Lena Nettis Case 1907-1984
See a resemblance? If you gave me dark hair, and took away my dad's Germanic coloring, I would look like my mom. The similarities are much more pronounced in personality. My mom loved to entertain, did volunteer work, was smart and quick, though she only had an 8th grade education. She loved to cook and bake, travel and shop. She was a great wife, mother, sister and friend. She had quite a "collection" of dishes, shoes, and handbags.
The youngest girl of 10 siblings, mom was born in Bronx, New York, where she lived until moving to California along with her five sisters in the 1940s. Her dad, a musician, played clarinet in John Phillip Souza's band. At age 14, she had to quit school to stay home and take care of her mother and grandmother. Her dreams of being a teacher stopped there. Italian families still "arranged marriages" and at age 21 she married a man she met the night before the wedding (a "date" where they went to church for confession before the wedding, chaperoned by two older brothers) She didn't like the guy, and begged her father to not make her marry him, but the families had "arranged" the match, and my grandfather said he was from a nice family, and she would "learn to love him".
He wanted children immediately, and beat her the first three months when she started her period. The fourth month, he sent her to a doctor to "see what was wrong". She checked out ok. Month Five, she suggested HE go for a medical exam. He found out he was sterile, and physically took it out on her. She left for good and tried to get a divorce. She had no grounds. My uncles set up a prostitute in a hotel room and invited her violent husband. They hid in the closet, and at the appropriate moment, jumped out with cameras in order to get necessary "evidence" to meet grounds for divorce. At the time (1928), the only allowable reasons for divorce in NY were adultery, insanity.
I am so proud of her strength and assertiveness, especially during an age when domestic violence was not discussed. It is very sad that she felt so much pain and guilt about the divorce. The family was very Catholic, and she really felt she had disappointed her father, and shamed the family. She also had very skewed ideas about men and relationships. She did not date for 20 years.
Interestingly enough, (and quite frightening) her husband remarried, and MURDERED his second wife, killing her with a dog's choke chain collar!!! My mom was lucky and brave to get out when she did!
After her move to California, she owned her own business, the "corset and lingerie" section of a department store. She lived with my aunt and uncle, traveled with girlfriends, and splurged on trips and nice clothes. In 1951, she went to a friend's home for dinner, and they had also invited my dad (a blind date she knew nothing about). They courted for 4 months and were married in May, 1951. Dad was 20 years older (64), retired and a widower of a happy 40 year marriage.
In February, 1952, my mom kept having nosebleeds and craving fava beans. She went to the doctor, and he told her she either had a VERY large tumor, or was pregnant. The test was positive. She sent my dad in for the results, as she was sure she was dying, but found out instead, that she was 6 months pregnant. Only three months to wait for my arrival!
She and my dad had 28 happy years before his death in 1979 at age 93. She was a wonderful, warm, loving and supportive mother.
I'm sure my mom is happy to know I do work I enjoy, cook like she did, have a happy relationship, a comfortable home, and visit Italy whenever I can!
Happy Mother's Day, Mom!