Friday, May 11, 2018

Happy Mother’s Day Heroines of My Past

This article is revised from an earlier one posted in 2012.

I was lucky to have strong, independent women role-models growing up. I did not realize the impact of Nana’s, Aunt Jean’s, Aunt Nettie’s and Mom’s experiences until years later. These women (and others not mentioned in this article) created a mosaic of memories that shaped my life. Among the values absorbed was the importance of financial responsibility. A boring trait, definitely not warm and fuzzy, but an important one to everyone’s long-term happiness, security, and well-being.

In honor of Mother’s Day I remember and celebrate two generations of women who influenced my life.

Dad’s father died when he was about four years old and his sister, my Aunt Harriet, was six. On the eve of the Depression, 1929, Nana was left with two children to support. Married, job-hunting women in their 30s were an unwanted commodity. Nana lied about her age, dropping eight years, and as a good-looking 20-something woman found employment. She worked most of her life, never remarried, and struggled for many years. Yet she always looked glamorous to me, a tall, regal, well-dressed lady, every hair in place, whom I wanted to emulate.

I was ten years old when my Uncle Ed died. His wife Aunt Jean floundered, lost without her husband. Uncle Ed handled all the couple’s affairs, including everything financial. I remember Grandpa sitting at the dining room table, hunched over, concentrating on piles of papers strewn across the table, attempting to organize Aunt Jean’s life. She had never written a check and had no idea how much – or how little – money she had. My grandfather taught her how to write a check, keep track of her checking account, and helped her create a budget. The year was 1960.

My Uncle Harry married Aunt Nettie, about as independent a woman as there ever was. Born 1900 in Montana, her independent and adventurous streak was imbedded in her DNA. As a young single woman she travelled cross-country with friends. She went to nursing school and eventually became an administrator at a large hospital in New York City. She returned to school in the 1940s and obtained an additional degree in social work. She and my uncle travelled all over the world. I got engaged while in college; her advice, “Whatever you do, finish college.”

Me and Mom
My mother was an only child and went to college, not a typical undertaking for women born in the 1920s. Most girls majored in education or nursing. Mom majored in math. She returned to school in the early 1960s. I remember Saturday mornings Mom and Dad in our basement, Dad hard at work on the typewriter while Mom dictated a report due in class later that day. She earned a master’s in library science and worked for years as an elementary school librarian. In the late 1960s Dad faced financial difficulties and a period of unemployment, and Mom’s paycheck bridged the gap until Dad was again employed.

Of course I made life decisions that may not have been the best, but I can only blame myself.

For the positive choices reached because of lessons learned from these women,

Thank You and

Happy Mother’s Day!