Saturday, January 06, 2007

Another Special Day in My Life

On this date in 1915, Claud and Mary welcomed a new baby daughter into their family and named her Helen Marie. She had one older sister and one sister that had died, and she later had another sister and two brothers. Baby Helen was my mom and this would have been her 92nd birthday.

Helen was most likely a very good little girl. Here is one of the few photos in existence of her as a child. She's holding her oldest brother....

I'm sure she helped around the house and I know she did lots of baking when she was a kid. I've heard her tell about making Lord or Lady Baltimore cake (I don't remember which it was!) and she liked telling about making peanut butter soup when she was in home ec. class at school! Even though I love peanut butter, that never sounded too appetizing to me! I don't think she liked it either.

I still have one of my mom's books from junior high school.... it's a bit torn and battered!

On the inside it has her name written in pencil with 9B, Room 110, Roosevelt J.H.S. The copyright on this book is 1928 and it's so much fun to read through it and see how things were done in those days. Some of it is just plain laughable.
My mom had to leave school shortly after 9th grade because the family needed her to help out during The Depression. She worked for a Jewish family, taking care of their children and helping with the house. She remembered them fondly and often spoke about the delicious food they served.

My mom's mother was a very religious person and very strict with her children. My mom rebelled against all that and married someone at an early age. Here is a photo of her when she is 18 years old....probably about the time of the marriage....

My mom is the one on the left side of the photo and I believe the man in the middle is a relative of the man she married. She kept the marriage a secret from her family....and even from me in later years!

At some point, I'm not sure of the time frame, Mom went to live with relatives in Kansas. While working in a diner she met my dad. They fell in love and she came back to her hometown to 'fess up about the secret marriage and to get a divorce! I have stacks of letters written by my dad to my mom during the time she was doing all this.

Here is a postcard from the diner where she worked....

Notice how it mentions that it's air conditioned!! In those days that would have been quite modern!

My parents were married in 1935 and lived in Kansas, then they moved to Chattanooga, TN for a time and then back to my mom's hometown, Decatur, IL. I was born in 1943 just a couple of months after my dad went into the navy. Here is a photo of the happy family....

My mom was a stay-at-home mom. Her house was always immaculate, dinner was always on the table at the same time each evening, the clothes were always washed on Monday and ironed on Tuesday and she could cook better than most anyone I knew. She was devastated when her marriage with my dad fell apart and I don't think she ever recovered from the hurt. I was in my early teens when it all fell apart. My dad was having an affair with another woman.

She died in 1978. She had lupus. It took me years before I quit thinking about calling her each time something happened during my day that I would have shared with her. She was not a particularly showy person and she definitely didn't like public shows of affection....she wasn't a touchy-feely person but she loved me completely and most likely too much! I was her one and only child and she doted on me. She protected me from everything and totally took care of me. I never had to do anything as a kid except just be a chores ever! Looking back now I realize she wanted my life to be different than hers had been but in the process she never taught me how to do anything....and I had to learn it all as an adult. Tough to do.

Here are a couple of photos that I especially like. The first one is my mom and her oldest sister. Mom is on the left....

And this one was taken when my kids were small....sorry about the quality of this last's a Polaroid and beginning to get splotchy.

Happy Birthday, Mom!!!!


  1. Well Happy Birthday Helen!
    Looks like I am in good company.
    Helen would have been 92 today?
    Wow. Janet, I know wherever your mom is she is so proud to have such an amazing woman for a daughter.
    You inspire, you are a thoughtful, wonderful person and you are a gifted artist...among other things.
    Your mom sure did a good job!
    Thinking of you today on your special mom's birthday.
    Love ya

  2. Ok, you got me all choked up here, thinking about mom's . One of the neatest things I remember about your mom was that she ALWAYS had Pepsie in the house and we could have some...most anytime we wanted. And that she made so many beautiful clothes for you. Then there was the homemade cookies, well there is not enough room to tell of all her goodness. HB Helen.

  3. Your mother sounds like a wonderful woman--full of life and love--and those are great photos and stories. Have you ever used any of them in your artwork?

  4. I so enjoyed this post. What a wonderful tribute to your lovely Mom. I love those old photographs, and I love the way people dressed so nicely then.

  5. Janet, My mom had the very same cook book. I remember she didn't use it much, but she was a good cook. Later, I found out she never learned at home and had taken a home ec class and all she'd say about that was: "...and with a pinch of papirika, isn't that pretty, girls?" Plus the fact, she hardly ever used papirika!

    What a neat memory of your mom and very lovingly done!

  6. Janet this was a touching birthday tribute to your Mom, whom you obviously loved very much.
    My Mum will be gone 10 years this June, and I know exactly what you mean about wanting to tell her things.
    Beacause of my relationship with my Mum, I can enjoy my daughter all the more, and I sense the same is true for you and Molly.

  7. OH,,that is such a wonderful tribute to your Mom. I had some tears over that. Any time anyone tells about their Love for their Mom it makes me well up! Your such a great writer and a all round wonderful person!! Thanks for that story Janet!

  8. Hi Janet. I loved reading this tribute to your mother. What an adventuresome and independent spirit she must have had. And what heartache in the end. She was a truly beautiful woman.

  9. Janet, that was such a lovely story - I was a bit teary-eyed reading it. Your Mum sounded like a wonderful, independent person - leaving you with these wonderful memories. I must now go and ring my Mum and tell her how much I love her.

  10. What a loving tribute to your mom!

    Thanks for sharing and for sharing the photographs too!

  11. Loved reading this about your mom, Jan!
    One of her younger pics reminded me so much of mine...and my dad was in the Navy and had a sailor suit too.
    I'll have to find one and send it to you.
    My mom turned 88 on Dec. 27th...still going, but her age is showing now. I took her shopping last week in her wheelchair, and she picked out some long dangling earrings! Just like her mom used to made her day to find CLIP-ONS that DANGLED! LOL
    Thanks for one can love you like your mom.

  12. Loved reading the story about your Mom. It was a sad ending and the same thing happened between my parents after 35 years of marriage.
    My mom also never got over it..
    Your mom was so beautiful and the photos are such treasures..

  13. Dear Janet, Your mothers story is a beautiful one even the sad parts are all about the beautiful lady she must have been.

    I wish her a happy birthday and know her love for you still fills your heart I am sure on this and every day of the year.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely story I loved the photos and the home your mother and father stand infront in the picture with you is just beautiful too.

    best wishes Lee-ann

  14. I loved reading about your mom and the photos are wonderful!

  15. Janet - I loved reading our tribute to your mum and am sorry you lost her such a long time ago.

    She sounds like a very special person.

    The photo's you shared are fantastic! Loved the one of the diner she worked in.

    Your mum wold be very proud of the person you are today. Talented, loving, compassionate with a great sense of humor.

  16. Oh, what a sweet post Janet! I'm sure your mom would be so pleased at your tribute to her. I love the old photos - she's beautiful (just like you!).

  17. Oh Janet, this was such a beautiful post. I was captivated by your mom’s story. Sad in spots, it sounds like you had an incredible mom. Not hard to see why you are such a phenomenal woman! Thanks for sharing this intimate piece of your history!

    Love and hugs


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