Emma Brooks had rules in her house. She had to have rules with ten children.
Everyone had to be at the dinner table by 6:30. The family ate together.
Every Sunday there was church and in the afternoon everyone would pile in the car for a family trip to the mall or Hains Pointe to watch the airplanes take off. That kept the family together.
Christmas shopping started in August with Brooks checking the newspapers for sales and buying games and toys the children could share.
"You learned to manage," said Brooks, 69, the mother of ten who is the D.D. Federation of Civic Associations Mother of the Year for 1979.
"People look at me funny now when I tell I had ten children," said Brook who will be honored by the federation in a Mothers Day prayer breakfast today at the Sheraton Park Hotel. "But in my day it wasn't too unusual to have ten. My mother had 13."
Brook's ten children, four boys and six girls now between the ages of 42 and 30, have given her 27 grandchildren, three great-grandchildrenand she feels they have given her "unending joy."
"The biggest joy," said Brooks, sitting at the large dinner table in her home on 11th Street NE surrounded by cans of play dough left by one of her grandchildren, "was seeing them all graduate from high school. That was a joy."
Barbara Humphries, Brooks' eldest child, remembers that her mother and father let the children know school was important and held spelling bees on Friday nights for the ten children, with a candy bar going to the winner.
"Even children, with a candy bar goint to the winner.
"Everyone wanted to get that candy bar," said Humphries.
Stretching candy bars, food and clothes while keeping the children out of trouble meant watching the children every minute, Brooks remembers, and using little tricks.
Her husband, Robert, who died in 1962, would go to the O Street market and buy apples by the bushel, and greens by the crate to get them cheaper.
And when it came time for music lessons, Brooks took a job as a printers' apprentice at the Bureau of Engraving to make sure the family would have the money for the little things." She didn't want to work before because "I believe a mother should be home when the children are young."
Money wasn't easy and the neighborhood around the little row house they rented on the Third Street NE was not the best with drug addicts and drunks to be seen on the corner. But Brooks said she kept the children out of trouble by instilling valves in them.
"Her day never ended," Humphries remembers. "She would do the washing and the ironing and all with all those clothes. It looked like she would never get done. She did so much we wanted to help her. She was a perfect mother."
She didn't let the children work until they had graduated from high school but worked herself to get them into summer camps, scouts and sports teams. With her husband Brooks joined and headed the Parents Teachers Association to fight for better facilities for the children's schools, including a new building for Terrel Junior High.
"I was 12 when my father died," said Anthony Brooks, the youngest son who works with a trucking firm. "That left me and ma. She raised me. I had big brothers who gave me a lot of advice . . . but ma, I don't think I'll ever be able to pay her back. She was mother of the year for me."
Brooks says she doesn't understand some of the younger women who speak of having ten children as if it were a burden. She thinks some of the younger women are selfish.
"I wouldn't use birth control," said Brooks, a Catholic, "but I can't talk for other people. So many people think its awful to have ten children but I had a happy home . . . we were working together. Things were never the biggest oo the best but we had each other."
It is more expensive to have a baby now, she said, nothing that it cost her $150 to have each of her children and now the cheapest delivery costs at an area hospital that she knows of is $850.
But the cost of raising a child and talk of population explosions don't sway her.
"The way I see these young black men fighting in the streets and dying around (the city)," she said, "I don't see that we have too many people. If you want a child and are old enough to take care of yourself you can do it.
"I think some of these problem children in the streets," she said, "come from these young girls who get pregnant and can't take care of their children so the children grow up in the street."
Brooks sees some pregnant young women in the D. C. Jail where she goes for Sunday services with the inmates. She describes the jailed women, particularly the expectant ones, as "pathetic, sad."
Brooks goes to the jail as part of her community activies that have replaced the ten children and husband who dominated her youth.
She is a member of the Capitol Hill Civil Association, volunteers a day of work every week at Capitol Hill Hospital, and is an officer of the H Street Project Area Committee which is trying to find housing for some of the lower-income persons who are losing their homes as renovations sweep through the city.
"I got involved with community work after the children were grown," she said. "I'm notthe type to sit home and look out the window."
Brooks stays in touch with her children daily still, living the drama of their growing families and giving advice when she is asked for it.
"Once you have ten children," she said, "you are never lonely again."