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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Today You Would Have Been 97

Dear Readers,

The center of this blog, Words Have Wings, is my mother, Irma Gershkowitz, Hadara bat Avram Nachum. Through the years she was there for me and through the last year of her life she changed my life forever.

During her last year mom and I embarked on a joint project together, to photograph her in a century of hats. Those months have become a defining moment in my life and I want to hope that those same months brought meaning and joy to my mother's life. Together we sat; she posed, I photographed her. Her facial expressions changed at lightening speed.

She carried photos of herself in her bag that was attached to her walker and she shared her glamorous self with waiters, administrators and anyone who would care to look at The Falls.

She was so proud of her photos and had a great eye to choose which worked best as part of a portfolio. She was very discriminating about what worked and what didn't. She wanted to look her best and she did.

Just eleven months ago Mom and I drove to Revere to the Jack Satter House as part of the Century of Hats project . Together we sat with a room full of former residents of Winthrop, Revere, Chelsea, Everett, Lynn, Dorchester and Mattapan. We animatedly chatted about life back in the 1930s and 40s for these octogenarians plus. Where were the best restaurants, where did they go on dates, where were the best bakeries, delis? Residents reminisced and mom, just a few months before she deteriorated significantly, had a ball! She smiled from ear to ear and held the microphone with pride. When I think back, I think that was one of the best times that mom and I had together as a team, as partners in a special project.

Just ten months ago, when these photos were taken, mom and I went to Salmagundi Hat Shop in Jamaica Plain where the owners were kind enough to allow mom to model some hats. It is hard for me to believe that she would be gone three short months later. Here she is, in all of her glory, with her best Irma movie star face.

Its occurred to me this year, after mom's death in January, that mom, not unlike her own father, was a true storyteller. She told stories with great drama and conviction, but her face and her voice were her storytelling tools. She excelled at her craft and we didn't realize this until the last few years of her life.

Mom, thank you for the gift of the hat project which has given my life new meaning and new direction. You changed my life for the better when we worked together. Thank you for your many gifts to all of us; for the stories, the laughs, the high drama, the surprises at every turn, your love for your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. A year after your last birthday, we toast you with ice cream.

Dedicated always to you, Irma G, my partner in hats,


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