My beloved mother.
Had she been alive today, she would have been One Hundred.
Maria Engelberta Heijboer – Staaijen.
27-06-1918 ~ 28-02-2003
The picture above is probably taken around 1936 when she was 18. This is one of my most loved pictures of her and one that I really cherish. I love the look in her eyes, her hair, always so perfectly styled in finger waves, fashionable at the time. But it’s a look that suited her and she never really left it behind to follow fashion. She was a natural beauty.
I love how the photographer drew in the necklace, not even sure if she had a necklace like that one. But at the time, before Photoshop, it was customary to fill in the blanks as it were.
The wedding photographer took it one step further and actually hand-coloured their wedding photograph, as well as painted in the flowers in the vase in the background.
Despite the glare of the glass, I cannot bear to destroy the backing of this picture to remove it from the frame and get a matte reproduction of it. I may have to have that done professionally sometime. But as I said, I can’t bring myself to do that really. It is what it is.
My parents were married right before WWII, the crisis was already rearing its ugly head and it was at the time customary to wear a dark wedding dress.
My father was 26 and my mother 20 (almost 21) at their wedding.
It just boggles the mind to think about One Hundred.
My mother was born when WW1 was nearing its end, and times were hard. The eldest of 10 children, she had to sacrifice much to help raise raising her brothers and sisters on limited means. She spent the first part of her married life surviving another war, raising my oldest sister (born in 1940) in times and conditions that are hard to imagine for us right now.
Our age gap spanned almost half a century, and it still pains me to think about how little time we were allowed getting to understand one another better. But I do know I am the woman I am today because, despite being from a completely different era, she was progressive. As was her mother before her.
Born at a time when women’s rights to vote were still up for debate. Forced to leave her job on the day she registered to get married, solely because of the fact that she was getting married.
It’s unthinkable to us now, yet to her, that was the reality. And she told me again and again, that I had it good. And that I should take and use all the liberties I had and that I needed no one. “You will be able to take care of yourself,” she told me. You don’t need anyone. Not a man. Not ever.
The day I turned 18, she had me take driving lessons and get my drivers licence. Being able to drive a car was the greatest freedom in her eyes. I remember how she enjoyed driving around just for the fun of it. For the feeling of being free and going wherever the heck she wanted. And that feeling I inherited from her. Of being free. And the need to wander.
She made me take all the classes and training I would need (in her eyes) to give me a good base to lead my life.
I am picking up my sewing again today, thankful for the couture sewing lessons she made me take at a young age. And enjoying it more now than I ever did, as she knew I would.
Her crafting Thursdays with all my aunts were legendary in the family and taught me all the skills I enjoy today. Knitting, crocheting, embroidery.
Cooking. Oh her cooking. The kind of uncomplicated comfort food I still crave to this day but can never exactly replicate. The importance of real food, good pasture-raised beef, fresh young vegetables, and no shortcuts. Simple uncomplicated food with wonderful flavours. A particular kind of potatoes because they taste better than the others.. Cooking with the soul.
Singing together in the kitchen while doing the dishes. She had an amazing voice and could have been a great singer if only the times had been different.
Typing. On one of those mechanical early machines that needed hammering to get text on paper. And Typex for all those errors. But it’s served me well over the years.
Ballroom dancing. Oh, my. I secretly kind of enjoyed those classes although I never found a boyfriend or husband even, who could dance more than a bad quick step. But if I do ever meet him, I am ready mom.
But the one thing I am most grateful for is that she let me do whatever I wanted to do. Even if she knew I would probably fail, I was allowed to do it and find out for myself if it was for me.
Because, as she said: “you can do anything you want”.
She let me take ballet lessons from age 4 because I dreamed of being a ballerina and dancing was my joy. My lower leg primary oedema made sure I would never in my life become a ballerina, but she never destroyed my dream. I was allowed to dance and live my dream.
And I still do.
Thank you, mom. I love you.