On April 2, my mother, Algerina is 99 years old. That’s a very long life filled with creativity and a curiosity about the world around her. Let me tell you about her.
Her parents emigrated from the Portuguese island of Madeira. They met in New Bedford, Mass., worked in the textile mills, and bought a house and land in a nearby town, where they kept a large vegetable garden and goats. A great deal was expected of my mother and her younger sister, Ernestina. Although a good student, my mother was forced to drop out of high school to work in one of those mills. Her sister had to take care of the house.
As a young adult, Mom continued to live at home, thinking she was going to be an old maid, a term we don’t use today. She was 24 when she met my father, Antone on a blind date. They were married six weeks later. It was a very long and happy marriage that ended when our father passed at in 2015 a few months short of his 93rd birthday. Mom always says their years of marriage were the best of her life.
They had three other children besides me: my sisters, Christine and Kij; my brother, Tony. There are lots of grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren.
My father was active in their town of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, especially with sports, whether playing or coaching it. My mother would be there watching. Both were heavily involved in St. Mary’s annual shows, and my mother put her sewing talents to great use creating costumes for them both. (Her costume-making guaranteed me a starring role in my school plays. The prom gowns she sewed, including the one with the glass beads on the bodice, are in a trunk still.)
It’s unfortunate my mother had to leave school because she loved learning. She wanted to be a nurse, and seeing how she cared for our father in his last years, she would have been a caring one. She was a big reader. When we were kids, she took us to the library twice a week for an armload of books she read in bed.
Mom took adult education classes in such subjects as millinery — I wore feathered hats with veils to church — jewelry making, cake decorating, painting, you name it.
She and Dad enjoyed traveling, especially to Hawaii, Las Vegas, Madeira, and the Azores.
I have fond memories of the long days we spent at the beach on the weekends. Mom would make clam fritters. (She and Dad dug for clams and quahogs in season.)
She loved eating lobster.
Until she had to give up her license a few years ago, Mom drove to three places to eat and shop — Wendy’s, Walmart and Market Basket, taking only right-hand turns. She had a bit of a heavy foot. Hank joked she drove like she was in the getaway car of a bank robbery.
My mother enjoyed gambling and winning, whether it was Bingo put on by one of the local churches or playing the slots at the casino. She had a head for Sudoku, a puzzle that mystifies me. A loyal newspaper reader, she still has a subscription to the New Bedford Standard Times.
My mom’s not the meddling kind of mother. She let her children find out things for themselves. I am certain there are times she was mystified by the decisions I made and the directions I took, but she kept that to herself.
Mom is also the inspiration for the mother, Maria in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. I give that character a lot of my mother’s interests and personality. She’s nosy and helpful solving crimes. My mother liked that.
On Friday, my son Zack and I paid a pre-birthday visit to Mom. She now needs special care and help, certainly understandable given her age and health. She was happy to see us, as we were happy to spend time with her. When we both sang “Happy Birthday,” she joined us. She still has her sense of humor. When she heard somebody say “Hey!” she responded with “Hay is for horses!”
There’s so much more I could write about my mother, but this post gives you an idea.
Happy 99th birthday, Algerina. Thank you for being my mother.
ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s a formal photo of her taken a number of years ago.