Mom and me; Mallorca 1956
Published on http://www.cafleurebon.com 12 May, 2018 from a rough draft essay written in 2014.
2018 marks the 23rd Mother’s Day, I’ve been without my Mom, (nee Golda but everyone called her Birdie) but then I don’t denote the day as anything out of the ordinary. I remember and celebrate my Mother’s life most days of the year. My Mother was one of my best friends, my business mentor, my confidante, and sometimes just saying “my Mother” feels like a disservice in that it doesn’t encompass the profound impact she had on the life of my brothers and me. Like me, my Mother was born five years after our other siblings; “surprise babies” if you will. Both of our fathers died young, effectively leaving us both in a household where brothers (and sisters in her case) had already flown the coop, leaving us alone with our mothers. In my Mom’s case she couldn’t move out soon enough, and it took turning 18 and a World War to move her across the country and in my case I couldn’t stay long enough; my home base was within 20 miles of home until I was 32.
Mom and Dad (Jiri)1962
My Dad passed away at age 52 when my Mom was 51 and I was 17. With my father gone, my high school and character development years were spent living with just my Mom in a large house in Northern California. My brothers came home for holidays but mostly it was just the two of us. What could’ve been a nightmare teenage scenario turned into something sweet, memorable and completely different; a chance to talk, to really get to know each other with all our strengths and weaknesses. Our nightly conversations covered everything; problems and solutions, politics, sex and gender identities, business advice, my clothing choices, her god-awful cooking, and always books.
My Mom served as a Lieutenent in the Army Air Force World War II
My Mother and Father were equal partners in life and in the business she and my Dad created in San Francisco after the war, growing from a Mom & Pop storefront to over 70 West Coast stores by the time she retired in the late 80’s. Having served in the Army Air Force as a Lieutenant Mom always believed that it took a woman to do a mans job properly, a shocking outlook in the 30’s 40’s and 50’s. Both Mom and Dad believed passionately in equality straight across the board, and protested against injustice and war while dressed in their every day white-collar clothing to prove that such feelings and attitudes were important to all levels of society. Mom was a feminist long before the word existed.
Mother’s Day 1967
She was also a terrible cook with some of her dishes reaching near-legendary status for their awfulness, HOWEVER she could tap dance and loved showing off her double-time step, at least until her bladder would make her dash for the bathroom, laughing all the way.
Mom and me, Maui 1965
My Mom loved to travel, and every summer was spent in Europe when my Czech Dad was alive, camping, exploring, and discovering. She loved as I do all kinds of Islands, and visited many throughout her life, Capri, Ibiza, Elba, and Madeira being her favorites. It was on one of our summers on Ibiza in the mid-60’s that she discovered Maja perfume and soap by Myrurgia, and that complex floral chypre became her “summer scent” for the rest of her life.
Mom wore Maja de Myrurgia and Joy Patou (vintage ads 1970s)
Once the weather turned towards autumn and we kids went back to school, she would put the Maja de Myrugia bottle back in the medicine cabinet and switch to Patou Joy Parfum for the rest of the year. She was not a huge scent fan, and also never wore any make-up other than a bit of lipstick believing that a woman’s beauty came from strength of character, empathy, and humor. Her work day uniform was black slacks and bespoke silk blouses; she was only 5’ tall weighing in at 90 lbs so off-the-rack clothing was a near impossibility for her. That small frame overflowed with personality and power.
Mom-Angel Island 1985
In 1992 after a short illness, she passed away at sunset on a late May evening, and I was there with her holding her in my arms. Ironically, she died in a hospital room down the hall from the hospital room where I had been born 41 years before. We had come full circle.
Every day is Mother’s Day
So yes, Mother’s Day is no different that most days because every day is Mother’s Day, and if I’m feeling sad, maudlin, or weepy I have only to walk into my office, pull two bottles from my perfume cabinet and enjoy her presence as the memories wash over me.I will always have the memories of my mother and the perfumes she wore.
Robert Herrmann– Senior Editor
all photos are Robert H. with the exception of the vintage Joy and Maja ads