Tag Archives: Mother

SISTERS AT ODDS

Typical primary school photo. You can see that the Tooth Fairy recently came calling!!

Our two daughters look friendly enough in this school photo, taken when Louise was 7 and Jane aged 6 There was only 17 months between them. Jane was 6 weeks premature and not expected to live through the night. However, she managed to struggle through her Respiratory Disease of the Newborn and even learned to play the flute.

When they were little, they were inseparable, adored each other. The cracks began to appear when they became teenagers.

‘If she’s going, I’m not going!’, was the response to anything more than an expedition to go shopping for school uniform. It was even their answer when we discussed our summer holidays, though for that they had no choice. For us, summer holidays were family holidays. At first our trips abroad included the boys, who both girls got on with, though the two middle children were closest.

Our daughters’ teenage years were a nightmare. Louise got the teenage sulks first, recovered and became sweet and loving, only to be followed immediately by Jane’s teenage angst.

At UNI, Louise, our elder daughter, read Psychology, took the TEFL Course and became a Foreign Language teacher in the Basque Country, while Jane read Physics and is a Professor of Physics in Switzerland. They met rarely as adults – we could put up one family, not two – so they usually came to London to see us separately. As adults, all four children only met for important birthdays. For my 80th birthday the six of us met up in a hotel in Malaga.

Jane is about to turn 54 and is recovering from a total gastrectomy for stomach cancer while Louise is 55. They are close once more – at least in spirit. Louise, who writes course books on teaching English as a foreign language, has retired as Director of Education after 32 years, to go freelance. Jane’s husband needed to have surgery, so Louise has flown to Switzerland to be with her at this worrying time.

I was one of three daughters, no sons, and we were each 6 years apart, so I was never very close to my elder sister, and my middle sister left to live on a Kibbutz when I was a teenager. I wish I’d had a sister closer in age, but I suppose I could have been at odds with her in my teenage years as were my daughters, and I might never have made it up.

Interestingly, as far as I could see, the boys always got on and now at 61 and nearly 59, they are very close, working in the same district, in similar fields, and meeting for coffee or lunch now and again.

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free. ‘Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

Woman in a White Coat

 

 

AREN’T GRANDCHILDREN WONDERFUL?

Our Basque grandchildren – now aged 21 and 24

Those of us who want children, and have them, are fortunate indeed, but having grandchildren is even better.

It’s not just that you can give them back when you and they have had enough. Much of the time you are tired and uptight when your own children are young, but most of us are more relaxed and laid back by the time we are old enough to have grandchildren. They bring you enormous joy – especially when they are little. My mother would say it’s Nachus and Yichus – joy especially from children and family.

Our elder son and elder daughter have each got a daughter and a son. Simon and his wife are doctors who worked in Zimbabwe, and then Malawi, while their children were young. Not wanting to be separated by thousands of miles, they came back to the UK when our grand-daughter was about to go to UNI. Until then, we saw the children only when they came to stay with us for a couple of weeks each summer, so we missed much of their growing up.

Louise, our elder daughter, took the TEFL language teaching test after graduating. Her first job was in the Basque Country where she met my son-in-law and she has lived there ever since. Fortunately, she and her husband are both teachers and until COVID the family was able to come and visit each school holiday.

Of course, it was lovely seeing them all, but I would much have preferred to have them living next door or at least in the same city.

The story behind the attached photo goes back to the late 1960s and our John Dobbie toyshop. We stocked as many handmade toys and country crafts as we could find. The doll’s pram with our grandson in it came from our shop. It was one of the items we took home for our children to play with.

We lived near Wimbledon tennis at the time and I decided to buy something in Southfields, taking Louise and Jane, then aged 4 and 2 with me. Louise decided she wanted to take her doll in the wicker pram and I pushed Jane in a pushchair. When it was time to go home. Louise refused to walk and sat crying on the pavement in the embarrassing way children do, making me feel an idiot. Putting Jane into the doll’s pram, I strapped Louise into the pushchair and struggled home pushing the pushchair and pulling the pram behind me.

The pram was one of the items Louise took with her when she moved to Spain. The photo is a souvenir of that walk from our home to Southfields.

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free. ‘Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

Woman in a White Coat

 

 

 

 

MOTHERS-IN-LAWn

Maybe my teenage mother-in-law caught the bride’s bouquet

Until not so long ago, every comic had a fund of nasty mother-in-law jokes and, if the comedian was Jewish, he’d have some equally unflattering Jewish-mother jokes too. Now I am both, and a committed feminist, I resent all those unpleasant references, especially as my mother-in-law was loving and caring.

