Sunday, May 8, 2011
Stories My Mother Told Me
Her maternal grandfather was born in Russia and was the first member of his family to immigrate to the United States. My mother was the first granddaughter, and he loved to spoil her. He also loved to bounce his adored granddaughters on his knees, but he had what she called "the look." If any of the kids was misbehaving, all he had to do was give "the look", and they knew they better stop right then. He didn't even have to say a word.
Her maternal grandmother never really learned to speak English, although she lived in this country for 59 years. My mother would speak in English to her, and she would respond in German to my mother, and they managed to communicate that way.
My mother was living in Chicago with a friend of the family. This was during the period of the first Mayor Daley and everything that time is famous for. She always carried a $20 bill tucked behind her driver's license in case she was stopped. That was just the way things worked in Chicago.
After my parents married, they had chickens for a while. My mother hated the chickens and always called them "the cluck-cluck things", even years later.
My parents were married in Florida and drove to California, where I was born. My mother always used to complain that it took three whole days to drive across Texas.
She got a spinal and was reading a Mickey Spillane novel when I was born.
My mother took me to Florida when I was just a tiny baby so my great-grandmother, who was still alive, could meet me. (This one drives me crazy because there's no photograph. My father has told me he remembers my mother taking the trip. So how come my grandfather, who took photos of just about every other event in the family, missed the shot with four generations?)
I am a year older than my brother. The due date given for each of us was April 1. I was born a week afterward. The next year, two weeks after the due date, my mother decided she was tired of waiting for my brother to come out and went dancing. Boom! She went into labor.
When I was a toddler, we had a standard poodle who took it upon himself to "protect" me. If my mother got mad at me for something and started yelling, the dog would stand in front of me and not let my mother get to me. Don't misunderstand -- my mother was not abusive or anything. But the dog had decided I was its "puppy", and it took care of me. Later the dog died of an epileptic fit. (As many times as my mother told me this story, she never told me the name of the poodle. So I asked my father, who said it was Pepe.)
While my mother was pregnant with my sister, she had to take my brother and me with her when she went to visit the doctor. I apparently used to run up to all the little boys in the doctor's office and kiss them.
Not all the stories were accurate. My mother always claimed she was part Irish, but I don't have a drop of Irish blood on either side of my family. She said that she and my father had taken a motorcycle trip to Death Valley while she was pregnant with me. My father confirmed the trip but said she was actually pregnant with my sister. (Heaven knows who was watching me and my brother!)
When I think about these stories, I can hear my mother's voice. It's a good way to remember her.