I always get a little melancholy this time of the year. It would have been my mother's 80th birthday today. Sadly, I didn't make it to Mass as planned today, but will, God willing, attend tomorrow. A few days from now on the 8th will be the 15th Anniversary of her death. I ache for her touch, and would give anything to be able to kiss and hug her as well as listen to her good counsel.
My mother and her brothers and sisters sat for this formal portrait in the mid 1930s. Her maiden name was Shelak - and the photo was taken in Northampton or Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.
Back row: John, Catherine (my mother), and Anna
Front row seated: Mary, Andrew, and Helen
I expect the kids are in their Sunday best. 4 of the six are now deceased. My Aunt Mary who is now well in her 80s is getting frail now, and the other surviving aunt, my aunt Anna, is advancing in Alzheimers. Not pictured is my Uncle Joseph, who was born a bit more than a decade after this picture was taken. He's only 9 years older than I am.
These children of my emigre (Autro-Hungarian empire) grandparents did quite well for themselves. They all were married and had families 6 of the 7 marriages stayed together, which isn't a bad percentage as things go considering the turmoil of the 60s and 70s. Uncle John was a WWII veteran who saw duty in the Marines on Guadal Canal among other places, he later became a long distance truck driver and was based out of Texas - his 3 children and their families are still in Pennsylvania.
My 3 aunts pictured here all worked in the garment industry and each could sew like a dream. Not a gene I inherited. All were ILGWU members. When you could still get clothes made in the USA and not sized for some sort of pygmy with no hips or boobs. Let me put it this way: They not only knew what a "dart" was, they made them - and could do their own patterns too, and often did. Mom gave up working outside the home when she married my dad (also a Korean Era vet who worked his way up the food chain to be a plant manager for a beverage company). My uncle Andrew was a veteran of the Korean War and he later went to Layfayette College on the GI bill and became a chemical engineer. The youngest, Joseph, [4F from a motorcycle accident and my only uncle who wasn't a vet] graduated from Penn State and became a hardward/software support guru for IBM mainframes pretty much in the late 60s when mainframes where huge gully whumpers which took up whole rooms for about the power of a computer you're sitting in front of now.l He's almost retired. Joe and Andy also bopped around the country a bit, both "homing" back to Pennsylvania - my own family moved to California (after stays elsewhere) when I was 14. And my mother's sisters all lived literally within a block or two of each other and their mother. When we were all little kids together, it was great to be able to bounce around between the 4 houses. Now one of my cousins still lives two doors from his mom (Anna) and his sister and her husband still live close to the old family homes (two still occupied in houses in homes my uncles and grandfather helped build.)
Given the tendency of cyberspace to hang around, I dedicate this post to my maternal cousins and their children and their grandchildren and coming grandchildren and future generations-- maybe someday they'll "google" "Pennsylvania" and "Shelak" and see this photo of their predecessors.
I've written quite a bit about my mother before, but to throw in something a little fun I must say that while dad and I enjoyed fishing (especially in my teen years) though dad and I usually came up with something or other and didn't get totally zipped - mom always had a "string." She just had more patience than the two of us put together! God knows she was the only one who regularly came home with halibut while the two of us were aced out.
Oh, just to taste on of her fish fry ups once more. Happy 80th birthday, mommy.