Like so many children, I was evacuated for long periods during WW2 with little if any contact with my parents. I returned from Dawlish in 1942 after two years in which my mother visited a couple of times and my father not at all. Our pre-war closeness was gone. When my father died, I was surprised and saddened to discover a letter kept with his will in which he said how much he loved me. I wish he could have told me that while he was alive, instead of being quite distant. My mother seemed to care much more for my elder sister, her firstborn, and I accepted that.

My husband, Josh, was an only child, with a gregarious outgoing father. His mother, Eva, was quite shy, but we got much closer after my father-in-law died and she moved to a flat that was only a short bus ride away.

Eva adored our four children, coming on holiday with us when we went away in the UK and babysitting during the periods between au pairs. She was still shy and undemonstrative but managed to make me feel loved and cared for.

When we started our toyshop, John Dobbie, we sold party favours in packets long before you could buy packets of balloons and little toys ready to hand out at the end of your child’s birthday party. My mother-in-law discovered a real knack for packing them into cellophane bags and attaching the labels designed by the late Colin Fulcher.

She was the youngest of four – three girls and a boy – and was tiny. In my prime I was 5’1½ and she was even smaller than me. It was good to be taller than someone!! She was born in the UK and married a very distant German relation, living in Berlin until 1939, when my father-in-law’s profession as a dental technician allowed him to escape the Nazis and come to the UK.

She died in 1969 and I still miss her and think about her. She was a model mother-in-law and Jewish mother, and fie on all those telling those nasty jokes about them.

While my first memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ is mainly about growing up in the East End of London and achieving my various professions, my forthcoming book ’25 Houses’ will have more about the people in my life like my late mother-in-law, who were major influences.

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free. ‘Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

Woman in a White Coat

 

BEIGELS AND CREAM CHEESE

Beigels on Lekue moulds waiting to rise

My widowed grandmother, together with my mother then aged 11, emigrated from Mogilev in Belarus to the UK in the late 19th century. With a grant from the Jewish Board of Guardians, she purchased a willow basket and found a pitch selling bagels on the corner of Wentworth and Goulston Street. She was there, rain and shine, until my parents got married in 1918 and they all moved from Petticoat Lane to Old Kent Road.

It’s quite appropriate then, that our elder daughter and grand-daughter should have become proficient bread makers during Lockdown. They can roll out lovely even rolls of dough, but mine end up lumpy, especially if my thumb joints are sore after playing a series of octaves on the piano.

When I make beigels therefore, I use my two sets of six Lekue beigel moulds. You roll the dough into a ball and push it down over the central spike. After letting them rise, you can leave the dough on their moulds and dunk them in malted boiling water. They float off ready to be glazed and baked.

One thing I’ve never ever tried is the combination of smoked salmon and cream cheese on beigels. As a child, growing up in a cold-water tenement in Petticoat Lane in the East End of London, it would have seemed profligate to have smoked salmon and cream cheese together. We only ever bought a few slices of expensive smoked salmon when people like the aged couple, Marie and Yankel, we called Aunt and Uncle out of respect – though they were no relation – came to tea.

We would certainly never have dreamt of mixing it with our homemade cream cheese. Milk and butter were kept in a cupboard on our tiny balcony and covered with a wet muslin cloth, its ends dipped in water. But there was always soured milk around. Much of the time there would be a cheese cloth hanging from the kitchen tap full of soured milk turning into cream cheese.

Since Lockdown, I not only make all our bread but have recently started to make cream cheese again. I splashed out on a temperature-controlled Lakeland yogurt maker but only used it once to make yogurt – the supermarket Greek yogurt tastes fine and costs only pennies more than a litre of full cream milk. However, I do use it to make what is, after a couple of experiments, delicious cream cheese. I clot the milk with lemon juice and add a pinch of salt and sometimes a few drops of wine vinegar at the end if it’s not sour enough. The best thing about the Lakeland yogurt maker is that is comes with a fine mesh cylindrical sieve for draining off the curds from the whey. No more washing slimy cheese cloths!

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free.

Woman in a White Coat

WOMAN IN A WHITE COAT – a memoir

‘Woman in a White Coat’ is the memoir of Dr Abby J Waterman, a poor Jewish girl who makes good. Born and brought up in London’s East End, she is now an 89-year old retired consultant pathologist who has been a Harley Street dentist, a doctor, an entrepreneur and finally director of a cancer research laboratory, as well as a wife and mother of four.

Can you imagine what it’s like to carry out an autopsy on a 4-year-old when you yourself have a young child at home? Or what it’s like to look into the eyes of a young mother nursing a babe in her arms, knowing she’ll be dead by the end of the year? Can you imagine what it’s like to be a pathologist who examines breast cancer cells under the microscope as her profession and then finds that she has breast cancer herself?

