Many cities celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in a variety of ways. Chicago turns its river green. In New York, a massive parade marches up Fifth Avenue for at least six hours (if not longer). In Toronto, the Maple Leafs (formerly the Saint Patricks) don retro green uniforms. Montserrat, founded by Irish immigrants, celebrates its founding and a failed slave uprising from 1768.
In my household, we celebrated a bit differently. We aren’t Irish (although an Italian ancestor visited the Emerald Isle as a missionary way back when). While we had numerous decorations around the house, and usually corned beef and cabbage, the holiday was secondary to a much more important occasion: my mother’s birthday! (With a family friend’s birthday two days before, and my father’s birthday two days later, we always had some awesome celebrations that weekend! One involved a pony, another involved my father dressing up as Mickey Mouse.)
Rosemarie G.J.S. Adair was born in Hanover, Germany, on 17 March 1937. As the fourth (and youngest) child born, her mother (meine Oma) was awarded the Ehrenkreuz der Deutschen Mutter. Hanover suffered extensive firebombing during the war, eventually becoming a Sister City with Hiroshima, Japan. My mother spent part of the war with her grandparents in eastern Germany, in what is now western Poland.
Coming of age during the Economic Miracle of the 1950s, “Steffi” (another friend had the same first name, and was known as “Rosi”) had an adolescence somewhat similar to teens in the United States. She graduated from a business high school, becoming an expert typist and bookkeeper.
Meanwhile, her older brother, the future Dr. Hans Steffen, was attending the University of Nebraska at Lincoln as a member of the first group of German-American Fulbright scholars. During the time my uncle was a student, my mother visited. While the details are shrouded in history, my father paid the siblings a visit one evening accompanied with some local spirits. German Gemütlichkeit and a legendary blizzard combined to create what we now call a long-distance relationship, which concluded in a fairy tale wedding in Hanover in April 1960. (Yes, a horse-drawn coach was involved.)
Eventually settling in Omaha, Rosemarie raised four sons (sadly, the United States does not consider such achievement worthy of merit), serving as a Cub Scout den mother numerous times, as well as holding many full-time jobs during the 1970s and 1980s. In the early 1970s, building on the excitement of the 1972 Olympics and the 1974 World Cup, my mother was a founding member of the Olympia Soccer Club in Omaha, pioneering the sport in the Midwest. As a pioneering “soccer mom” twenty years before the term was coined, she chauffeured by brothers and their friends all over Omaha, to any field flat enough for a game. As the mini-van would not be invented until 1984, my mother drove a Volkswagen Type 2 “bus”. (We were a VW family, owning over the years a Super Beetle (Type 1), two squarebacks (Type 4), a Thing (Type 181), and a Rabbit (Mk1).)
My pack rat tendencies might be genetic, as my father has an extensive “archive”. While my mother demanded cleanliness and discipline from us, she never participated in the legendary cleaning so many fans bemoan of their own mothers. (We had to do the cleaning ourselves, deciding what to toss and what to keep. I still have a box of dog-eared Gold Key and Harvey comics from the 1970s.) She frowned on my reading MAD Magazine, but never kept me from purchasing the monthly issues. (I think she protested just to give me some safe rebellion, although I knew what punishments awaited me if I truly rebelled.) When I was of legal age to buy Playboy, she tolerated that as well, as long as I kept them out of sight in my bedroom. Those magazines, and much of my childhood, resides in the basement of my parents house, a few yards away from my father’s “man cave” (more like a cubicle/corner in the basement, hidden away by bookshelves).
So, please join me in wishing my mother a happy 75th birthday! (And if you want, my father celebrates his 83rd on Monday!) And if your mother didn’t throw your comics out, why not give her a call soon and thank her?
I’ve been writing for The Beat since July of 2010.
I’ve been reading comics since 1974, collecting since 1984, and spreading the graphic novel gospel since 1994.
I’m a bookseller, a librarian, an amateur scholar, a cool uncle, and a comics evangelist.
Ask me anything!