Tuesday, October 6, 2009

my grandmother and her daughters

My grandmother was a most influential person in my life. (She taught me to cook! T thinks she was influential in HIS life too!)

She spoke not a word of English and when we first met and I was five years old, I had no idea what she was talking about! Though my mother crooned to me in French when I was a baby, by the time I was five she was constantly and only speaking English to me.

To me my grandmother smelled wonderful: face powder talcum and 4711 Eau du Cologne with that indistinguishable something else that smelled like "family".

She wasn't anything like my mother, but I loved her full laugh and her total attention when I said anything. (In hindsight she was probably trying to understand what I was talking about!)

My grandmother was born in 1895. She married in 1920 and had two daughters. My mother was the youngest. My aunt, married and stayed near her family. My mother leaped away into void of the big world with her marriage to an American G.I.

[my aunt and my mother in a field of wildflowers circa 1933 ==>]

My mother and her sister were close, but my mother chaffed at the expectations and restraints of Belgian society and wanted to see the world and do everything...

Living in Belgium was difficult after the War. Many areas of Brussels were bombed, though not too badly to live in; food was scarce but people planted in their back gardens.

The biggest difficulty for my mother was the narrowness of opportunities. My mother had a fair amount of ambition, but that was not rewarded by the Belgian culture. Success and opportunity in Belgium were very much determined by class and economics.
[my mother, grandmother and aunt]

My aunt married a nice Belgian friend of the family, and stayed at home to take care of her husband and raise her son.

[my courting parents ==>]

After the War, my mother married my GI father and they moved to the States.

It was very difficult for my grandmother and my aunt to lose her, but for my mother- she only looked into the future.

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  1. What lovely posts - I love family histories and your photos are fantastic!

  2. Thanks! It's funny how looking at the old pictures can bring the stories up and form substance around my own inarticulate feelings.

    As long as my mother is here I know we will be jumping all through her 83 years of memories and I'll try and put some context in it- for the blog but also for my kids and grandkids who might be curious about it all!

  3. What an interesting post. Those photos are incredible, they must be very treasured possessions. Lovely.

  4. I'm really enjoying these posts about your family. We are around the same age so it's of particular interest to me. The fashions of the time for example, I can remember pictures of my grandmother and my mother dressed in a very similar way...sadly I no longer have any photographs.

    Am looking forward to more of your story.

  5. Dear Helena,

    They are treasures... in fact my cousin sent them to me and I had to copy and scan them and send them back to him!! (Needless to say, I have copied all the pictures onto several DVD's and given them to my sons as well as having them on my computer!)

    Dear Ayak,

    I love the fashions. And my mother was always very stylish- she was an art student and then studied design and for a brief time did sets for theatres - then of course was overwhelmed by the War.

    (many many of her friends in art school were Jewish and never returned from the camps.)

  6. I love old photos like that. And to think she is in your blood! Amazing. It is so lucky you had a bond with her and even remember her smell. What a wonderful ode to her. Lovely post. xoxoxo

  7. Dear oneof365,

    I am very very lucky. (and my grandmother was pretty neat too!)



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