Sunday, September 7, 2008


Our mom, Henrietta, early 1940s

I've been thinking a lot about our Mom, Henrietta. September 7th marks two years since we lost her, but it's not just this anniversary of her death that causes me to reflect on her life. Recently, I had the privilege to attend a meeting in Brussels, Belgium, the land of our grandparents, Irma and Leon.

Brussels, Belgium, August, 2008

Brussels is a charming city of about 1 million people. Today it is the capitol of the European Union. You hear many languages spoken on the streets. I wandered many of the streets, visited the Grand Palace, built by the guilds in the late 17th century - the Renaissance and some magnificent cathedrals. Sidewalk cafes are everywhere serving a local favorite of mussels, fries and of course, Belgian beer. The shops are filled with Belgian lace and tapestry as well as Belgian waffles and chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. I took every opportunity to sit outdoors and enjoy the sights, the people and the mussels. I thought much about our mother and grandparents.

Irma and Leon relive their immigration

Irma and Leon immigrated to the United States following World War I. Our mother was born in her house in Detroit in 1926. Her brothers served the US in World War II. Flemish was the native tongue of Irma and Leon. Henrietta understood Flemish - but didn't speak it. Irma would frequently speak to Henrietta in Flemish which would upset Dad; Irma did speak English.

Brussels August, 2008

Catholicism was a major influence in their life. The main cathedral here is spectacular. I must admit, my meager knowledge of world history fails me here. This area was predominantly Flemish but I'm not sure what impact the Reformation had on this region. Food is hearty here just as it was in my grandmother's house. The locals say it is as good as the French but has the portions of the Germans. There were lots of stews in Irma's kitchen. Raisin bread was her specialty (kuka stuten); it was served at every holiday and at many other times of the year. I can still think about how good it tasted smothered with butter.

Augie, Henrietta and Rene- Mom and her brothers

Beer of course, was always present in their home. The Belgians know how to make beer. And now they own Anheuser-Busch (really????). They are cafe people who like to sit and talk while drinking beer or coffee. I have fond memories of our grandfather Leon sitting in his backyard, drinking beer and whistling for his birds to come home to roost. (He raced pigeons).

Irma and Leon-probably mid 1930s (Leon brewed "rootbeer" in the basement of their Detroit home during prohibition.)

I'm sure we kids all remember the brass ashtray of Mannekin Pis, Flemish for little man pee, that we had in our house. (Does anybody have that?) Mannekin Pis is a fountain in Brussels of a little boy peeing. This is probably the number one tourist attraction. It is a bit off the beaten path along the narrow streets. The story we were told growing up was that a merchant's son was missing, and a search party set out to find him. They did find him peeing in somebody's garden. The merchant was so grateful he decided to erect a statue. There are other stories dating from the 14-17 century. One is that the city was under seige and that the young boy peed on the fuse of a bomb and still another that he peed on soldiers entering the city (from a tree). I personally prefer the first story. People from this region don't take themselves too seriously. They enjoy a good time.

Mareseatoats and Mannekin Pis, August, 2008

Henrietta did enjoy a good time. I am sorry she didn't travel here to see the land of her heritage. I think she would have liked it.

Henrietta loved a photo op!

I hope you enjoy the pictures - I'm definitely going back to this region. It is rich in culture and without pretentiousness.

Today's post was brought to you by my sister Mareseatoats. Thank you Mares, I'm sending big hugs to you today.


Anonymous said...

I sit this morning saying oh my god its been two years. I miss mom. Our mother was a fighter. She loved to watch a good fight; probably why hockey was her favorite sport to watch. I can remember one special dinner; the event escapes me; it was birthday(Ruttes?). My mome had spent most of the day preping for the dinner. She choose to serve a coleslaw for the salad. My dad asked where the tossed salad was. What transpired lives in family history.......She looked at my dad, picked up the coleslaw walked over to the sink, threw the coleslaw down the garbage disposal and said "if you want a salad, make it yourself!" She then sat down at the table...Damn and I liked her coleslaw!!!!!!


Rudee said...

I recall that was my b-day. Gosh, I'd completely forgotten that!

Mareseatoats, I like your tribute to Mom and your pics are very nice. I have heard that however good the pictures, this is a city one needs to see with her own eyes!

