Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mother's Day at the Office

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mother's Day at the Office

Article excerpt

BETWEEN the recent "daughters' day," when school-age daughters joined a parent for a day of role-modeling at the office, and Mother's Day this weekend, I happened on the folder of my mother's papers. We were preparing for a refresher course in parent/child bonding, doing our part in today's pattern of adult children stopping home during an employment gap.

The slim folder, with another for my father, was in a tan metal file box, assembled by my sister in closing my parents' affairs. There was a birth and baptism certificate, in Russian, with Cyrillic script, but with the German names in Roman letters, a practice for the German settlements in Russia. It bore an Evangelical Lutheran Church seal: Ries, Emma, born in Krasnyi Kut, near the Volga River, Nov. 17, 1905; baptized four days later by Pastor Allendorf in the town chapel.

An eighth-grade certificate from Victoria School, Yorkton, Saskatchewan, Aug. 26, 1921. Three certificates for shorthand proficiency from Detroit Commercial College, with the required grade of 95 percent, the last dated Oct. 10, 1924. A marriage license, husband Primo Cattani, Sept. 1, 1928; standing up were best friend Anita Perry and brother Ferdinand Ries.

Then three Detroit public high school report cards, dated 1948 and 1949, showing perfect attendance and honor grades, one with her husband's signature and the others signed by two of her daughters, who were in high school with her at the time.

This is about where my consciousness of my mother's attempts at a working career checks in.

After World War II the big issue in our neighborhood, as elsewhere, was not the nuclear threat from Soviet Russia; it was mothers learning to drive. Up and down our street, stick-shift autos bucked as wives who had helped keep the war effort running with factory and relief work demanded to keep their effectiveness going. Not yet for women fighter pilots.

It was unheard of then for a grown woman, mother of four, to return to public high school, to the chagrin of at least one of her daughters, to get her diploma. An added irony was that Mom became the president of the mothers' club as well, and she introduced me to the debate coach, who was to affect my own career in public affairs writing. …

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