And who's got a birthday this week?
That's right ......... Aunt Norma!
You thought I was going to shamelessly toot my own horn and solicit birthday greetings (no gifts, please!Really.) It is my birthday this week - number 64. But look at my picture for this post. I'm not the only one who's in the center of the picture. I'm not the only one cutting the cake.
|Late 1950s at 4711 20th Avenue|
Norma Sylvia Haubrich was born on September 22, 1908 in Kenosha, WI. That makes her the oldest child of both my grandparents and thus the oldest of my aunts and uncles. As it turned out, she is the first of that group to die, and the youngest. In July of 1969, she was almost 61! Cancer.
Aunt Norma was the first to be born and the first to die, but by my way of thinking, she was more than that. I have a theory that she was, in a sense, the glue, the center, the mover and the shaker of our little extended family that often gathered at 4711 20th Avenue in Kenosha.
Maybe that's part of the explanation. 4711 20th Avenue was where the Haubrichs lived for decades, since early in the 20th century. Pa Haubrich bought that house when it was still called Lyman Avenue (in 1926 Kenosha changed the street names to street numbers). He raised a family there. He died there, and before that he arranged for Gramma and him to live there in a renovated upstairs apartment while Norma and her family (Uncle Kelly and cousin Carol) lived downstairs and turned 4711 into the gathering place I remember.
Maybe along with that, it was the fact that Norma was the oldest and it would be natural for her to assume some kind of leadership role. But it was more. I remember my Aunt Norma as the energizer bunny - she was always in motion and the apron that she so often seemed to be wearing was her "uniform." She was chatty (and, for better or worse, was very much part of the Haubrich Information Bureau (aka gossip). She had a laugh that could fill the room. Although she was not your stereotypical huggin' and kissin' aunt, I always felt loved and welcomed by her.
Norma was social. She liked to enjoy family and friends and was a joiner of social/service groups at church and in the community. She liked to go out and have a good time. When fairly recently, I saw for the first time pictures from her youth, courting, and young married years, you could see that she was always like that - whether with her sidekick cousin and best friend, Hilda Wegner, or with Kelly and their mutual friends.
A couple of stories are worth sharing, although the details are fuzzy. Forgive me if don't get everything exactly right.
My Dad told me once that Aunt Norma saved their marriage. Before Mom and Dad were married, Dad was in the Navy and serving on the east coast and in the Atlantic at the time. For one reason or another (he described it as some kind of schmaltzy you can do better than me/I'm probably not coming home logic), he wrote a letter to Mom at 4711. In those days the mail came through the mail slot on the front porch and dropped on a little bench that was there. Norma saw the letter and had a feeling. She did the unthinkable (but for all the right reasons, I think). She opened it and saw the "Dear Doris" message. She didn't give the letter to Mom. She got on the phone and somehow (to his dying day Daddy said it was a miracle that she was able to get through and find him) got a hold of Dad and pleaded with him not to do this to Doris. He would break her heart. He agreed and she got rid of the letter. Amazing! But that was Aunt Norma.
The other story is about her daughter Carol. Since Carol is still with us, she may have to straighten me out and give some more details. (But she did confirm the jist of this story with me). Carol was in the market for a husband (or her Mom was), and somehow and for some reason I don't recall, a notice was put on the bulletin board at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Thiensville (Mequon). Basically, the message introduced Carol and was "trolling" for interested eligible bachelors. It so happened that a guy by the name of Warren Henrich answered the call, and, well, the rest is history. Again, it sounds amazing, but that was my Aunt Norma.
Granted, I was going on 17 when Norma died, and I only knew her as a boy growing up and somewhat from a distance. But my memories are good! I miss her. And I will stick with my theory that when Aunt Norma died - so much changed. You could argue that times were changing anyway, we were all changing, and that it was inevitable. But again, I think it was more than that. Uncle Kelly was never the same after the summer of 1969 and he died in 1973. Gramma already was moved out of 4711 and moved in with us in Zion. The house was sold. And that was that. Pictures and memories are all that's left.
I'm glad I share a birthday week with my Aunt Norma, and I can honestly say that when my birthday comes around every year, I have, at least, a little thought for her.
|Gramma Haubrich with Her Girls|
Lilah and Mom in the back; Norma (as I remember her best) and Lucille in front