I love the pic of mom with the statue.

Brenda said...

I enjoyed your memories along with the pictures. I have been thinking about doing the same on my blog. I like reading about heritage. A few years ago I spent one whole winter researching family history. It is fun to do, but time consuming! Your Mom sounded like a great lady. How did she get on that fountain? It looked a little tall to climb onto.
Nice that you were also able to go to visit Belgium. I had not heard about the peeing boy story, so I learned something today. I am not sure which of the stories I liked better. Most little boys have been caught peeing outside at one time or another. Maybe they all have a story. Ha Ha
Well, I bet your Dad never asked where the tossed salad was after that. She made a memory of that day. I would have thought the same thing. We just missed a good slaw!
Hope you both can put together some more stories. Fun to read!

Betty Flocken said...

What wonderful memories. Thanks for sharing that history with your readers.

Rudee said...

Brenda, I've no clue how she got on top of that fountain! I'm sure there was a guy involved who gave her a boost.

As for the salad, Dad from that point on would bring it up at every meal where there was not a salad. It became a joke at the dinner table.

Rudee said...

Thanks Betty.

Anonymous said...

I'm sitting watching the pathetic Detroit Lions play football and it has reminded me how mom loved sports. Not just the Redwing; she loved watching the Tigers, Lions; Wolverines. Our parents had many get togethers, you were almost guaranteed to visit with Herb their neighbor of nearly 35 years. Herb would come to the games (probably to get away from Mary). You would find a fresh brewed pot of coffee at game time. If the game didn't go well, the cussing would ensue. And since the Lions are currently losing 14-0She would be saying "Your Lions are a bunch of Bumbs!


BJ said...

I really enjoyed reading about your memories of your mom....she sounds like she had some spunk....and boy do I love that! The tossed salad/coleslaw incident will never be forgotten. You just keep passing it along.

I love the story about the little boy peeing in the fountain.....I think there are many versions of that. You are right....little boys like to pee outside.

Just a great post! Thanks so much for sharing with us all. Looking forward to more family stories.

Jeanne said...

Thanks for clueing me in about today's post, Ruth. I loved getting to know your mom a little bit, your dad, too! Aniversaries are great times for reminiscing and your sister has done it well. I love her blog name. I think that was one of the first songs I learned as a small child but in my mind it was:
Mares e dotes e does e dotes e little lambs e divy. It was years before I learned what it really said!!
Take care. Loving thoughts to all of the family on this special time of remembering.

Wilde Thyme Knits said...

Beautiful post. Loved the photos too. Sounds like you had a wonderful time in Brussels. So glad you've had that opportunity.

Rudee said...

FTM, I could use a fresh cuppa joe right now.

Rudee said...

BJ, Mom was full of spunk and always, always spoke her mind. Though I'd forgotten the salad incident, I had a good laugh when my brother brought it up today! It is a legend in our family. Perhaps the most ludicrous part of it was that their spat continued through dinner. As my mom lit the candles on my cake, they were still at it. While everyone else sang happy birthday, those two were bickering. It was funny then and even more so now.

Rudee said...

Thanks Sr. Jeanne, as usual, your words bring me much comfort.

Anonymous said...

RudeeK you bring up a good point about the bickering...It continued until the day they die. They bickered and loved it. In the later years; dad would light the fuse and then turn his hearing aid off; often chuckling while he would resume his crossword puzzle.
Fred, turn that thing back on!!!

Rudee said...

FTM--look at the first picture of mom on her porch. Who's that in the door looking at her? I know I've seen that before, but just noticed grandma looking at her through the glass.

Mrs. G. said...

Lovely tribute to a beautiful woman-nice gams.

Sandy said...

This was fascinating to read, see the photos and especially your mom as a young woman. Thanks for sharing your memories...I enjoyed reading your sis' memories too...

Like Brenda and others, I always enjoy reading someone's history.

I'm behind and will be back to catch up. I've been on the compuer way too long this morning.

Anonymous said...

I see Irma in the window. NOw what was she thinking?

Yes.....Where are those Pigeons? Its almost dinner time. Are you going to be home for Hosenfeffer(sp)? or I know that Freddy is Jewish!!!!