June the 6th was also my mother’s birthday. It was and, in my heart and mind, always will be.
I’m an old man now and my parents passed away a long time ago. Both of them were born in 1911. Yesterday would have been my mother’s 106th birthday.
1911 was truly a different world than ours. My mother was one of nine children, four of whom did not live to adulthood. Her father died when she was ten and she quit school in the fifth grade to go to work. All of the children did. My mother, living in the middle of Cleveland, Ohio, went to work selling “Murphy’s Oil Soap” door to door on the city streets.
Eventually her mother was able to open a stand in a farmer’s market and all of the children worked there selling homemade sausage and cold cuts. That stand stayed open until the mid-1980s with my Uncle Tony running the business.
When I think of my mother the first thing that comes into my mind is the word “Artist.” She was gifted with a wonderful talent. When she was still a child she was able to take free lessons at the Cleveland Museum of Art. When she was in her teens she was offered the chance to study Art in Paris. Her mother would not allow that – a young woman, alone in Paris, in the 1920s? The family had arrived in this country in 1903 and there was no way my mother was going to be allowed to go back to Europe.
My mother worked steady as a secretary all through the Depression in Cleveland and in Chicago for a couple of years with her older sister.
Despite losing the chance to study Art in Paris she never gave up on her Art.
I grew up in a house filled with paint and canvasses. The smell of linseed oil is still firmly in my memory. Over the years she put food on the table and shoes on our feet with her Art.
In the 1950s she discovered that she could make money designing, painting, and selling China dinnerware. Part of our home was turned into a giftshop/showroom. There was a kiln in the basement where she would fire her products.
There was always an easel in our home. Half finished paintings were everywhere.
Even though I did not inherit any of her artistic talent (That went to my late brother) I did acquire her love and appreciation of Art. Growing up surrounded by Art gave me a real education of Art and Artists.
When she was in her 40s she became diabetic and that took its toll on her. She never really accepted the fact of the disease and her life became marred with incidents when she would faint and fall down a flight of stairs and another when she badly burned her hand.
I’m sure that there must be a lot of her work floating around out there. So, if you ever see a painting or a plate bearing the name “B. Kraft” you will have found a small treasure.
My mother was a child of immigrants and a child of the Depression. She was also a wife and a mother, but above all, she was an Artist.