The lady in this picture is my late mother. Today would have been her 88th birthday! At least we think it was her birthday. Nobody was absolutely positive. Her birth certificate says June 19th 1929. But there are other documents that report it as the 20th and at least one that argues the 18th. But we all agreed that we would call it the 19th as the government likes that day as well.
It's not just her date of birth that is in question. The family story tells that she was named, by her mother, on the day she was born, Lynette Dorothea. Pretty name. But the recording doctor, who was not in attendance but came late to the party, wrote on the birth certificate, well after the fact, Dorothy Lynette. I'm not sure how that turnabout happened, but both my mother and her mother told me this story and I suppose they would know.
She was the youngest child of six and the only girl with all those big brothers to protect her, care for her and tease her. The brother closest to her in age was Maurice, known as Rick, and he was four years her senior. Her oldest brother was nearly 18 when she was born. I suspect that despite all those kiddos in the family, she grew up a little lonely.
She was born, as were all those brothers, in the house her father built in Castine, Maine. It's a very tiny, postage stamp sized town that sits right at the confluence of the Penobscot River and the Atlantic Ocean. It's a surprisingly historic town for all it's lack of size and was quite important in the Revolutionary War. Like most families that lived in Castine year 'round, her family made their living on the ocean. And in fact, her father died at sea when she was 16.
Her mother then took a job working for a well to do family that summered in Castine and then of course, went her new employers elsewhere during the winter. It was to Chicago in the winter of 1952 and my mother, age 23, accompanied her. And it was in Chicago at a lunch counter in a Woodworths that my parents first met. My dad was working a second job there as a short order cook. They married six weeks after meeting which sounds kind of crazy.
My mother had two stories about their wedding. One was that she realized how little she knew about the man she was about to marry when the officiate asked her if she "took this man, Lawrence Eugene Hurley" and she turned to my father and said in a shocked tone, 'Eugene"? The other tale was about the horrible food poisoning that my Dad suffered on their first night as husband and wife. She was certain that she was going to be a wife and a widow on the same day.
So they married and produced two daughters and they moved around for my dad's job. They moved a lot. For the majority of their nearly 60 years together they lived in rental homes, some apartments and a few hotels. My dad travelled by himself even more for work so most of the time it was my sister, our mother and me, and sometimes our grandmother. A house of women. It was a house filled with music and whimsy but not a lot of rules. Then when my dad was about to return home, my mother would gather us girls together and we would all agree to lie the same lie. It might be regarding a new pet in the household, or a mysterious dent in the garage door, or the ear piercings we were all suddenly afflicted with. It didn't matter, we were a united front.
She was funny without intending to be funny and she was quirky without being aware that others considered her so. She was a classically trained pianist and had a voice that could rattle the china in the cabinet though she was a tiny little thing. She was very shy but the few friends she had were loyal for the rest of their lives. She hated to cook but loved to garden. She did not like driving but would walk for miles without tiring. She only ever dressed very casually but loved anything sparkly. She didn't have the patience to sit and watch a television show but would play a few favourite movies endlessly, though she would walk in and out of the room constantly while it was playing and therefore took forever to view the entire film, all scenes out of order. And she adored her grandchildren more than anyone on the planet.
We have a thousand and one funny stories about her that we re-tell each other endlessly.
Happy Birthday, Mother. We miss you still.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.