YORK, PA. -- It took a minivan and a sedan to cart five babies and four generations of the Good family home to Gatchelville. Although the quintuplets' arrival had been the talk of the town, people treated it as a solemn event, showing the family the same respect they do the Amish who pass through this hilly farmland. After the cameras and microphones at the hospital in Baltimore, Ruth and David Good were relieved to see no one gathered by the mailbox. Neighbors next door merely glanced up from mulching their garden to witness the medical miracle pulling into the driveway.
Years from now, the homecoming story won't even need embellishment for the eager ears of toddlers: The two years their parents spent trying to conceive, the amazing sonogram with five fluttering hearts, the two dozen doctors and specialists lined up to deliver them Jan. 25.
And the public -- generous, adoring, nosy -- ready to make their lives a fairy tale, sitcom or Guinness Book record.
Although they entered the world within three minutes of each other, their departure from Greater Baltimore Medical Center was more gradual. The boys -- Nathan and Phillip -- arrived home five weeks after their birth, followed by Amanda and Patty Lynn a week later. Finally, on March 18, they all returned to the hospital for Katelyn, the youngest by seconds.
Nurses showed up on their day off to strap the children into car seats with the same steady, confident hands that tended to them in intensive care. Reporters and photographers from two states recorded the send-off. A biological windfall had brought this private couple into the public spotlight.
"Are the babies getting breast milk?" someone called out to Ruth near the end of an hourlong press conference. She blanched only a moment. "Um, they were, but they're on formula now," she said.
The media trailed them into the parking lot -- tracking the couple as they divvyed up babies between cars to begin their journey home. Almost on cue, a song played on the car radio to soothe them: "God is in control."
After the frenzy of the last hour, they took the serene back roads to Gatchelville -- a town that sounds like it sprang from the mind of Dr. Seuss. Even in York County, many have not heard of this place, which has only a church, grocery store, muffler shop and 75 people. Before the birth of the quintuplets, the big news was that Cedar Valley, the supermarket, had started serving pizza.
The Good babies, of course, eclipsed that. They became the subject of church small talk and dinner-time chatter. And the store, which you can see from the porch of the couple's Victorian farmhouse, became a gathering spot for news. Shopkeepers Mae and Mervin Wilson taped a newspaper clipping about the babies to a glass jar and began collecting donations. There was even talk of a community shower.
As best they could, the Goods prepared. They converted their dining room into a nursery, lining the walls with cribs, putting pink sheets over the sofa and adding a small swing where the table used to be. The china closet had been emptied and refilled with burp cloths, diapers and bibs. A second-floor closet -- stockpiled with wipes, shampoo and infant clothes -- resembled the storeroom of Kids R Us.
They also lined up an experienced support crew -- 30 volunteers from their church, North Harford Baptist, in Jarrettsville -- to provide round-the-clock help. David's parents were indispensable, and the babies' 71-year-old great grandmother even lent a hand the day Katelyn left the hospital.
"Formula's made," the babies' grandmother, Carol Good, calls out from the kitchen.
The first of many group feedings begins. Darwin is in the details here: The baby who cries loudest eats first. But today the ratio of child to adult is ideal -- 1-to-1. No one whimpers for long.
Close your eyes and the squeaks, grunts and slurps echoing through this kitchen make for an odd symphony. At some point, the mealtime song turns rhythmic: drumlike patting on tiny backs followed by hiccups in something akin to waltz time. It's a melody that their mother never heard teaching music at Bakerfield Elementary School in Aberdeen.
With her glasses, long blond hair and shy manner, Ruth looks the part of the kindly but straight-laced schoolteacher. David -- tall and slim with a boyish smile -- is the more expressive of the two. She's 28 and he's 29, but both seem younger.
Ruth shuffles into the kitchen wearing pink furry slippers and glances around at the babies, car seats and supplies. "Where are we going to put them all?" she asks.
"Honey," David replies, "Now's not the time to be thinking of that."
David's parents, who have been trying not to listen, break into laughter.
"I meant to take their picture," she explains.