“The Irish are...typically clannish and place great stock in loyalty to their own…”
Monica, McGoldrick, Ethnicity and Family Therapy
Mom had plenty of clashes with other members of the family, particularly big brother Bill. But no matter what the issues that initiated conflict, the clan pretty much always rallied together in times of difficulty or rejoicing. When Mic and I hit our teens, as teens do, we wanted to go our own ways, convinced we were quite adult. Mom and Dad gave us a fair amount of freedom to be with our friends and do the things we liked, and they also knew when to say no.
I was a freshman in high school when Mic and I got involved with the North Hills Youth Ministry. Mom taught with Bill Haley, one of the leaders, and encouraged us to join, even though it was a non-denominational group. For the next three years we went to weekly youth group meetings, attended retreats (Mom said at one point, “Stop retreating, start advancing!”), and became part of a Core group that was our primary interest through most of high school.
On a personal note, I've been fortunate to spend some time with my Aunt Helen even before Mom died. Her love and support has meant a great deal to all of us in these past years. It's her turn, now, to be the matriarch of the clan, and she is a worthy successor to her sister, my mother....Doc
Mom got involved in co-chairing the Bridge Luncheon for St. Teresa’s, held at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Babcock. She and Jeri Noble were there once for a meeting and some of the local mob guys who hung out there mistook them for prostitutes. They set them right.
Mom also joined an informal group of friends that called themselves The Club. It consisted of Mom, Jeri Noble, Rita Darr, Lorraine Young, Bea McClure, and Lois Cole. Everyone had kids around the same ages, and the purpose of the Club was girls’ night out. Once a month they’d meet at a different house, the hostess would provide the food (it got fancier as the years went on), and the ladies would sit and talk through the evening. In the summer there was usually a picnic out at North Park, and the women remained friends for the rest of their lives, though they stopped meeting monthly around the time the kids went off to college.
The second thing was the assassination of President Kennedy. The first Irish Catholic president, who had safely shepherded the country through the Cuban Missile Crisis, who was just like them with his young wife and family, was brutally killed. The days to follow, right through the end of the funeral were in everyone’s face, hour after hour, on the television.
The religious and political foundations of Mom’s life were rocked in the early 60’s. Before the end of her 30th year she had lost both of her parents, the young handsome war hero Irish Catholic president of her country, and the bedrock certainty of her Catholic traditions. The one major family loss during the early 60’s was the death of Aunt Mary, Mom’s mother’s sister. Then Dad lost his job and even Mom’s economic security was in question.
Eventually Dad found a job in Columbus, Indiana, a place Mom would forever remember as “godforsaken Columbus, Indiana.” While it was heaven on earth for kids, it was hell on wheels for Mom. Torn from the heart of her sister, brothers, and myriad cousins, Mom was deeply unhappy and never stopped hoping we would return to Pittsburgh.
Mom and Dad went to their one and only Kentucky Derby while in Columbus, and took the entire family to see the new film, My Fair Lady. We went down to the legendary Brown County and had dinner at a well-known restaurant, but all we kids cared about was the old-fashioned candy available at the country store. Mom may not have liked Columbus, but life there was seldom dull.
A little more than a year after moving to Columbus, Indiana, Mom’s dream came true and we moved back to Pittsburgh. By the time we returned, all three children were in school, which left Mom free to go back to work if she wanted to. The one job she could get that would make it possible for her to be home for us after school was for her to teach school. Although she hadn’t completed her degree, St. Teresa’s hired her to teach, and she eventually taught English, religion, and spelling.
After Rita’s death the holidays became more focused on getting together with Aunt Helen’s family. Sometimes one or more of the brothers and their families would come also, but the Doughertys and the Burnhams were always there. We kids were growing up, and Mom was considered the “cool” mother by all of our friends. Many a summer afternoon either Mic and her friends or my friends and I would sit around the kitchen table with Mom, drinking iced tea and talking about life.
