Saturday, February 4, 2012

Thinking of My Mom


It is five years ago today that my mom passed away. She was 85 years old. I still miss her very much.

My mom was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1921 as the oldest of four children. She is a real Berliner, always missing that city throughout her life. During her childhood, however, she spent many summers in West Prussia (Poland today) and always remembers it tenderly. She told us many stories of her childhood which was a happy one. My favorite one was how she pushed her brother into an anthill as a revenge that he had damaged her doll. I loved this story as a child, and now of course my daughter loves to hear this story over and over.
My mom and one of her brothers - the one who landed in the anthill

1932 - 11 years old

She didn't like to go to school very much and admits that she was very lazy. She just had more interesting things on her mind! What she hated most were the Nazi propaganda movies in the thirties the students had to watch at school, and she and her best friend (who later emigrated to the US) sneaked away on a regular basis and rode their bikes over the old cobblestone streets instead.

In order to graduate from high school she had to enroll with the "Bund deutscher Mädchen" (a youth organisation for girls in Nazi Germany). She hated it (she never liked any kind of organisation like this throughout her entire life) and tried to avoid as many meetings as possible. Fortunately, she was able to graduate from high school. She had big dreams - she wanted to become a surgeon. However, with two boys in the family there was no money for a girl to go to university. And further events changed her life entirely. When the war started in 1939 she was almost a month shy of being 18 years old.



She married rather young and had her first child, a girl, in 1943, almost two months after her husband was killed in Russia. She was 21 years old.

Because of the heavy bombardment of Berlin, women with children were "ordered" out of the city. My mom (unfortunately) went to the East, to a small town which after the war belonged to East Germany and is right at the border to Poland. At the end of January 1945 the Soviet Army came into town, but was beaten back for a couple of days. During that small window of time, the residents of that town packed and left to the West in a long trek of people, becoming refugees in the dead of winter. My mom didn't tell too much of that time, only that every night they found a place to sleep at some farm and somehow they survived. It must have been traumatic. What she told us, though, was, when finally in the West, one GI took a picture of my sister (who was just two years old) sitting on her pot peeing at the side of the road! Funny, what one remembers.

She settled down in Lower Saxony where she worked at a doctor's office (the closest she ever got to her dream) and had a rather unhappy second marriage (she had remarried in late 1944). Here she met my dad and, after her divorce, they married in 1955 in Lüneburg and a year later my brother was born.

My parent's wedding in 1955

In 1960 I came as the youngest, spoilt child. The picture below was taken at my christening, the little boy is my brother and the beautiful woman to the right is my godmother whom I adored. The christening gown I'm wearing is really old - my great-grandmother Agnes was baptized in it in 1862. She was my Mom’s most beloved grandmother (her dad’s mother). In 1998 Kaefer was dressed in it for her christening, and I hope one day her children will be christened in it.

My mom and I, 1961


Four years later we moved further south, to a town about an hour's drive away from Cologne. We had a nice, bright apartment - but I think my mom missed a garden. She loved to garden, and the balcony was always overflowing with flowers. She loved to hear the birds sing in the morning and evening. She was a great cook. However, I wonder (still) whether she was really happy. She missed Berlin. The big city. Her city, that was divided into two parts, and it was such a pain to get there.

She had a great sense of humor. Yes, she could get moody and VERY angry - I remember everybody tiptoeing when she had one of her terrible moods - but she could also laugh about herself and was the first to pull a joke of it. We didn't have much money, but she always manged to create a special advent calendar for my brother and me (my sister was long married and had her own family) and make a nice birthday for us. She was nifty, did sew dresses for me and altered my sister's dresses from the fifties so I could wear them in the seventies. She was intelligent and just a very fun person to be around.

My mom and I - 1983

She was also a very compassionate woman. For decades she volunteered at the hospital as a so-called "green lady" who looked after patients, read to them, talked to them or just listened. She only stopped doing this when she was 82 years old.

On her 50th birthday, in her very special dress. No one else wore something like this.

