Portrait of Josephine. Soft pastels on Pastel Card, 12″x15″
From a faded old black and white photo of my mother, taken in 1947, when she was 15 years old. On the back of the photo in my mother’s hand, it says, “this is me, taken at —- Park, you can see the water…” but I can’t make out the name of the park. Her handwriting, usually so clear, goes fuzzy just at that point and only a few letters are clear.The teenage years are so pivotal in our society, and in 1947, at the age of 15, and so soon after the War, the youngest daughter of immigrants might have been very torn between her parents’ culture and that of her birth country. She had watched her older brothers go off to fight a war on a continent their parents had left not so long before, but she was young and belonged to this country and its modern ways…but was she really ready for it, being brought up in a more simple, old-world country environment? Sometimes, I wonder…
It continues to amaze me now, as a grandmother of three (so far!), that I know so little, really, about my mother’s life as a teenager, and as a young woman, regardless of the stories she told me about her early life. I of course know her as “Mom“, and for a long time, her life, for me, began when I was born.
She passed away over ten years ago, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of her in some way. I have been trying to paint this portrait of her for several years now, and finally I think I’ve found the right medium and style. Soft pastels, in a traditional style, works well for her Old World roots, and her modern (for 1947) dress and life, and her very “I’m 15 and cool” pose, is a nice juxtaposition. At least, I think so.
Her first name was Josephine (she was called, variously, Josie, Jo and occasionally, Joyce). In childhood, she was called Josie – but the Polish version, spelled the same but pronounced something like: “Yosha”.
I hope this will be the beginning of a series of portraits of the women in my life (mother, sister, daughters, niece) when they were between 13 and 16 years old, on the cusp of womanhood and alternately terrified, anxious, cocky and impudent but above all beginning the adventure of moving into adulthood and defining and realising their dreams.