My childhood was incredibly good: a pink bike with tassels on Christmas morning, a puppy when the neighbor’s dog gave birth, and a pony in the backyard for my 8th birthday. A loving mother and her loving sister raised me and my two brothers after dear-old-dad flaked out.
We enjoyed dancing in the living room and making the records skip; we had tuna casserole with peas (ick) and meatloaf and spaghetti with perfect meatballs; we had jig-saw puzzles and crossword puzzles; we owned an encyclopedia, atlases, and numerous dictionaries, open all the time on the dining room table.
And we always had Mom inside the front door when we got home from grade school.
Mom and Aunt Agnes, “Ang,” grew up in eastern Pennsylvania coal country of Welsh and Irish descent. They were “coal crackers,” a typical term for anyone who grows up in a mining town.
Lois Jane Holmes and Agnes Roth Holmes were born and raised in Lansford, PA, the hometown of Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. They grew up during the depression, but I never once heard them complain about it…tales, yes, but never a complaint.
Mom wanted to be an English teacher or a seamstress. She became a mom instead, and she excelled at that. She corrected our grammar and our punctuation for years (English teacher) and sewed a lot of our clothes, the curtains in the house, Ang’s dresses and blouses, and even slipcovers (seamstress).
Mom was handed a bum deal for sure. My father took off when I was 1 y.o., leaving Mom with me and my two older brothers. Mom and Ang rented a house together for one year to see if they could stand living together. It worked.
Ang managed to get a mortgage in 1959-60, as a single woman. She was a women’s libber before it was popular. She was the first woman to wear pants at her corporate office. She once slid down the banister of the Gold Ballroom in the Hotel DuPont in a gold lame gown. Ang married a soldier during WWII. Her first trip to meet his family left her disgusted – he would not give up his bus seat for a “colored” woman. Ang divorced him soon after.
Our Holmes gals taught us to dance in the living room at Mullet Road. We’d jitterbug to big bands and waltz to the classics. We also listened to Mom’s Frankie, Tony, and others, Ang’s Ella, and other jazz and blues greats. Mom had a taste for opera and classical music. I took her to see Andrea Bocelli in Philly a few years before she died.
They both loved Phillies baseball. Mom took me to Connie Mack Stadium in Philly when I was about 5 or 6. Back then I thought baseball was a nine-inning picnic – hot dog – inning one, ice cream – inning two, popcorn – inning three…
Mom and Ang would not accept unfairness, bigotry, or bad manners – by anyone. They both had a zest for life, love, and family.
And laughter. I remember the laughter.
For Mom –
For Ang –