Blog Schedule

I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

More Than Just Mother's Day

It may be Mother’s Day today, but more import to me is that fact that tomorrow is my mother’s birthday. She will be 91 years old.

This is the earliest picture I have of her, sitting on the lap of her French grandmother. She looks to be about six or seven months old. So this picture was possibly taken in November or December of 1917.

Mom was not one to have or talk about “super-natural” experiences. But she did tell me that sometime after her grandmother died she went into a room where there was a rocking chair in which her grandmother had often sat. The rocking chair was rocking. “It was like she was in the room with me,” said Mom.
Here’s a picture of Mom taken at the time she graduated from high school, about 1935. To me she has classic movie star beauty. If I remember correctly she was wearing a yellow dress and the roses were white, you can see her diploma resting on top of the roses.
Not long afterwards, Mom sailed from Puerto Rico bound for New York and Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Except for a trip up to the states when she was a very little girl (her name is recorded among those who passed through Ellis Island) she had never gone further than the Virgin Islands. She made the trip to Pratt by herself.
Here’s a picture of her on the day she left. I sense a bit of apprehension in her face.
Mom wanted to study business, but her traditional old-fashioned French father wouldn’t allow it. He recognized that she had artistic talent, which she did in abundance, so he sent her to Pratt to study costume design.

There are three stories Mom told from her days at Pratt.

#1: There was a teacher/professor who had communist leanings, a popular political stance back in those days. Here was Mom, a naive young Puerto Rican girl from a fairly well to do family, with an obvious thick Spanish accent, though she spoke fluent and perfect English. The professor apparently gave Mom a hard time, accusing her and her family of being colonialists, of being bourgeoisie, of repressing, abusing, and mal-treating the “native” population. Mom looked too white for this professor to believe she was a native too. This attitude was new to Mom. Yes she had grown up with servants, but she had never seen anyone of any class or social status mistreated or abused. Her father, at the time, had the only refrigeration business on the island. He had worked hard to provide his family with a comfortable life. How was that a bad thing? Particularly when he provided jobs! Apparently this professor actually brought her tears. It must have been hard for Mom to be so accused and not be able to defend herself without getting into trouble.

#2: Among her many interests was psychology. She once wrote a paper that combined art and psychology. It was about the affect color has on one’s psychological mood. Heady stuff for the day, new and innovative. She got a B. Her roommate asked to borrow the paper, copied it and turned it in to another professor. She got an A.

#3: This is my favorite story. Mom and her roommate lived several stories up in a girl’s dorm. Often they would, in the winter, keep milk and pies and such like things outside on the window ledge of their room. Directly across from them was a boy’s dorm. The space between the two buildings was apparently quite narrow. Narrow enough that the boys who lived directly opposite them would sometimes steal their food. Mom decided to get even. She made up a batch of brownies with a hefty dose of chocolate exlax and set it outside on the ledge. Needless to say the boys stole the brownies. People wondered why they weren’t in class. Needless to say the boys never stole anything off their window ledge again.

Mom later used what she learned at Pratt to design and make fabulous costumes for my sister and me and to make dresses which she sold to a store on St. Thomas. But it was her innate business sense that served her best. She managed and did the bookkeeping for the gas station and guest house we later owned and opperated. She was a partener in another business, a giftshop/restaurant. And she knew what property to buy when and how to manage it. This last is her legacy to my sister and me.

Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Birthday Mom. You are the best.
All my love from,
Your “growth”, The Rotten Kid, (you're the one who taught me)


  1. Just knew you would do something lovely like this! Regarding the graduation photo - right colors, but wrong order. The dress was white and the roses were yellow.

    The whole time I was in college, Mom made most of my clothes - and the styles that she made for me would start showing up in the various dress shops about six months later! This was true even while I was NYU!

    Beauty, talent, and great brains...what a combo!


  2. Your mother is stunning! How wonderful that you shared such a great woman with all of us!

  3. What a lovely tribute to your Mother. Happy Belated Mother's Day.

  4. Bish;
    I love reading about your mother. Thank you for sharing some of her stories with us!

    and Happy Birthday to your mother!!!

  5. Hi Bish. How I love these photos.
    Also love the way you have structured your blog. I've just started my own and am still learning how to do it. So I'm visiting others' blogs for inspiration and what do I find? A fellow ICL graduate doing a wonderful job.

    Come on over and visit me at



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