On this day January 18th, in 1926, my mother Adele was born.
She is now 88 years old.
Like her entire generation, my mother Adele lived through the depression, WWII (she made airplane parts in a factory during the war) – the Korean War – the Vietnam War – the Gulf War – the War in Iraq and Afghanistan and every other horrible violent human endeavor perpetrated through most of the 20th century and the first years of the 21st.
She witnessed the discovery of vaccines and antibiotics and the development and use of rockets and nuclear bombs and nuclear power plants. She had one of the first television sets. She saw the first satellite go round the earth and watched the space program and space exploration unfold. She watched all the Star Trek TV shows and movies – but loved the first series best. She watched the development and ubiquitous growth of computers and eventually got one in her 70s.
And don’t forget all the social changes – the fight for women’s rights and the advancement of civil rights – watched the population explosion, the use of genetically modified crops, the move of populations to cities, the building of high rises and sky scrapers, hippies – disco – punk … and on and on.
And through all of this she remained curious and excited by new ideas and new opportunities to learn. Anything and everything she wanted to know about – so she read continuously and watched documentaries and news shows, took classes and joined clubs, and she even took a couple of the Great Courses in her 80’s.
All of this would be enough to fill one life but she did more. She was an artist first and loved to paint in oils – she painted more than a hundred portraits of children alone.
She was creative beyond painting and art too – she made all of our family’s clothes using Vogue patterns and most often the designer line which can be very challenging in terms of tailoring and sewing technique. She hand pieced quilts and for a time was president of the Jolicure quilting club. She reupholstered furniture and one time not only made a new slipcover for a big old armchair but embroidered the whole thing with sunflowers. She did other needlework too – including designing and producing needlepoint kits with her sister Joanne (also an accomplished needleworker) and made beautiful and elaborately smocked dresses for her children and grandchildren. And as I wrote about earlier – she hand made books with calligraphy and linoleum cuts and used beautiful silks and Japanese papers to bind them.
When I was little during the 1960s she taught me all about the stars and planets and we would go out at night in our little suburban backyard and gaze at the little patch of visible sky and see all we needed to see.
When the Apollo mission went to the moon I joined the NASA space club and she and I read everything together and made a beautiful scale model of the lunar lander and of course watched all the TV broadcasts of the mission together. And when we moved to the country in Canada, the sky was enormous and we were able to see the Andromeda Galaxy, and star clusters and planets and the northern lights…
She was a great cook, and learned how to decorate cakes with frosting roses and flowers. She ground her own flour and baked her own bread – never ate store bought till she was too old to do it herself about 2 years ago. She grew and pickled and froze and preserved her vegetables (did I say she was also a gardener?). She made her own wine from raisins and bananas. And if anything needed fixing – well you just fixed it – no need to replace it.
She taught me to explore the natural world and learn about it and to love animals and plants and trees and to be free of fear but respectful of all of them.
So in short – after this long blurb, I guess I just want to say that she gave me a wonderful gift – her curiosity of the world and her fearless joy of living every day in it. And for that I am eternally grateful.
Please Note: Adele is now ill with advanced Alzheimer’s – this is a tribute to the woman I remember and love.
I will be writing in more detail about her remarkable life in upcoming posts.