We Begin with our Parents' Stories *

 

 

My parents were high school sweethearts in the early 1940s. Mom lived in “the Nebraska section” of Jermyn and Dad grew up in Mayfield, the adjacent town. While they attended different schools, they had two commonalities:

 

They were members of the Russian Orthodox Church (more on this later, but it meant that they were allowed to date each other. It was expected one would date and marry within their religion.)

The second commonality was the popular teen hang out, Hosie Dam--where they went on many dates. To find Hosie Dam one would hike through the wooded area to the eastern edge of Jermyn where St. Michael’s cemetery marked the border. From there it was trodden paths and a gravel mining road to the dam. Far enough away from parents and townspeople, Hosie Dam was the perfect place to picnic and perhaps sneak a kiss. The dam was beyond the location of the mining village of Edgerton – abandoned in 1905, now a ghost town hidden away in the trees. In 1949 there may have been foundations to climb upon and mining artifacts to collect. But the teens who tromped through those woods were not interested in rusty tools. Hosie Dam was a serene spot – calm, clear waters, reflecting puffy white clouds.

Irene and Joe 

Hosie Dam 1948

My parents (admittedly) were not scholars. Dad had friends - girlfriends - who did his homework for him, except the math. Dad liked math. Mom confessed, "I cheated every chance I had. The only reason I graduated was that I cleaned the teacher's house on Saturday mornings."

On a frosty day in January 1949, Mom wore a borrowed wedding gown (her sister, Anna's) and was handed off to her groom by her oldest brother, Stephen. When I asked 'why get married in the winter'? Mom smiled and blushed, "we couldn't wait any longer."

The honeymoon months were short of blissful, the newlyweds enjoyed little if any time alone. Mom's mother, my Baba Fedorchak, kept Mom busy after her shift at the dress factory. In addition to continuing with her pre-marriage chores, Mom and Dad were required to pay half of the grocery bill (even though there were four other adults living in the house) in addition to $4 a week for use of the house and bedroom. "It was the toughest year of my life," Mom told me, and finished with, "I cried myself to sleep every night."

Overall, how difficult my Baba made life for my parents, it was the best gift she gave them. Mom said that she and Dad learned to save money the hard way: a penny at a time.

 

At the end of his day, when Dad cuddled with Mom in the twin bed in Baba's house, he would whisper tenderly and promise, "Someday, I will build us a house of our own."

Section is from my notebook of scribbles for Calico Lane.

* "Behind all your stories is always your mother's story. Because hers is where yours begins." ~Mitch Albom