Friday, February 26, 2010

In Retrospect, My Oma

I'm going to return shortly to the tales of life on "Willowbrook Lane" and my pleasant childhood memories, but after posting a bit about my mother, I wanted to backtrack a bit, to my Oma, or Grandmother if you will.

She was and still remains the most remarkable person in my life. I loved my mother with all my heart, she was my best friend, but my Oma? She was incredible. I think you need a glimpse at her!

Again,I can only tell you some of her story as I have heard it told. From her and others in my family and then, my own personal recollections of the woman she came to be. Her life and her adventures are incredible to me, and I dare think, worth the sharing.

My Oma, born Emma, Johanna,Jacoba,Kranennburg, had more middle names than I can recall- which was common of aristrocats of Dutch Society. And born of Dutch aristrocrats, she was. Born in the 1800's- Her father was a Dutch Merchant, shipping goods from South America and the Dutch Indies to Holland. She had several illustrious Uncles,,,,one an astronomer appointed to the Queen of Holland (whom named a star in honor of his neice,,,,very rare, given the times and telescopes to peruse the heavens). Another, was a member of the Dutch Parliment who coronated the Queen. Both are listed in "Who's Who" for the record. And yet another, who was also a Merchant, buying/selling trading in the Indies and South America. And her sister, Tante' Betsey.

Emma's mother,in her day, (my Great Grandmother),would often travel to Paris and peruse the latest fashions of the courture,,,,,and then go home and make them. (I'd like to think that is where I got my ability to sew and design clothing, although I haven't done it in years!)

When Emma was in her teens, her father had a large ship returning from the Indies sink, carrying his cargo to the bottom of the sea. This was a major loss for him financially, socially and emotionally, for he had not done as well in business investments or as in his financial life as his male siblings. Emma's father, my Great grandfather, took his own life from financial ruin.

In those, her adolescent years, Emma left her home and helped her Uncle Corneilius's children as they ventured to live in Johannesburg ( South Africa), Montevideo (South America),and the Dutch Indies (Indonesia). While I was growing up, she'd tell me of tremendous storms-blowing huge tarauntialla's out of the trees onto the beaches and she and the other women would go out when the storm's subsided and stick them/kill them with their large hat pins.

Upon returning to Europe, after her adventures, she met my German Grandfather at a Yachting Resort/Inn on the Rhine, she could speak 5 languages and had had great travels throughout the world, given the era, and of course, all, remarkable for a woman.

And later, after their marriage and immigration to the US, as formerly mentioned, she muddled through English in her 40's to get them cross country to Washington State, with their children and to start a new life.

Shortly thereafter, during WWII, her youngest brother Fritz, with his wife and children were being held by the Japanese in a prison of war camp in Indonesia. (All the Dutch were taken prisoner.)And, they recieved news of her sister Betsey and her Mother, being killed in a bombing in Germany.

So, my Oma, sat vigil in Washington State, mom and sister,killed, her brother and family Japanese prisoners of war, and she strengthened her backbone all the more, and raised her family and loved her husband to a fault. She looked toward the future once again! Emma,my Oma, never looked back,,she always lived in the moment or cast her eyes towards a newer and brighter future! (I'd like to think I learned that from her!)

Life on the farm was hard for her. She'd been raised and tended by servants and all of a sudden, SHE was the help. Her educated husband was the help. Her immigrant children although deemed extremely intelligent, had the language, the cultural and even religious hurdles to overcome.

My mother as a child would become exasperated with her because she would do things that just didn't make sense. Throwing the wash or dishwater out in front of the house,,,,,,only to have the mud tracked in. Having heirlooms delivered from Germany and Holland into a house with no ammenities.

But my Oma was a survivor. She overcame SO much. The immigration, leaving her social and economic status. She and my "Poppy Karl" her life love, persevered it all.

My Grandmother outlived my Grandfather by some 20 years. She lived to be 98. She gave meaning to the term "chocoholic" and she'd walk for miles into her 90's, partially because she never learned how to drive. She'd knit her own clothes and and always wore bright hats and clothing.She was a "trendsetter." Long before the poem or addage, "When I grow old I shall wear purple." You could see my Oma from quite the distance. She walked tall, erect and with style!

One of the biggest things I learned from her was living in the moment. She never looked back, as many older people do. She didn't LIKE old people and their old fashioned ideas.

More than anything? It was her zest for life! She had a great sense of humor, that live in the moment, forget your yesterday's attitude! We can all take a page or two from that! Thanks Oma! You were the best!



  1. It must be something about that era of women that made them not look back and not be old-fashioned. My grandmother was the same way. She went to college after she retired from the corporate world and at 68 earned her degree in psychology. And she just loved being with 'young people' as she always called them. The one person in my life that I felt always loved me unconditionally.

  2. G'eve Shelly ~ I so enjoyed your history ... what a loving & wonderful write of your Oma. What caught my eye right off was the Dutch ancestry ... since my Dutch ancestry has been such fun to trace, I love reading others memories & findings.

    Sorry about missing you but the painting is done at home & still working on the other house ... a couple weeks of painting & decorating to go ... love it!
    Hugs, Marydon

  3. Wonderful writing of your early years! Love all the details...thank you for sharing!