An Ode To My Family

100th birthday

It’s been a long time since I last contributed to this blog. For a wide variety of reasons. I haven’t been motivated to sit down and spend the time it takes to create new content.

The big trip Andrea & I did in 2018 has the last meaningful contributions. The last issue of Pedal Magazine, with a photo of mine on the cover, was the only entry from 2019. And here we are in May of 2020, dealing with a pandemic that is altering the world forever.

Last year was one of upheaval and change in my life. When Pedal closed its doors I found my photography business lost traction and I’ve pretty much settled on it being a thing of the past now. Those travel opportunities also vanished. With the current pandemic all of the bicycle races have been cancelled or delayed until much later in the year. I haven’t looked for more consulting opportunities for my IT business. Andrea changed jobs and has been going through a lot of adjusting. As she expected she might. Again, the pandemic is added to that change.

Marie Nussbaum: 1918 – 2019

The most significant change in 2019 was the death of my mother, just shy of her 101st birthday in November. I invested a lot of myself helping her through her 100th birthday and the year that followed. I’m very glad I did, it meant a lot to her and it meant a lot to me.

Karl & Mary Kraiker came to Canada in 1952 to build a new life in a new land. And in 1957 they bought a house. It turned out to be the only house they would ever own. My father died in 1970 at the age of 57. As a sixteen-year-old, I had no appreciation for his hospitalization or how quickly he would leave us. Heart attacks were like that in the ’60s and ’70s. That shaped the man I became though. It also meant that mom was a very important person in my life after that.

Their story spans both world wars and they were both alive during (& survived) the 1918 pandemic. Over the years mom wrote a “Lebenslauf” to ensure her family would know some of that history. Here’s how it begins…

Ein kleiner Bericht und  Erzaehlungen aus meinem Leben in der alten und neuen Heimat

In Oberquembach, einem kleinen Dorf in Hessen -Deutschland- am 24.November 1918 geboren, mit meinem Zwillingsbruder Heinrich.  3 Maedchen und 2 Jungens waren schon vor uns und so war das sicher ein ganz schoener Schock fuer die Eltern. Aber wir waren die Juengsten, wurden dann auch von allen verwoehnt und sind in einem harmonischen, liebevollen Elternhaus aufgewachsen.

[translation by Saba Shahsiah] In Oberquembach, a small town in Hessen Germany, on the 24th of November 1918 I was born along with my twin-brother Heinrich. There were 3 girls and 2 boys already born before us, and thus it was surely a shock for our parents. But as the youngest of the bunch, we were spoiled by everyone, and were brought up in a harmonious, loving home by our parents.

Fuer meine Kinder und Enkelkinder

I expect I’ll find a way to share more of her story, in her words & mine based on that document. There are a lot of stories in a 100 years of living. This one is about an ending and is the last chapter in the book.

353 Colborne Street

The house Karl & Mary bought in 1957 was a dream realized. It was close to the Leitz factory where dad worked so he could come home for lunch every day and enjoy her delicious cooking. It was a little house on a double lot at the corner of Johnson and Colborne Streets. Many of the Germans who came over to create the factory were in that part of Midland so there was a real sense of community there as well. To be able to afford it, they took on a boarder. And mom would fill the dining room with 8 or so men from the factory and feed them some of her classic German cooking for lunch.

Over the years we dug out the rest of the basement which dad made into a workshop and replaced the wood stove with a furnace. He added a garage at the back, created bedrooms on the second floor, even moved the front entrance. All of the wood trim and cabinetry were his doing. And it changed very little after he died. The stairs up to the second floor were replaced, a sliding door was added. And the wallpaper changed… mom was a real wallpaper person.

A Lasting Legacy Ends

When she died, neither my brother or I wanted to keep the house. And it needed a serious refresh after the many years of slowly being neglected… new windows, new walls, electrical and plumbing updates. The house went up for sale a few weeks after her death and sold within days. Closing for the sale was in January 2020. I dropped off the key at the law office on closing day but not before having one last visit. I did a walk-about with the thought of doing some sort of tribute.

Handing over the key

The idea for the tribute took shape and then it took on a life of its own. The length of the video set me looking for a song a little more than 4 minutes 30 seconds long. One that would reflect my feelings about the loss of my mother and the home she made for us. The hardest part was going through photos and adding them in. I intentionally set them to be partially transparent to reflect the nature of memories. And I have finished in time to publish it for Mother’s Day. We had our first Christmas without her, this is the first Mother’s Day.

The house mom and dad built

A few more details about the video & the song are in the description on YouTube. I do want to say a big thank you to Kalila Badali & Tony Whetham who took the time to learn and perform the song with me.

The studio
Here’s a shot Tony took of the “studio” (my basement).

Marie Volk / Kraiker / Nussbaum… mom & Oma. I will always love you. And I miss you. And that’s as it should be.

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