Mickie Newdorf (August 8, 1929 – February 25, 2017)
My Mom was beautiful, intelligent, stylish, determined, and a successful business woman. From her I learned to follow my own path, not one prescribed by others.
But, as many of you know, we had a difficult relationship. Being Mickie’s daughter (or son) was not always easy. Over the last nine years,however, as her dementia worsened, Mom’s hard edges slipped away, leaving simply a sweet, little old lady.
Mom lived through interesting times. She was born in Vienna in 1929, and 9 years later (March, 1938) Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany. She would occasionally tell us the story of the Nazi soldiers that moved into her building, and how terrified she was of the stomping of their boots, and their shouts of “Heil Hitler.”
The story of how my Mom and grandparents escaped is the story of how one random event can have huge ramifications.
In the late 19th century, my great-grandparents (Mickie’s grandparents) left Vienna and emigrated to New York. My maternal grandmother, Bertha Fuchs, was born in New York in 1900. A few years later, however, her father’s foot was injured by a horse and buggy on the streets of New York, and as everyone at the start of the 20th century knew, the world’s best medical care was in Vienna. So, the whole family (including aunts, uncles, and cousins) returned to Vienna.
My grandmother grew up in Vienna, married Joseph Streit, and had a daughter (my mother) and watched as Austria fell to the Nazis.
Their ticket out? It was my grandmother’s American birth certificate. With it, Bertha, Joseph and Hilda (who had not yet renamed herself Mickie) were able to leave Austria in September, 1938, and sail to New York.
In New York, Mickie grew up, got married to Arnie, started her career in real estate investing, and had her first child, me. In 1959, my Dad got a job offer from Lear Jet in Santa Monica, and the three of us drove cross country to start our California adventure. Two years later, I had a baby brother, David.
Mom, I loved you, and even with all the difficult times, I always knew you loved me too.
P.S. A few years ago,I started a blog about my mom’s costume jewelry collection, mostly as a way to work through our complicated relationship (but also just for the fun of playing with Mom’s jewelry!): My Mother’s Jewelry Box.