She was born and raised in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the daughter of German immigrants, one of six children. She remembered hardships: walking along the railroad tracks to collect pieces of coal in the wintertime, delivering the laundry her mother did for others, and being compelled to leave school at 14, right after her 8th grade graduation, to work at Beacon Mill. She called it her Alma Mater.
Mom met my Dad on a blind date when he was a student at M.I.T. The next time he saw her, he asked her out for an afternoon walk…and did they walk! By the time they returned, close to dinner time, he was exhausted and late for a date with a girl in his own hometown of Fall River (about 20 miles away) with whom he was unofficially engaged.
Dad never regretted choosing my mother instead. He called her “my girl” until the day she died and for the five years that he lived on without her.
My parents had six children also: five girls and one boy, fortunately for him, the oldest. They saw each of us through college, with two receiving advanced degrees. This was extremely important to my Mom. With only an 8th grade education, she considered herself poorly educated and not as smart as other people. She was wrong of course, but it fed her determination to have her kids go to college. And she went back to work in a jewelry factory to help make that happen.
I remember at my college graduation, my mother borrowed my mortarboard and posed for a picture of triumph, sitting on a brick wall with her legs crossed saucily, a rare moment of silliness for her.
My everyday mom cared for us quietly and conscientiously and unselfishly. She asked little for herself. One thing she did like was potato chips…and another was chocolates, but these were rare luxuries. I remember one year wanting to buy Mom a big box of potato chips for her birthday, but I didn’t have any money, or not enough. I got out our old blue wagon and pulled my two younger sisters around the neighborhood to collect bottles that we could redeem for 2 to 5 cents at the drug store.
We did get enough bottles to buy the potato chips that cost 69 cents, but Mom had seen us soliciting, and she was embarrassed. She told me she didn’t want me to do that again, but she accepted the potato chips, and I think she liked them, which was all we cared about.
I can’t give my mother potato chips or chocolates any longer, but love for her is writ deeply in my heart.
Happy Mother’s day, Mom!