From what I gather, my mother must have become a housewife when she married my father. Remember, she was now a naturalized citizen. Her time living at the worker camp with the sponsor watching over the whole bunch of them was over. The sponsor’s job was to make sure they stayed out of trouble, learned English, and eventually found jobs in the community. He was not only their sponsor, he was their first boss. They picked fruit for him on his farm.
My mother had to learn English, get a drivers license, and learn to drive a car by herself! This was quite a job. Can you imagine going to a foreign country and not knowing the language? You have 2 small boys to raise and all of you only speak Latvian. The boys learned quickly by playing with other kids. My father must not have been paying the property taxes. One day they received a notice in the mail that they were behind. They could lose their property. According to my brother, my mom went to work as a cleaning lady to earn money for the bill. One of my half-sisters told me she was always driving my mom to her cleaning jobs. Many of these were doctor’s offices. She said she didn’t know how she got these jobs, but she seemed to do well at them and had a lot of work lined up! I don’ t know how she got the jobs either, I never knew this until a few years ago. By now my dad’s 3 daughters were grown and out of the home. My half-brothers did not like my father at all. My mother always told me when I was growing up that my dad was jealous of them. TO BE CONTINUED!
Life is not all good or all bad either. We take the bitter with the sweet. If you let the bad things get you down, you had better find a way to get uplifted. Either by faith in God (belief in the Bible), your own strong will, encouragement from elders, or a combination of all. I received encouragement from the teachers I had in school. It was a public school but it was a good one. They always stressed that it was ‘accredited’ and at the time I didn’t understand what that was.
It was difficult growing up as the years went along. I received no guidance at all from my father that I remember. He died when I was eleven years old. Actually I don’t remember him ever going to work. He probably did but I was too young to remember it. On his death certificate it said his place of employment was a machine shop in Saint Joseph. His daughter probably had this put on there. By this time he and my mother were divorced. My mother was probably a stay-at-home housewife for a few years until his drinking made things worse.
When I was born my mother was already 36 years old. I was born in February, so that is the coldest month of the year! I wish I knew more about my birth, or the days leading up to it. Nobody ever told me any stories. I asked one of my sisters a couple of years ago what did she remember about my birth. She said she was probably at work. She was already married. My mom told me the doctor asked her did she have a baby crib for me when I went home. She said “no.” I think this is strange, there were 5 kids between my parents. They knew a newborn would need a place to sleep. The doctor said he would give her one. My dad was working, why didn’t he have a crib purchased already? His 3 daughters were grown and all married. Did they not think the new baby would need some furniture? My sister did tell me she was the first one to give me a bath once I got home. That’s all I know. I don’t know if my mom had any baby showers. I have a monogrammed silver cup that I guess I got as a birth gift I have my beaded baby bracelet from the hospital. I wish someone had taken pictures of me or my mom holding me. My two half-brothers were twelve and thirteen when I was born. Can you imagine the turmoil of a household when you are a pre-teen? Wow, it must have been a big shock to have to see their mother deal with bottles and diapers!
Way back, I don’t know how old I was, my mother would cook a large meal for family members. This may have been on Sundays. My two brothers were still at home and it seemed like others were around the table also. My mother cooked plain food, as some people would call it. Perhaps this is what my dad asked her to cook. She might bake a large roast in the oven, then serve it with mashed potatoes and gravy. At holiday time she made cranberries from scratch, buying a bag of raw cranberries at the grocery. It took a lot of sugar to do this! The vegetables were always from the garden: corn on the cob, sliced green onions, pickles, and corn relish. Dessert was usually a fruit pie, great fruit locally grown in our county of Michigan. We also grew rhubarb in the garden, it was hardy and came up every year by itself. I used to cut and eat stalks sprinkled with salt. Rhubarb pie was good, either alone or mixed half-and-half with cherries or strawberries. The bread served was something like yeast rolls. And of course, white bread, or dark Russian rye breads.
When my mother left Latvia, it was the end of the World War II—and their country was wiped off the maps. The Russians overran it and moved the borders. They claimed Latvia and my family, along with other people in their village had to flee. They went to live in as DP camp at first. This stands for “Displaced Persons” and DP camps still exist today around the world. When I was little, I misunderstood what this “camp” meant. By the time I was in school, I told classmates my mother and her sons were in a concentration camp! They always had shocked looks on their faces! I was not lying, I really thought this was the truth! One time while repeating my story in the 6th grade, a girl asked was my mother Jewish! I said “no, people of many religions were in these camps, not just Jews!” I was embarrassed later on when I found out differently. But by then it was too late to go back and apologize for my “story”. She tried to find her husband, but he was gone for good- in the mist of war. He was a soldier and had to travel around. When they were married, her family baked them a cake and broke out a bottle of wine. Everybody had a thimble full of wine, it was 100 years old. She wore a 9k wedding band, I got it when she died. I researched the markings in the band in a library book one time and found out the only place in the world that 9k gold jewelry was made was in Scotland (I believe). How did her husband get this ring? Another mystery. After the DP camps broke up, my family moved again—this time to Cologne, Germany. They lived there in an abandoned Army barracks! The kids in the group found leftover bits of military clothing, like buttons and badges. They played in bomb craters! Everyone had to to live here until they got sponsors to leave Europe. This didn’t happen until 1950.
One thing that was great about growing up was my family had a really big old 2-story farmhouse. I think it was built around 1920. There was also a 2-level red barn, a chicken coop, a garden, a hog pen attached to the side of the barn, and 2 other storage buildings for stuff like tractors and odds-and-ends you have on a farm. The property had 11 acres which my dad used to farm. The house was just about identical to other farm houses in the county. The bottom floor had a kitchen, a small bedroom, dining room, sewing room, pantry, living room, and a bathroom with a tub. Nobody had showers in their house when I was a kid. When you first entered the house there was a porch. It seems all these old houses had these I think because it was snow country and 1) this gave you a place to take off your snowy boots and 2) it kept some of the winter blast from coming right into the front door. Upstairs there were 3 bedrooms, 2 of which were large and one was small. None of these old kind of farm houses had 2 bathrooms. There was a full size basement with a coal burning furnace. We had laundry lines hung in the basement for wintertime drying of clothes. In the warm months we hung wash out on lines in the yard. There was a wrap-around porch. It went around 3 sides of the house. There was a wooden swing on it. I used to like to take my comic books out there and lemonade in the summer.
I am going to try my hand at blogging. I had a free blog on Xanga for years, then they changed everything around. Xanga was no longer free, so I thought “well I guess they can keep their thing, I’m not paying.” So other than posting some stuff on Facebook, I don’t put much out on the Internet. I don’t post stuff on FB that could be traced back to me or my family. So there are no exterior house pictures, no garden pictures, no vehicle pictures. If I post personal photographs they are very old. New ones I just email directly to my friends or 2 penpals. Now as to my childhood. Both my parents were married before. My dad had 3 daughters with his first wife, Elsie. My mom had 2 sons with her husband John in Latvia. So as soon as I was born I had 3 half-sisters and 2 half-brothers. Yet to each other they were step-siblings. I only grew up with my half-brothers. The half-sisters were way older than me, they had grown up and left the house. When their mother died in a car accident, the eldest had to assume the role of the mother, cooking and cleaning. My dad made her do this because he had to go to work at the machine shop and make a living. So (as I was told) at the age of 13 she had to run the household. It must have been difficult. I want to say this because I will post later on hardships I had while growing up. But my half-sisters did also.