The further adventures of Mom and the rest of us next week...
This is the continuing saga of the matriarch of our clan, my mother. Enjoy...Doc
By trade he was a pipe coverer, and at a very young age he opposed the union on certain unpopular issues. As a result, he was almost totally ostracized for a time. However, he came back and became president of that union for fifteen years until the day he died.
Dad looked on life as a challenge, never complaining, rather thankful that God had given him the strength to meet these challenges...We felt ten feet tall when he put his arm around our shoulders, a twinkle in his eyes, and a lilt in his voice as he proudly introduced you as “his” son or daughter.
Mom's Father's Day article on her Dad, published in the PGNorth, 6/15/78
Mic was quickly followed by me, after which Mom and Dad waited four years before they could face having Kevin. Makes me wonder if I had anything to do with the delay?
During those years Mom and Dad moved a few times. They started off with their first apartment on South Euclid in Bellevue. They shared the house with Jack and Dorothy Roberts, and had a weekly card game which featured a 6-pack of Pepsi and a breakfast roll (I guess they figured they’d be too tired to eat it in the morning, or too hungry to wait till after Mass). Dorothy and Jack had two kids, David and Nancy, who were around Mic’s age, and who we saw periodically when we were older.
After Mom’s father died, she and Dad moved over to the Simplon Street house to live with Aunt Helen and Uncle Dave (Uncle Bill lived there for a bit, then moved out). This is where my memory begins to kick in. It’s a dangerous thing to have a child write the life story of a parent, because the things the child remembers are quite different from the highlights for the adults. Most of the time. In point of fact, Aunt Helen and I both have pretty good recall of how I ruined her nice new bedspread with a ballpoint pen. I was trying to write even then!
Mom, Dad, Mic, and me. You may notice that in one picture I'm on a horse, in another, I'm holding a dog. I started early...
The Dougherty family was now in the form it was to maintain until the next expansion, when my sister married in 1974, fourteen years later...
Just one note before I start - the part of this that is italicized in black is quoted from the autobiography my mother wrote and didn't publish, DON'T TELL MY KIDS. Enjoy, Doc
Mom had a gift for friendship, and it was sometimes cultivated for interesting reasons.
I prefer to refer to myself as being on the clever side or one who was quick to evaluate life and its situations and put them in the proper perspective. Especially when it came to eating. I had that neighborhood pretty well assessed. Friday nights Conways went shopping and always bought a carton of Pepsi and if you hit over there at the right time you were sure to be able to share their good fortune.
Then there was the Schoen family, quite an interesting group. Their oldest daughter worked at Clark's Candy Company and every Saturday at noon she came home with a box of Clark Bars, which I was glad to relieve her of one or more.
Ah, but the Conways had something that the Schoen's didn't by the name of Kitty, and believe me this was no cat. Where Kitty's and my friendship began I'll never know. It seems like it always was and always will be. We were a great team, what I didn't think of she did. Kit had a real talent for making life more exciting.
(excerpt from PLEASE DON'T TELL MY KIDS)
Mom had another friend who literally became a Mother Superior—Jo Jo McMullen. They liked to hang out in the cemetery and smoke on lunch breaks at Mt. Assisi High School. Jo Jo became a nun and ended up teaching in Africa for some years, but eventually came back to her roots, Mt. Assisi, and her pal Smitty.
A strange thing happened on April 18, 1953. It snowed. That’s not rice that you see on the happy couple, that’s snow. In the family lore, Mom had an unusual relationship with snow. Not only did it snow on her wedding day, through the years, Mic was convinced Mom had the power to make it snow, because it invariably snowed on the nights she wanted to use the car when we were in high school. Two days after Mom died, on the morning before everyone was to gather at McCabe’s Funeral Home we woke up to an early snow. It wasn’t even Halloween and we had snow. We were all convinced it was a message, just to remind us that Irish Mother Superiors can do amazing things.
(To be continued...)
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