Thursday, January 03, 2008

Joys and Sorrows

These last two years have been filled with great joys and great sorrows. On one end of life was my aging and infirm mother, confined to a wheelchair in a nursing home. On the other end, my 18 month old grandson, experiencing something new every day. It's the way it's supposed to be, I suppose. Nevertheless, nothing ever prepares us for the loss of one's parents.

Mom had a long and fascinating journey, which started in Graz, Austria in 1922. Her family, like most other families in Austria at the end of World War I, were struggling to feed their families. Grandfather sold newspapers to bring home a loaf of bread. Lard, which is melted pork fat, was used as a butter subsitute. Most meals began with soup to fill you up and meat was a luxury to be enjoyed only on special occasions, or some Sundays. Austrians are renowned for their various dumplings, filled with whole plums, apricots, or made with cottage cheese or farina. Most of the dishes I remember Mom cooking for us were recipes from her youth. Due to her lack of proper nutrition, she suffered from ill health all of her life.

Mom's greatest love was her older brother. He took his little sister sledding in the beautiful Alps surrounding Graz. When she was old enough to work as a nanny in a rich family's home in the countryside, he bought her a bicycle, so she wouldn't have to spend long hours walking. She never got over his death during the second World War. Her only other siblings, two baby sisters, died in infancy. At the end of the war, she met Dad when they were both working at the airfield. They celebrated their youthful love by roaming the countryside on foot and on Dad's motorbike. Dad had a good job maintaining the machines at Humanic, a shoe factory. But he wanted to provide a better life for his family (by now I was four years old) and he had heard of many people emigrating to the U.S., where work was plentiful and the money was good. He was able to secure a visa and was hired to work at Seabrook Farms of New Jersey.

In 1952 we packed all our belongings in one crudely made wooden trunk and sailed for America. The USA has been good to us, but I know in her heart, Mom never stopped missing her homeland.


Anonymous said...

Hi Margaret! This sounds so good. So glad you guys are having such a wonderful vacation. I wish I could be there too! Love you, Mary

P.S. I didn't realize you had such an extensive blog - you are a good writer. I'd like to see you craft a piece and submit it to a travel mag - Islands?

Anonymous said...

Hi Margaret,

Loved your writings about St. Barts. Meandered over to this, and would like you to fill in from 1952 (coming to Seabrook) until your family left for Detroit.

Am looking for "short stories" about early Seabrook days for the Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center. Hope to take you there when you visit in June.

Love, Ingrid