Yesterday, I had lunch with my mother, celebrating her 88th birthday two days early. Our conversation ranged back to her birthday memories of 75 years ago, December 7, 1941. Of course, that day, two days before her 13th birthday, the world changed. She spoke about how her family all gathered around the the radio and listened to President Roosevelt. That day would set a pathway for their lives as part of the greatest generation.
She spoke about how her future husband, my father, had delivered milk to her family that morning. I asked, “On a Sunday?” Yes, the Speck boys were up seven mornings a week, milking cows and delivering raw milk to homes in Rockport and Gloucester, MA. My dad often spoke about how he saw mom’s birthday gift – a bicycle – on the porch as he delivered the milk that morning before my mom received it from her dad
Back at the Speck farm, the family gathered around the radio also. In attendance was Chief Harold Tantaquidgeon, great-great-great grandson of Uncas, and a family friend. He was also working on the farm. Tantaquidgeon and the Speck boys would soon enlist. It would lead my father eventually on a path that included military service, college education in physics and nuclear engineering, and almost four decades of work for General Electric as a contractor for the US Navy building reactors for ships and submarines.
My mom also spoke of my grandmother, my dad’s mother, a proponent of natural foods and nutrition, who would travel to Boston on the train to learn from Gayelord Hauser. I hadn’t heard of him, but I soon found out why I saw my grandmother as years ahead of her time, and how I was influenced at a young age to eat well.
As we spoke of these years, and how the Speck farm eventually stopped functioning with the young men off to war and with the advent of pasteurization (Nana Speck would have nothing to do with taking the goodness out of the milk!), I soon realized that this all had only happened about 16 years before I was born. World War II had always seemed so long ago… but it was only a matter of decades before that these folks had lived through a depression and a world war.
And it was only a decade or so before that that my mom’s parents immigrated via ship from Scotland. My mom’s father and uncles had fought in World War I as part of the British Army and Black Watch.
Mom and Dad would settle in Saratoga County, NY, where I was raised, where Uncas had befriended early English settlers, where Tantaquidgeon had attended the premier of the original film Last of the Mohecans in 1935, where my dad would volunteer as a school board member for almost four decades, and where we had lunch yesterday.
At 88, my mother still lives by herself in our family home, feeling at home in this place with such a rich history and with so many wonderful memories… all from not-so-long ago.
Happy Birthday, Mom!