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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Notes from the Cottage: My Mother's Memories

Note: In case you haven't seen my other headings, this blog is no longer devoted to my frugal adventures (though I am still frugal), but serves simply as a site for my musings and memories, meant for my family.

Comments are neither expected nor solicited, but I am grateful for the many kind ones I have received.

My mother's memories

My mother's usual response to questions about her past: "I don't remember." She gets rather agitated. There seem to be a lot of painful things she doesn't want to bring to the surface.  Every now and again, she says something about her childhood and youth.

I mentioned that I had looked up the ship manifest for her family's journey from Belgrade to the US in 1938.  I did this because her cousin Herbert (now dead one year, a loss to his family and many others) told me a few years ago that his family sailed from Trieste on the Normandie. He was only 4, so he must have known this from his parents. My mother, who emigrated when she was 8, said she knew she had come on the Queen Mary but didn't know from what port. The manifest (via Ellis Island records, fascinating) listed the port (Cherbourg).  When I told her this, she said, "I knew it was France. I remember seeing the Eiffel Tower, but knew we didn't sail from Paris."  So my information brought out a tiny memory.

As we were driving back from a concert at Tanglewood, where her uncle had been principal clarinetist, we passed the cottage of a principal string player. She said, "Musicians aren't normal. They are high-strung. They think they are better than you." Then she mentioned the musician whose house we passed.

She went on, "He is a snob, but a good bridge player. My uncle was a good bridge player. They had big bridge parties. Koussevitzky would come. My aunt would cook and serve. I did the dishes. Maybe that's why I hate doing dishes."

To Tom: "Bert didn't know how to listen to classical music. It was very hard for him."

Interestingly, Bert (my father) was obsessed with Victor Polatschek and talked about him constantly, even though he died shortly before my mother went to college, where my parents met.

To us: "When I was a kid, I went from concert to concert [and, of course, my mother and her parents lived in an apartment with her aunt and uncle, so music must have been emanating from his practice room]. Everyone was playing music. All i wanted to do was go out and play."

Interesting too: perhaps this explains why I grew up in a house almost completely devoid of music. We didn't even have a radio on, except when we went on long car trips. I have been trying to compensate for my lack of exposure to music for most of my life.


Janice Riggs said...

Fascinating, and beautifully written. Our parents' memories are elusive, but very worth the effort to elicit and cherish.

The Frugal Shrink said...

Ah, Frugal Scholar. I've been reading along but not commenting. You have such a lovely way with words, even when describing difficult situations and people. xoxo