She became a grandma when she was 43 - my sister has three kids and is a grandma herself now -, but for me she seriously turned into "Omi" when Kaefer was born. And what a wonderful Omi she was!

Beloved Omi - 1999

When I became a mom myself, my mom and I connected on a different way - as mothers. I could tell her about my doubts, and how helpless and stupid I sometimes felt. She could understand. And she would put me at ease.

On her 85th birthday
This is one of the last pictures taken of her.

I wish I had asked her more questions. I wish we had gone away together more, just the two of us. We once spent two weeks on Sylt, the island in the North of Germany, and we had such a wonderful time. I found out how important mother-daughter time is, how rewarding. I regret that she never came to visit me in the States. I am sad that Kaefer has lost such a wonderful grandparent.

Of course she and I had our difficult times - but we were always very honest with each other. We both knew that we loved each other very much. She was very special for me. I love her - and I miss her terribly.



foxysue said...

Thank you for posting such a tender tribute to your mum, the photographs are very lovely too.

This account will be a keepsake for your daughter along with the Christening robe!

Perhaps a part of another photo book?

Sue x

Orsolina said...

Ein sehr berührendender Bericht von deiner Mom. Obwohl sie es wohl nicht immer leicht hatte, hatte sie offentsichtlich ihren Humor (man sieht es an den Bildern) behalten. Eine sehr attraktive Frau sowohl in jungen, als auch in reifen Jahren.

LG Biggi

Kelly said...

What a wonderful post! You know this topic is so special to me, and I absolutely loved reading the story of your mother's life. I can't imagine being 21 and having a two year old, while trying to find my way across the country!

I hope your mom eventually found happiness in her life and I'm happy you two were so close.

Wishing you love and strength on this day.


Molly said...

Such an amazing life - and how fortunate that she left a bit of those behind for you to share with her grandchildren - and great grandchildren.

A beautifully, touching tribute, Carola!

*hugs* to you....

alexa said...

I am very moved reading this - and so delighted that her life and her courage is able to touch all of those who will read about her today. What an amazing history she had, and lived through so much ... Thank-you.

La Vie Quotidienne said...

What a lovely, lovely post. She must have been a wonderful person ~ to face such adversity and come out of it all so graciously. Just amazing.

Her story reminds me of a wonderful novel, "Skeletons at the Feast" also about a young girl during this period in Germany.

CherryPie said...

This is such a lovely tribute to your mother :-)

Julia Dunnit said...

Marvellous tribute Carola, a lovely way to hold the memory of your Dear mother in your heart. Her war years and refugee status could so easily have made her a different person, and yet she was compassionate and caring...a real lesson to all of us.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the other's a beautiful tribute to your wonderful mom. Don't have any regrets Carola. Cherish those good times. xo

Lori @ In Pursuit of It All said...

What an amazing woman and incredible story.

Love to you today.

And that was one FABULOUS dress. No doubt she pulled it off magnificently.

Michele said...

Such a beautiful tribute to what sounds like a fabulous mum.

You write so beautifully Carola!!!

Thinking of you and your mum.


Deborah L. Tisch said...

This is so moving, and I love all the wonderful images you shared, especially that of your mom at the fence holding a basket. My own daughter and I share the kind of relationship you describe...and it is priceless. Thank you for this lovely tribute to your mom!

seabluelee said...

Carola, what a beautiful post and tribute to your mother. She was lovely! You are blessed to have so many photographs of her. I think my favorite may be the one where she is standing next to the fence with a basket on her arm. There's something very special about that one. I hope sharing your memories with your friends here helps ease your feeling of loss a bit today.

Friko said...

What a lovely post about your Mama. Did you call her Mama? Or Mutti? Mine is long gone too. I wish we had taken the time to talk about us and the past. My mother belonged to a generation which didn't say much about feelings, she always shied away from confidences.

Still, I wish I had persevered.

Jennifer said...

This is a lovely tribute to your mother, Carola. My husband's family lived in Schlesien before the war, which is now, too, part of Poland. I loved hearing your story of her life and her importance to you :)

Diana said...

