Mom’s Day

So, certain dates come to have a meaning of their own. For me (and for the rest of my family, I think), November 26 is Mom’s birthday. She would have been 75 today. Born in Chicago in 1929, just a month after the stock market crash. Knowing that, and knowing what happened in the world over the first 12 years of her life (the Depression, the New Deal, the rise of the fascists and Nazi Germany, the war in Europe, Pearl Harbor), I’ve always imagined that she was born into a world that must have seemed, to her parents, to be on the verge of chaos or calamity. But it probably just wasn’t that way. I’ve heard that her dad, who worked for the First National Bank in Chicago, was never out of a job. At some point in the ’30s after the last of her six kids was born, her mom went back to work as a grade-school teacher in Chicago. They never lost their home or anything like that, and in fact seemed to have been an anchor for relatives who weren’t doing as well. So all that stuff happening out there in the world someplace probably seemed remote from the day-to-day cares of raising a family. And when tragedy made an indelible mark on their lives, it had nothing to do with the wider world: one of Mom’s brothers and three other relatives drowned in Lake Michigan one summer day in August 1939, her father died on lung cancer in June 1941. By then, of course, the big troubles from outside were starting to squeeze in on everyone, though maybe the family story and the world story never really did twine together; I guess I imagine they did from having a rough outline of what was going on around the family in my head, on one hand, and having heard lots of stories from Mom (and Dad) about those years.

Anyway, Mom, happy birthday. Thanks for — among all the other things — giving us so much to remember and to think about.

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