I have often written. about my father in earlier posts. As I have said, he was a great and inspirational father who gave his three daughters much love and the confidence to do anything they wanted – with the proviso always, that it hurt nobody else.
But what of my mother? Little has been written about her.
She was the typical Jewish mother who grew up in the East End of London in the early part of the 20th century. She was the only daughter in the family and from what we could discern from the little she shared with us, the two boys were favoured while she took on many household tasks to help her mother,
Mother was of the generation of women that saw their men going off to the Second World War; some of whom probably could remember their fathers going off to the First World War.
These women then, left behind to take over all the responsibilities of family life. How brave: how stoic were these women!
And particularly in London and other major cities where Hitler and his cronies and his superior (at least in number) force, bombed the city day after day, night after night, in an attempt to bring Britain to its knees. I am pleased to confirm he/they were unsuccessful.
During this time, many women took jobs but not Mother. She concentrated on her three daughters, their health, safety and wellbeing. We learned that she was generally known as ‘the woman with the three girls’
Life was hard for these women. Everything was rationed and there was very little of anything. If Mother found somebody who would swap her sugar ration for butter she was onto it. And of course, many women hadn’t had to make decisions, this being well in the region of men’s tasks. So they were thrown into the deep end, making decisions on money, schooling and all manner of household things that always before, having been left to fathers, husbands or brothers. I know that apart from spending her weekly household allowance, she had never made any other decisions.
Mother was always busy. Even if she were sitting reading in the evening, she would be knitting.
She had. cast-iron rule. Housework was to be done in the morning. What wasn’t done by 1 o’clock wouldn’t be done that day. Then she would change and get ready to pick up her two eldest daughters from school and take her three girls to the park, always with a picnic packed. This habit continued well after the war and the only change was when her daughters became old enough to make their own way to and from school.
The war ended and the men returned. I have a clear memory, I would be six or seven, coming home with Mother after Saturday shopping to see this man sitting in our living room. He was a virtual stranger to us. But after a brief hug between them, life settled back into a routine. But how hard it must have been for those women to hand the reins back to their husbands.
Sadly, the deadly Alzheimer’s claimed this strong, vibrant woman and her last few years of life were spent in a care home, visited daily by her loving husband and the one daughter who still lived in London.
I wrote about visiting her a few years ago, but for a particular challenge –
“A moment of clarity in the land of the confused brought on a rush of memories both to her and to those of us visiting her. This once vibrant, strong woman had been reduced to a pale shadow of herself under the strong grip of Alzheimer’s. Disease. Suddenly she was once again our mother, even if only for a very short time, when she knew our names and recognised each of us. The joy and happiness was unbounded and in that short time many happy moments and happenings were remembered. But all too soon, the veil of the Disease dropped down and once again she retreated to the confused old lady she had recently become.”
So I am left with a firm understanding of how much she loved us and how lucky we are to have had her in our lives. With Father, she provided a safe and loving home and a memorable childhood. I do know how very lucky I was/we were to have had this woman to call Mother.