What a beautiful photo tribute of your mom. Thanks for sharing how special she was and her life in Germany. My mother will be 78 this year and hopefully she will be visiting in June for my daughter's college graduation. Thanks for reminding me of the importance of mother/daughter time.

Randy said...

This is such an amazing post Carola. Wishing you a wonderful rest of the weekend.

Chantal said...

beautiful tribute to her

Seraphina´s Phantasie said...

Das ist eine schöne Erinnerung an Deine Mutter. Ein sehr runder Beitrag, welches ihr ereignisreiches Leben nachzeichnet. Sie ist eine schöne und starke Frau gewesen. Das spiegelt sich in Deinen Fotos wieder. Und sie ist bestimmt stolz auf Dich gewesen, so wie Du auch auf sie.
Vielen Dank für diese Aufzeichnung über Deine Mutter.
Viele Grüße Synnöve

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I can't believe how LONG it's been since I stopped by. And it seems the appropriate day, too. You are truly blessed to have such wonderful (although sometimes painful) memories of your mother. All those photos show the importance photography has played in your life. This is a lovely post.

BTW, you asked about the doily in my mixed media piece. I used a plastic doily and sprayed with glimmer mist to create the effect. I checked where the snowman would be before I sprayed, then positioned the snowman over the sprayed area to make it look like a halo. Thanks for asking.

Geckostone said...

Wow what a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing all this. The photos are precious! Makes me want to call my mom right now! She is in her 80s and we almost lost her last year to an aneurysm in her aorta.Hugs, Deb

patty said...

Carola, I love everything about this! Such fabulous old photos and wonderful detailed memories. I'm sure your Mom is smiling down at this beautiful tribute to her life!! You were lucky to have each other. You might remember that I wrote up and published my Mom's autobiography last year. What an experience that was and, yes, I had lots of questions I wished I could have asked her too!

Anyes said...

Thank you for sharing those beautiful memories and photographs of your mom with us.

Mother/daughter relationships are so vital.Even if the one I had with my mom was troubled, I can appreciate it's importance through the rewarding one I now experience with my own daughter.

Doone said...

Family time is the Best Time,

what you had is precious,

to want more and to want it for longer is natural,

now you can teach Keifer how to be a good parent, so when the time comes she too will know that

to miss a mother for any reason is a tribute to your shared love, and grows from time well spent no matter how long or short.

Big Hugs,


Marcie said...

Oh Carola - this is absolutely beautiful!! So sad that your mother isn't here to read this story..her story..her life..and how you loved her. And - I loved hearing the story of a different 'side' and 'part' of the world war II story and how it affected the Germans themselves. Thank-you for this!

Maria Ontiveros said...

An amazing post today - your mother was a remarkable woman. And thanks for sharing those awesome photos of her as well.
Hugs to you; I know what it's like to miss your mother.

gina said...

What a moving tribute to your Mom! Your post resonated with me, as my Mom passed away in August, and I'm missing her so much. Her world was also turned upside down by the WWII. Thank you for sharing your Mom's story and the photos of her. The early B&Ws are so classic.

Ginnie said...

What a wonderful tribute to your beautiful mother, Carola! I think you have made her a very happy woman.

JoZart said...

It's so wonderful to share your beautiful tribute to your dear mother. The photos are so special, your words so moving, and I think you have made each of us appreciate our families, past and present, by it all.
I'm off to Germany on Wednesday and I'll be thinking of you and your mother whilst I'm there right, where she married your father!
Love Jo x

see you there! said...

Beautiful Carola. I enjoyed the history. Thank you for reminding me of the blessing I have as my Mom is in her 90's and still with us.


Barbara German said...

Carola, thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. If you hadn't I would've never gotten to read this beautiful tribute to your mother. You have a special spirit to share such sweet images and story. Glad we crossed paths.

Lynn said...

I've come to this post a few days late...let me wipe the tears from my eyes to speak. Thank you for sharing so much of your mother's life with us. Especially her feelings about the Nazi era and all that entailed. It's important for me to hear about families like yours. What a beautiful woman and terrific human being your mother was. I'm glad you had her for as long as you did. Such memories.