Their people came from Kilfenora, County Clare, Ireland.Their farm in Minnesota had the same name. Emerson Hynes and his wife, Arlene, considered themselves academics, but there was more to it than that: Hours before he went off to teach sociology and ethics at St. John's University in Collegeville, he was up to milk the cows, and long after he got back he was puttering around the house he had built himself.

He was one of 10 children; so was she. And they had . . . 10 children.

"Every night, we all got 30 seconds of loving each," said their daughter Mary Hynes-Berry. "They used to joke that if it was any longer, they'd be at it all night. But any time any one of us was depressed or needed some special time, she would take us on her lap. There were six of us under 6 at the time."

If Arlene got off her day's schedule by as much as 20 minutes, it could blow the whole day. She larned not to try to make it up but to flow with it.

Progressive Catholics, the Hyneses were active in the Catholic Worker movement and the Agrarian Society, Arlene became chairwoman of the National Council of Catholic Women, wrote magazine articles, papers. Something was always going on at the farm. They tried solar energy, tried to build with rammed earth. But no bank loans.

"It's a cliche, but they were hippies before their time," said their son Thomas More Hynes.

1959, Eugene McCarthy was elected Senator, called on his old college friend (and best man at his wedding) to come to Washington as his legislative assistant, to turn his back on a 20-year academic career.

"Dad called us all to the table and asked our opinions. Only Patrick didn't want to go. The rest of us were all for it."

Patrick was to become a Senate page and spend more time on the Hill than anyone else. He is now assistant Secretary for the Majority in the Senate.

"Actually," Arlene said, "moving here was the low point for me. We'd been in a safe community where we could let the children go. Children need to be free. We came to Arlington and they couldn't climb trees or roam around. We didn't know our neighbors. I didn't bake a cake for the new people when they moved in - I didn't even know who they were. It was all so important.

The move proved a watershed for the Hynes children. The older ones compared everything to the farm in Minnesota; the younger ones saw those days as a kind of Eden, remote and mythic.

One Sunday in 1968 Emerson Hynes woke up to find he couldn't speak very well. He slurred the reading from the Breviary. The children giggled. The doctor told him he'd had a stroke. He retired after McCarthy lost the presidential nomination. Then he had another stroke. And his seventh child, Michael, drowned at 18 in the Pacific.

"It broke his heart," said Hilary. He aged 20 years."

A month after Michael died, his mother went to work in the library at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, making use of her degree in library science. Emerson urged her on, "as though he knew something." A few months later, in July 1971, he died at 56.

"My father always handled the discipline problems," T. More said, "and when Arlene had to do it she was lousy. We all agreed on that. My father would hold you by the forelock and say, "What did you do wrong? It was hard. Because you knew it. You knew you were wrong, but sometimes it would take you 15, 20 minutes to admit it. You couldn't get out of it. But it was better than being shut in your room where you could sulk and blame everything on somebody else."

The daily work charts got sloppy. The Christmas rituals, the one-at-a-time gift opening ("the kids we knew couldn't believe it was after noon and we hadn't opened our present yet") grew less formal. Emerson had been the family's great organizer.

Arlene discovered bibliotherapy.

"It began with some drug therapy I was asked to do at the hospital, and I got interested in therapy through reading, something like poetry thereapy. There was no place to train for it, so I taught myself. I started running classes in the evenings with maybe seven people, training librarians in the techniques."

This year she has four trainees who come to her after a day's work. About 100 patients a week do the therapy, reading stories or poems, discussing their feelings, perhaps writing responses of their own. Robert Frost, Denise Levertov, Langston Hughes.

"It has to be stuff they can relate to, staff that appeals to their own basic human experiences. What happens is that the patients learn to open up to each other, and also they get staff-affirmation from the material, they respond to it in their own ways."

She hopes to get an MA in bibliothearapy. When she started work in 1971, the room she worked in consisted mainly of books piled on the floor. It was the former morgue. It had a skylight, like most morgues and artists' studies.

"I've just turned 60," said Arlene Hynes. "I'm delighted." Her identical twin in Houston has six children. Children, you might say, run in the family.

The first six Hynes kids came in six years. Denis was born in 1942.He is a lawyer for the Federal Trade Commission. Put himself through law school. Two children. Patrick, also in Washington, also halso two. Mary, married to a British nuclear physicist, lives in Chicago, has a Ph.D. in English, Chaucer. She has four boys. Hilary went through four years of art school on a full scholarship, tried to live on his art, wound up (very skinny) as a painting conservationist and restorer. Brigid Hynes-Cherin, a lawyer for the Department of Transportation, put herself through law school at night. Peter is a carpenter building houses in Austin, Tex. One son.

Then a 3-year gap to T. More, who has a picture framing business; Timothy, a writer-artist in a California commune; Christopher, age 20, at home, studying music theory and art at Northern Virginia Community College. The youngest, including Michael, are referred to as The Four Little Boys.

"I could live to be 94," said T. More, "but I'll still be one of The Four Little Boys."

He and Tim used to fight a lot (the family called them TNT), and generally the younger ones were rowdy at school.

"I had a terrible attitude to education," said Hilary. "I got through from school. Tried to work as an apprentice. Finally landed at the Corcoran. I think the bi contribution of my generation was restoring crafts as a valued alternative way of life."

Arlene herself noted the division among her children, the older ones "more old-fashioned," reflecting the values of their parents, achieving academically, and the younger ones breaking away though not by any means dropping out.

"I don't see them so much as achievers," she said, "but as good people living the kind of life I'm happy to see them live. Nobody's rich, nobody's written a famous book. But that's not what matters.

Few of the children have remained as strictly Catholic as their parents ("I don't go to mass regularly, but I never considered myself anything but Catholic"). They were raised on family ritual. Each child had a special individual prayer. The parents even wrote a booklet on Lent in the home.

"We all have a profound sense of transcendence," said Mary. "The rituals are supporting and meaningful to us. I think our closeness was a healing, rich experience. I couldn't be at my father's funeral because I'd just had a baby, and that made his death much harder to cope with than my brother's. The older kids got this stronge sense of the importance of faith and a sense of Catholicism based on love and mutual respect and the absolute priority of human dignity."

They used to line up in two groups and read the Psalms responsively. They had candles in Advent, lived in the liturgical year from week to week. Church rituals became their own family ceremonies.

"All that became more difficult when we went to the suburbs," said Hilary. "The glue wasn't there. Still, when my father died it didn't just stop, the values were passed on. That was the thing, our parents gave us each a tremendous sense of self."

They used to have a '57 Pontiac station wagon named The Whale, and once all 12 of them drove to Houston. It took three days.

They used to have a proper route that they handed down from one kid to another. It was in the family six years.

Some broke away early. Brigid left home at 18 to be a nurse, quit that, went to night school, took city planning, went into transportation, rose to GS-12 with DOT, went to law school nights after her full-time job. Hilary rebelled against his father, giving them both an unpleasant year or two, but they got together again. "Our father never drew the lines. He never burned the bridges."

The Hynes family tends to swallow people up like a friendly firestorm. The in-laws - all of them achievers, film maker, physicist, sociologist, teacher, architect - seem to enjoy this. One husband said that if he weren't already an honorary Hynes complete with hyphenated name, he'd marry Arlene in a minute.

Every time the Hyneses meet, it's a party. They aren't a family, they're a gestalt.