Return to My Mother’s Life

Life After 1953

My Mother’s Life After 1953

Because a lifespan is uncertain, I will jot down here just a few words about my mother’s life after our immigration to the United States in January 1953.  As she writes in the concluding paragraphs of her memoirs, we settled first in Brooklyn, N.Y., in the Sea Gate enclave at the tip of Coney Island.  My mother worked as a key punch operator tabulating receipts at the YMCA or YWCA in Manhattan. Then there came a period of about half a year when she was ill and was unable to care for me, and I was in a foster home in Rockville CT, and I am not sure where she was, but she may have been in the care of Ralph Neumann’s family; he was a physician. When she recovered, we moved to Cleveland OH, where she worked as a secretary and we lived in Lakewood. Around 1956, she took a job in the Kansas City, Kansas area, as governess in a family where the mother had died in an airplane crash; we lived in the family’s home in Prairie Village, KS.  After a couple of years, she became Director of the Nettleton Home in Kansas City, an old folks’ home, and we moved to Merriam, KS.

About the time that I graduated from high school and went East to college (1959), my mother took a job as admissions recruiter for a small private college in Missouri (I believe it was Christian College). She moved to Fontana, Wisconsin, on the shore of Lake Geneva in the southeast corner of the state, and traveled the Illinois – Wisconsin area, visiting high schools to persuade graduates to attend “her” school.  After a few years, she changed employers, and now worked as recruiter for another small Missouri college (I believe, William Woods) traveling the Southern California region, and moved to Riverside and then to Santa Monica, CA.

My mother during her marriage with H. Brüggensiecker, ca. 1970

It was there that my father’s cousin Heinz Brüggensiecker found her, and on April 20, 1968 they were married.  They then moved to Heinz’s home at Haferberg 15 in Schönkirchen, a suburb of Kiel, Germany. There they lived a quiet life, which came to a premature end when Heinz died on Nov. 1, 1973, of complications following hip surgery.

My mother then moved back to the United States, settling in Oakland, CA, where she bought a house at 3268 Lynde St. in the Fruitvale neighborhood.  She lived there with Morrie Wright, the local representative of the National Guardian newspaper.  I was their guest for a few months in the summer and fall of 1976.  My mother was very active then in Oakland radical politics.  She became a member of the October League M-L, took part in support activities for the Black Panther Party, and gave major amounts of her time and resources to a support group for ZANU (the Zimbabwe African National Union), among other activities.

My mother with Morrie Wright, Oakland, late 1970s

My mother, exhibit booth of the October League (M-L), Oakland, probably 1974


In late 1992, she joined with my then-wife and our two young children in purchasing a house in Berkeley, where we lived happily as an extended family.  She was active and alert and in full possession of her faculties until a major stroke disabled her and, after an agonizing delay, claimed her life on August 3, 1997.  She was cremated, and we scattered her ashes, as was her wish, from a fishing boat in the waters outside the Golden Gate Bridge.

My mother on her electric scooter, around 1996

Memories of her Grandchildren

My mother collected just about every scrap of paper generated by her grandchildren, and also made occasional notes of her own observations about their progress.  Among the latter is an 11-page typescript with a few corrections in her handwriting, titled “FOR FREDERICK.”  It begins:

Some day in the future, I thought, you might wonder: How was I when I was a little boy — where did I live — where did I play — who were the people around me — what experiences did I have — what was my relationship with my Mom and my Dad and my Oma?

The first entry is dated June 23, 1986, when Fred (d/o/b 8/24/82) was not quite four. The last is February 2, 1987.  After reviewing it, Fred asked that I scan it and put it on the web.   Here is a PDF copy of it.
Also among the papers my Mom saved is an astonishing school project Fred produced when he was eleven.  It’s a mock newspaper titled “Mesopotamia Today.”  It’s noteworthy not only for the broad news coverage of military, cultural, theological and architectural developments, but also for the rap that Fred wrote about Mesopotamian history beginning in 5000 BC and ending with Nebuchadnezzar.  Here is a PDF copy.  It ends with this verse:
Don't try to see these great things today,
Cus' our former president
Blew them away
I wish that my mother had lived to see her grandchildren today.  How proud she would be.  I’m deeply grateful to her for preserving these and other memories of their childhoods.
— MN 8/20/14

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