‘Woman in a White Coat’ is a poignant account of Abby’s journey from a cold-water tenement in Petticoat Lane, to being faced with life and death decisions in a London hospital. As a medical student, she brings babies into the world and helps to relieve the suffering of patients who are about to leave it.

Filled with insights and gentle humour, this book gives you a very real account of what it’s like to be a doctor at the sharp end. You’ll eavesdrop on the conversations from behind the scenes in hospitals, the stories of patients with strange “unexplained” injuries in embarrassing places, and the tears shed by the medical staff that patients never see. It will give you insights into what it is like, helping the sick to get better and the critically ill to die gracefully.

It also shows you that there can be a fulfilling life after retirement, even when it is threatened by near fatal disease.

Buy Woman in a White Coat on Kindle at £2.99, as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99 or get a free taster on Amazon using Look Inside.

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat

Woman in a White Coat

HERE WE GO AGAIN – LOCKDOWN AND COVID-19

The new entrance to Morley College South London

Locked in again – I fear that for Josh and me it is for the foreseeable future – or until we get an anti-Covid 19 vaccine that is safe and effective.

It all started this February. I was sitting in a college classroom listening to the most popular Art History tutor. As usual, his class was full, the chairs pushed tight against each other.

News of the new Coronavirus was everywhere, and it was already clear that oldies like us – Josh going on 91 and me approaching 89, both with long standing medical conditions – would be unlikely to survive an attack of the virus.

When I came home and told Josh I had decided it just wasn’t safe to carry on with my class, it was to find that he had made the same decision about his jewellery classes. We withdrew from our respective colleges and were early enough to get partial refunds.

That was it for Josh, for whom online classes are not really on. He contributes to a jewellery making forum and exchanges ideas there. On the other hand, I have been taking Art History online classes since the summer – the present one a repeat of the class I had to leave at the beginning of the year.

It’s pros and cons. It’s good to see the images more clearly and zoom in on them. And none of those classes have had the breakout groups I have always hated. I think dividing the class into small groups, while the tutor corrects essays or reads their love letters, is a cop-out. The speaker for the first group covers most things and the rest of us say – ‘Well as the last speaker just said…’ I know that breakout groups are a godsend for language classes, enabling the shyer students to make their voices heard, but for everything else I’m likely to attend – no thank you!!

I thank all you wonderful people who sent our younger daughter, Jane, their kind wishes. Like so many cancer sufferers she is finding her chemotherapy very tough going. When her course is completed, she will have a total gastrectomy (stomach removal). It is wonderful that we have Zoom and WhatsApp so we can see and speak with her in Switzerland but awful that we can’t be with her at this time.

LATE FOR THE WEDDING

I was a lot slimmer then!!

My family was late for everything. That wasn’t surprising, since my mother always started out at the time we were meant to be there – for holyday services, for the cinema, for everything. I got used to pushing past unfriendly knees and apologising ‘Sorry. Sorry. So sorry’.

My parents had always gone to the Great Synagogue in Duke’s Place, but the magnificent old building was bombed in 1942 and services were held in an unadorned single story temporary building. My brother-in-law, who was a ganser macher (big noise) in the West Ham shul (synagogue), persuaded me to get married there and leave from their house which was nearby.

The car to take us to the shul had arrived and my middle sister, Hannah, made last minute adjustments to my headdress. My elder sister, Rebecca, had recently adopted a sweet little baby girl and of course Susie needed changing urgently, just as we were about to leave. It took Rebecca ages as she fumbled with an unfamiliar terry towelling nappy and the huge safety pin. Finally, we were ready, but now we were 15 minutes late. To cap it all, there’d been a minor road accident around the corner which made us later still.

As I climbed up under the chuppah (wedding canopy) it was to see Josh looking absolutely ashen in his Moss Bros tuxedo and top hat. He’d been sure I’d stood him up!!

He and his parents were the opposite to mine and always on time. Once safely married, I caught being punctual from him and now I’m always on time and often early. So – lots of unwanted cups of indifferent coffee while I wait for my friends to arrive or the class or meeting to start.

I thank all the lovely people who wrote and commented on my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat.’

‘Woman in White Coat – the memoir of girl growing up the East End making good.

Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat 

 

SONS AND DAUGHTERS

We have two of each but for a time all four lived abroad – our elder son in Africa, the younger in Finland, our elder daughter in the Basque Country in Spain and the baby in Switzerland. Now the boys live in the UK, though the elder often goes abroad for conferences, but the girls work permanently abroad. I hated it then and hate it now, though they come and stay with us during the year.

The girls are not often in the UK together. We have only one spare room so if they bring their partners we have to put up one pair in a hotel, like when they came over for Josh’s 90th birthday.

