by Avo Kubar
I will be driving down to New Jersey shore to spend my mothers Birthday with her ( July 18).
It will be her 97th, but years ago she lost 3 years somewhere (and we do not argue) so she is 94.
She has a bit of the old aristocrat in her and she can still make me feel like a sniveling little boy with just one remark.
She is even better at it with my sister. But when it counted she was like a mother lion, protecting her young. And considering that she did not know too much about direct child rearing she did a pretty remarkable job by staying out of our way so we could bring ourselves up.
When the Soviets took over (Estonia) we lost everything, including my step father, who spent 18 years surviving in Siberia. So here she was with 3 children in her early 30's with only her mother as occasional help from the city. Gone were the maids and governesses. And she learned, to cook and sew and wash. Of course me and my sister tried to help as much as we could. Our brother (from the second marriage) was too young and treated us like hired help. A practice that he is still pretty good at. The turmoil of war tossed us about like a little ship on a stormy sea. And yet we managed to survive and stay together with little time being apart.
In 1949 we were able to immigrate to U.S. Mother had to sign a one year contract with Seabrook Farms in south Jersey. My first
American Neighbors were Japanese Americans brought in from the west coast and this was 4 years after the War! It was the only time I saw my mother cry when the farm-bus discharged us in front of our barracks after picking us up in Philadelphia.
Our 5 dollars was about gone. We bought two sandwiches on the train and Mother and I shared half the sandwich and my sister and brother had the rest. So here we were standing in front of the barracks and Mother said : "Why did we leave Europe? This worse than where-ever we lived there."
Yet about in two weeks or so she managed to make the place like home. With her first pay she bought some material and made curtains. Another piece of cloth covered the small trunk that now was the coffee table. I was able to secure a part time job at the farm Laboratory (in those days they were not to fussy about child labor laws.) And with my first pay I bought her a little Emerson radio, which she had for 40 years.
She escaped the place and moved up to Lakewood NJ, where she has lived all her life.
There were enough Estonians there to have their own club house and social and cultural life and letí s not forget the sauna. They kept the hope alive that someday the little country on the Baltic would fly their own flag again. And she saw that happen. Sadly most of her friends have passed on and the survivors are too old to go back. My generation are hybrids with children and grandchildren being true Americans, although 'vanaema' (old mother) reminds them all that they are Estonians.
And that is why I will be driving down to the assisted living place (which my mother hates and its costs are plenty.) To wish my Mother Happy Birthday and say Thank You.
Avo Kubar copyright 2007
The Press at Windswept Farm
No. 1 August, 2007