Sunday, March 8, 2015

Things I remember

Today is International Women’s Day which has caused me to think a lot about the women in my life who have come before me.  And as time marches on, I find myself the oldest generation in my family and it causes me to stop, take a breath, and really think about these women so whatever memories I have left of them aren’t lost forever.

Geraldine c 1949
My mom
Geraldine Martin Levy

Of course the most important woman in my life was my mother, Geraldine Martin Levy.  My mom had a pretty disjointed childhood as her parents were divorced when she was about 10 and for several years she either lived alone with her mother or with her Great Aunt, Anna Fitzgerald Sronce.  For whatever reason, my mother either didn’t have many memories of her childhood and “life before Dad” or she just didn’t want to talk about them.  Once I started on this genealogical journey, though, she seemed to share more of her memories.  But I learned that she would tire easily of my questions so I tried to limit them to small chunks at a time.  And now that the time is gone, there are still so many questions I want to ask her.

What I remember about Mom. 

First and foremost, books.  My mom loved to read and she always had a book with her.  I mean, ALWAYS.  In fact, when she was admitted to the hospital a few days before she died, she took a book with her.  I’m not sure how much of it she read during her stay but when we took her personal effects home, her book, I’ll Be Home For Christmas, was half read.  But she’ll have it with her always as we placed it in her niche.

Mom loved to play solitaire.  This was long before anyone had even thought about computers, iPhones, or apps.  She played with a deck of cards at the kitchen table.  And she knew a lot of cool games that I can’t remember now.  I don’t know how many hours a day she played but my memory of coming home from school always included Mom sitting at the kitchen table playing cards.  And bridge.  She and Dad played in several different bridge groups and I can remember helping to get the house ready before it was their turn to host.  Little silver dishes with nuts and chocolates were prepared and we always liked snitching a few as they were put out on the tables.  After Dad died, Mom continued to play with different partners and her happiest days were those when she would join the group at the San Jose Country Club for a day of bridge.

Thursdays and Sundays were always golf days – Thursdays with the women’s group and Sundays with Dad and their friends.  I remember when I went into labor with my first child on Thursday, Mom said she would come to the hospital after she finished her golf game.  Good thing grandmas weren’t allowed in the delivery room because I think my mom was probably on the 16th tee when her first grandchild was born.

In 2012, Mom asked each of the kids and our spouses to join her on her annual trip to Kauai.  I’m so glad we were all able to go as it turned out to be our last time together.

Clara Fitzgerald
My maternal grandmother
Clara Maxine Fitzgerald
Martin Hunter

This photo is exactly how I remember her – a beautiful woman with a twinkle in her eye.  I don’t know what it was about her but she was always so happy and seemed to genuinely love to see us.  Grandma Clara was a chicken farmer – I’ve written about that here – and we loved to spend a day at her house helping with the eggs.  I can still visualize those warm, summer Fresno days sitting at the picnic table out by the garage with her beloved San Francisco Giants playing on the radio in the background.  And we’d help Grandpa load up the eggs into the station wagon for his delivery route and visit with customers who would come by the house to pick up eggs.  Grandma loved to play bridge, too, but I don’t think she was able to play much during this stage of her life as she was all consumed by chickens and eggs.

Loraine Adult
My paternal grandmother
Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer Levy

Loraine was sure one of a kind but, unfortunately, I don’t think I appreciated that until long after she was gone.  She would always fuss at us – don’t do this, don’t do that – but deep in my heart I know she loved to see us.  When we visited Fresno we always stayed at her house, since Clara’s was too small, and we always had to be careful not to disturb things.  Many times when we’d arrive she would make milkshakes for us with little squares of ice cream – where in the world did those come from?  I remember traveling with her and we always had to arrive at the airport hours ahead of time and sit and wait.  Maybe that’s why I like to arrive at the airport so early?  I remember her ‘clicking’ her teeth (dentures?), playing bridge (that gene stopped with me), and saying “I couldn’t give it much” or “that was bunk” when she didn’t like something.

Sadly, the last time I saw Grandma was in the nursing home about 6 weeks before she died.  While I planned to surprise her with a visit, it got out that we were in town and she knew we were coming.  When we arrived she was sitting in her wheelchair by the front door, decked out in a fancy silk suit, red lipstick smeared on her face, but a big smile nevertheless.  She loved the two little girls I brought with me, her only two great grandchildren at the time.  They used to ask me why she didn’t know her own name because she always asked them “who am I?” so she could hear them shout out “Great Grandma Loraine”!  She sure loved those girls and died with a picture of the two of them in her hands.

Mabel McAboy 1
My maternal great grandmother
Mabel Viola McAboy

Mabel was the only other grandmother I knew.  She also lived in Fresno so we would see her when we visited.  She spent a lot of time helping out with the chickens so we spent time with her while we all cleaned eggs.  I don’t remember much about her except that she always seemed old.  I guess when you’re 10 anyone over 40 is old. 

There are so many other women whom I’ve gotten to know over the last few years but since I never knew them personally, I don’t have any direct memories of them.  But I’m learning about them now – boy, am I learning!


  1. Oh this was fun reading. Your selection of memories and details really paints a picture, and I feel like I know these women even better despite reading about them so often in your blog. Love it Love it!

    1. I just wish I had more memories - they have sure faded over time.

  2. What a wonderful tribute to the women of your family. I love looking through family photos to see how certain facial features pass down through the family. Great post.

  3. Debi, you are blessed to have had these wonderful women in your life!