But they are coming together this week – our elder daughter with her partner for a concert and the younger for a conference. The girls will share the spare room and Mark will have to sleep on the sofa.

School photo of Jane and Louise

They are great friends now but they weren’t always. It was fine when they were little. When Jane cried for a feed Louise would pull at me – ‘Ninny crying’, she’d wail. ‘Ninny crying.’ It didn’t last. When they were teenagers they were barely on speaking terms. There was only 17 months between them – Jane had been 6 weeks premature – and they seemed to have nothing in common. If we planned a trip or a holiday it was ‘If she’s going, I’m not.’

It got better when they both went off to Uni and now they’re best friends, though they don’t often meet except for events like Josh’s 90th birthday last year and my heart attack in 2016.

But I do miss them. I love my sons dearly, but mothers get a completely different kind of sympathy and support from our daughters. Lucky us!!

I thank all the lovely people who wrote and commented on my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat.’

‘Woman in White Coat – the memoir of girl growing up the East End making good.

Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat 

OUR FIRST JOHN DOBBIE TOYSHOP

Simon aged 3 and me looking in at our first bow-fronted toyshop.

It was 1962. Simon was 2½ and Bernard was 4 months old. Josh was working full time in our dental practice up in town and I was working part time in the dental practice I had set up in our small terrace house in Wimbledon.

Despite the fact that we were both working, we were overdrawn, having taken on too big a mortgage. We cast about for ways of making some extra money and finally decided to open an educational toyshop. It was such an ordeal getting two small boys ready to go up to town to find some toys that didn’t fall to pieces almost straightaway. The word you thought of then when someone said ‘toys’ was ‘broken’!! There was a very good toyshop owned by Paul and Marjorie Abbatt in Wimpole Street and Heal’s had some good toys, particularly at Christmas, but it wasn’t easy dragging the boys up to town.

We approached local agents in Wimbledon village only to be told none of the shops ever changed hands. All of them had been there for ages. Then, just before Christmas, one of the agents rang to say a small shop had come on the market.

It was ideal. A reasonable rent for a small bow-fronted shop – just one’s image of ‘Ye Olde Toy Shoppe.’ Winter 1962-3 was the coldest for years and we almost said ‘no’. I remember inspecting the premises, still with a post-pregnancy weak bladder, and finding the loo frozen solid.

Having managed to borrow £500 between the bank and a friend of my sister’s, we spent £250 on fitting it out and £250 on stock. If we visited any shop that stocked attractive sturdy toys, we turned them over to look at the labels to find the suppliers. We also managed to find some craftworkers making beautiful toys to order, as well as sturdy wooden toys imported from Scandinavia.

I wrote to all the Sunday glossies to tell them our shop would be opening at Easter and to our great good fortune the Woman’s Page editor, the wonderful late Moira Keenan, wrote about us on the Sunday before Easter. Fantastic!!

That Wimbledon shop later moved to a larger shop in the High Street and we opened a second shop in Putney. We never made much money out of them though it was a wonderful experience. Finally, having had enough of running John Dobbie, we sold the Putney shop in a property deal, and the Wimbledon shop to a couple who had opened a shop like ours elsewhere.

I decided to return to medicine, hoping to specialise in dental pathology. The professor who’d invited me to come and see him, if and when I was ready, had retired and when I approached his replacement for a job, he turned me down saying ‘A married woman with four children and no expertise – you’ve nothing to offer.’

Five years later I was a consultant pathologist with an international reputation. When we met later he swore he’d never said anything of the kind – but he had!!

‘Woman in a White Coat                      paperback

Lots more stories like this in my memoir ‘‘Woman in White Coat’. Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat

FROM SHMEAR TO ETERNITY – MY LOVELY NEW (2ND HAND) YIDDISCHE DICTIONARY

My new secondhand Yiddische dictionary

I saw Fred Kogos’s dictionary online some time ago but none of the UK online booksellers I tried had a new copy at the list price of £10.99. Not only a new copy but secondhand copies were all at silly prices starting at £54. Finally, I found some secondhand copies from three USA bookstores but none of them would ship to the UK. Then, just before Christmas, a secondhand copy was listed on Amazon US. Not cheap at £23.54 including nearly £4 postage, but so well worth it. It’s in very good condition, the paper slightly foxed but no underlines or highlighting.

It is all in Roman script not Hebrew – much easier for me. Yiddish-> English then English -> Yiddish and then pages of Yiddish proverbs.

It made me quite weepy, reading the proverbs my late mother used to encourage or berate me with. Never thought a dictionary would make tears come to my eyes.

I thank all the lovely people who contacted me and commented on my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat.’

Lots more stories like this in my memoir ‘‘Woman in White Coat’.

Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat 

Woman in a White Coat paperback