Calvin Willis awakened after a brief midday nap, straggled into a brightly decorated living room, stumbled past a couple of bably baskets. Before crushing a carton of crayons, he managed to collapse onto a cushy Naugahyde couch.
He was wearing his all-purpose pajamas - a pair of crinkled cutoffs and a shortsleeve shirt. he looked beat and knew it. His eyelids slowly opened only after he gently massaged his face.
"Whew," he sighed with a dazed smile. After a pause he said, "It's something else."
Seven weeks ago, Calvin, 31, and his wife Joanna, 30, became the parents of quadruplets, bringing to five the number of children in the Willises' tiny, two-bedroom apartment in Anacostia.
"If anything has changed," Willis said, stroking the stubble beneath his chin, "it is that everything has changed. I'm very optimistic about all of this."
He reaised his voice above the background of syncopated yii-yii's and goo'goo's reverberating from a nearby bedroom, saying, "I dont know if Jesus is among them, but they sure were God-sent."
Life in the daytime at the Willises' home is like what it is at night. "There is no day or night," Willis explained. "Dax," he said of one of the four newly born, "thinks the day starts at 11 p.m."
In the parents' bedroom is one baby crib, and in the bedroom formerly belonging only to Keva - their 6-year-old daughter - are three other cribs. Except for the 18 baby baskets donated by well-wishers and scattered boxes of clothing and food, things are pretty orderly.
Willis laughed, savoring the setting."Crawling time is just a few months away," he said, and his eyelids closed again.
"We just sleep when we can," said Joanna Willis, preparing a late dinner for Keva. "My schedule," said Calvin Willis, "is based on house needs."
The routine of their non-routine goes something like this: Feed, wash, change. Feed, wash, change. Feed, wash, change. Feed, wash, change.
"After a short nap I sure don't feel too sporty having to do it," Calvin said. "My eyes roll back into my head and I say, 'Damn it, eyes, please stay open.' If I left it all up to Joanna, two of the tiny ones might starve before she could make the rounds."
Hardly known to anyone outside Washington before making history (ironically, as Willis pointed out, during Black History Week), they have become celebrities of sorts and Washington has greeted its new neighbors in ways good and bad.
Geber Foods, Inc., sent 66 cans of baby food that now border the Willis dining room. Procter & Gamble takes credit for the four cartons of Pampers diapers stacked nearby. The Willises have also received hundreds of offers from people wanting to make donations, some money and many letters congratulating and criticizing them for the birth of quadruplets.
The steady stream of the curious which the Willises said had had wreaked havoc upon the household, has subsided somewhat. But the family remains on guard, fearful, in fact, that some stranger might wal kin one day carrying a disease. The babies now have mild colds.
There is an uncomfortable feeling, said Calvin Willis that someone is always watching them. That feeling, combined with the constant demands of the new children, has made the births the greatest of his and Joanna's relationship, which he figures began when he was 14 and she was 13.
They met in seventh grade, and he liked her, went for her once or twice, "but didn't get any rhythm," he said with a sly eye and shrug. She got prettier, even winked his way once. he, figuring his rap was intact, tried again in the eighth grade. And she laughed No way.
Joanna was filled with surprises for Calvin Willis, even then.
They were married after high school, and later had their first child, Keva. Then, on Feb. 17, after nearly nine years of marriage, Joanna came forth with a set of quads. "Now that'll do it to ya," Calvin Willis said poudly.
He is a Washingtonian by birth, a cab driver and a Leo, no less, who found love and strength in the girl next door.Sounds corny, but it is true.
He drives his own car for Capitol Cab Cooperative Association and earns about $125 a week. His wife worked as a personnel technician until December.
"I'm out in the streets about five or six hours a day," Calvin said. "I feel work under the circumstances, but we need the money."
He said he and Joanna were reared in similar ways, and that they will rear their children the same way."My father was a barber and my mother did day labor," Calvin said. "We never had a lot but we never knew we were poor. When I could get my own box of cereal, something like that could make me so happy."
"It's not how much money you have," said Joanna. "It's how much love you're willing to give."
Some people say the Willises made a mistake. In some of the letters Joanna has received and on a radio talk show, people complained it was "criminal" of her to bring so many children into the world.
When Calvin Willis was grocery shopping last week, he overheard two women talking about him: "I bet he just gave that woman all them babies don't understand, "is having kids and Willis recalled "I walked over to her. I was mad, really teed off."
"I said, yeah, I'm out in the streets, driving my cab day in and day out, in between helping feed and wash and change and do the grocery shopping. Yeah, here I am right now in the damn streets."
He lowered his voice "And you know she just melted right before my eyes, and I knew that that there are some men out here who she might be right about, you know."
"What is criminal," said Joanna Willis, seeming sad that some people don't understand, "is having kids and neglecting them. Having them and them and loving them is what marriage is all about."
"I'll have as many as I can take care of and I'll take care of as many as I have," Calvin burst in. "Hey, I don't intend to pull back," he said, when asked about future children. "Me? Hold off?" he said with a dry smile. "If it happens, hey . . ."
Mrs. Willis sort of settled back upon hearing this and gave him on of those "Here now, Cal" smiles. She said he has been acting like that lately, the almighty "Doc Willis," as his mother-in-law now cals him.
"So much happens so quick," Willis explains. "You got to be in control. I'm the father, this is our house."
On Thursday, Joanna left the Willises' apartment on non-baby business for the first time since December. She and Calvin had a brief lunch at a restaurant, which she interrupted twice to call home and see how things were going.
"I feel so fortunate," she said. "So many things could have happened. I'm so thankful and I'm taking great pleasure from my children."
"The doctor says she is physically able to do anything she wants to now," said Calvin. "I think we'll start going out again, occasionally. I want to see if she can still boogie."