 12, we lived in a huge house to accommodate for all those kids.

me and my dad

My father and I swimming in our pool.

Yeah, I remember that house. That one was my favorite. 

Mine too. So, the holidays, and as I was saying, the house was pretty big. So all your brothers and sisters and their husbands and wives would come home for Thanksgiving and for Christmas. The entire house would smell like food and sound like laughter. We would have a huge, twelve foot tall Christmas tree.

The Fourth of July was another good holiday too, because we had a huge yard and a pool and a trampoline. Your father would spend all day grilling hotdogs and playing music from the pool house.

Good times, good times. What about vacations? How did you manage to take all those kids on trips?


The boat on the far left is one we lived on for maybe 17 years. My parents had the pink one built in the early 2000s.

We had a house in Key West, Florida for about twenty years that we would all go and stay on. Sometimes we would spend Christmas down there. It was always hard to get a real tree, so we would get a fake tree and then put plastic flamingo lights on it. Santa would get Key Lime Pie instead of cookies. That always made you a little upset.

I always though Santa would be so mad if he didn’t get his cookies, but it always seemed to work out…

Haha, yeah it always did. Key West is still my favorite place in the world.

Thanks for letting me interview you, Ma — I love you!

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