MOM

(Hi, Mom!  )

My mother is a Martian.

It's what she told both my brothers and I as we were growing up, explaining that it sounded so much more interesting than the plain truth:
she was adopted.

Mom and I were sorting through an old box of pictures when we came across the picture on the right.   With a laugh she says,  "See my pointy head . . . ?  I told you I was a Martian."

Because Mom was adopted, this page is done white on black, just like her official birth certificate.

Her first birth certificate sits in a file folder in the King County Court House, nestled amongst the stack of official ones, containing at least the name of the young Swedish woman who gave birth to her in 1932.

Mom when she was 7 weeks old

For as long as Mom can remember, she knew that she was adopted.   And for as long as Mom can remember, she was very much loved; though she was not born of the womb of her adoptive mother, Mom was very much a child of Bertha's heart, and a well loved and much wanted member of the Family.

Her new family consisted of a father (Emerson), and a mother (Bertha) and their six children (Lillian, Hannah, Pauline, Emelyne, Berta, and Emerson Jr.).  The youngest, Emerson Jr., was 16 years old when Mom was brought home to the family at about 3 weeks of age.

Emerson Sr. was a Seattle policeman.

Bertha was a woman very involved with a great many things including, but not limited to, handling the blooming dance careers of two of older daughters.   However, with all her children grown up and starting families of their own, Bertha wanted another baby, so with the determination and pure grit I came to know and love about Gramma, she camped out at the adoption agency until her request was granted.

Two of Mom's sisters danced their way round Vaudeville's  Pantages circuit (and maybe the Orpheum circuit, and one of the World's Fairs, perhaps Chicago's ), making the shift to movies in Hollywood in the late 20s and early 30s.  Aunt Mimi and Aunt Bonnie appeared in:

  • Words and Music with Lois Moran, 1929
  • Romance of the Rio Grande
  • Song of Kentucky
  • Broadway Scandals
  • Broadway Melody of 1930" (or 1929)
  • Joe Penner's "Wanna Buy a Duck", 1934-ish
  • "Choreographer" (though it's only Bonnie, in chorus), Leroy Prinz

And there's a record on which Fred MacMurray sings with the Gus Arnheim Orchestra; Aunt Mimi is the tap dancer.

There were certain people who delighted in telling Mom the most horrid stories about her birth mother--which, Mom says, Gramma would have had a "good many strongly worded things to say to them had she known".

Mom's favorite --because it was so ridiculous-- was that her biological father had been a gangster and was pitched into the [Pacific] ocean wearing a pair of cement overshoes, and her birth mother was a dancer from Hollywood.

However of all the stories Mom heard, the one told her by her Grampa Pennington was confirmed by Aunt Mimi and Aunt Bonnie.  Because they saw that Mom really did want to know --and would not be dissuaded-- they told her what they could, except for her birth mother's identity.  Mom shared those details with me and said if I wanted to look for my biological maternal grandmother over the Internet, it was okay. 

In 2005, Mom found her biological family.  Both of her biological parents had passed away, however both had other children.  And one of Mom's maternal aunts is still alive  and well and living in Sedro Woolly; Mom and Aunt Alice really clicked.

Both sides of Mom's family is Norwegian from the southwest tip of Norway.  They arrived at Ellis Island in 1906, spent a little time in Minnesota, and then settled, finally in Everett, Washington, in the Sunnyside area.  They were poultry farmers 

Mom's mother, Stella, on the left, loved to dance.

Mom's father, Harold, was a musician and had a band for a while in the Everett.

One of Mom's younger brothers and my youngest brother Jim bear a frighteningly strong resemblance to each other.

The assorted kin folk are still working their way through discovering each other.  But, just finding out who her biological family is and the reason behind her adoption has meant the world to Mom.

It is a very cool thing.

As time allows I will be putting Mom's blood line genealogy up.

SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT ADOPTION

There are two basic schools of thought regarding adoption, and both have valid points.  In some cases it's for the best that there is no contact whatsoever with the birth family.  But to every rule there is an exception.  My search is not meant to lessen the worth of Emerson and Bertha.  They were wonderful parents (and Bertha was THE coolest grandmother!), they and theirs were and are my mother's Family.  Their values have been passed along to me and my brothers through Mom and because they were my mothers parents, their love made Mom the really cool person she is today -- but there are some things we need to know about, as can be the case with adoptees.

Emerson and Bertha made certain Mom had a well rounded education.  Mom's earliest memories were of going to the University of Washington for testing that involved wooden blocks and puzzles.  She remembers them being fun but boring after a very short while.

Mom was given tap dance, Ballet, Hawaiian, ice skating lessons, drama lessons, and diving lessons before she knew how to swim ("and I survived!" she says).  She sang in school choirs and played violin, viola, clarinet, and still plays piano (her three children played violin, flute, and violin, and sang in school choirs).  She even won a Shirley Temple look-a-like contest.

In 1953, she met my father through her brother and decided that Jack Lewis Peppan was The One.
Mom and Dad in June of 1955

Daddy's proposal was not one that would have won any romance awards.

He looked at her one day and asked, "What would you do if I asked you to be my wife?"

Mom --being Mom-- said, "Oh . . . I'd probably answer you."

When next she saw him, some time had passed.  He knocked on her door, handed her a small manilla envelope, said, "Here, keep these, I might loose'em" and left.

Puzzled, Mom opened the envelope to find an engagement ring and a wedding band.

The wedding was set for May 1, 1955, but because Daddy's sister was expecting what would be the last of her six children, and because Daddy really wanted his sister there, it was decided that the date be moved up one month.  However, Mom put her foot down and said that under NO circumstances was she going to get married on April Fools Day.  The compromise was 2 April 1955.

In the fall of 1957, I made my hoped for presence known when Mom and Dad were on a fishing trip out of Neah Bay up in the Straits of Juan de Fuca.  While traversing a 40 foot ground swell in a fourteen foot outboard motor boat she felt queasy all of a sudden but said nothing until Dad looked at her and commented on what a lovely shade of green she had turned.  It was the one and only time she had ever been sea-sick.

Mom originally wanted to name me Tina Louise, but Daddy wasn't too keen on the idea, and after some compromise, I became Lisa Marie shortly after 11:30, the morning of April 8, 1958, three years and 6 days after my parents had married.

Don's naming was easy: he was named after his grandfathers.

With my brother Jim, well--  In the last few months before he was born, Mom and Dad got to talking about what to name The Baby; as I remember, it was as if they both knew that The Baby was going to be boy.  Daddy wanted "Sam Hank", "Sam" after his distant cousin General Sam Houston (though, says Jim, "I was always told it was after the cat."), and "Hank" after his good friend and best hunting buddy Hank Brethaur (Bobbie . . . Sherry . . . if either of you see this, e-mail me.  I've come across a couple pictures of your dad when he was young man in and amongst Daddy's racing album.)

Mom put her foot down, and then they compromised, and he became "James Henry", retaining that nod to Daddy's friend Hank.

Mom is also a Dancer

Yes, that's right "Dancer" with a capitol D.   And it's so very cool to know that she came by it honestly.

She learned the Charleston from her Ballard High School gym teacher Mrs. Rodenhouse, the Blackbottom from her sister Mimi over the telephone, and has performed with an assortment of volunteer entertainment groups throughout the years.

As of Jan 2000:

She is a member of the Seattle Chapter of the International Pirates, a group of pirate-garbed entertainers who perform world wide.  With them she's been to the Cayman Islands a couple times, Montreal, Sherbrooke, Quebec City, Port Colburne, Vancouver BC, Florida, Maui, as well as many different locations in the Puget Sound Basin.

She dances with the Seattle Banjo Band -- and has danced for the Eagles, the Elks, the Lions, and the Moose Clubs, with the Duwamish Dixieland Band, Foggy Bottom Jazz Band, LP Productions Follies (Washington DC, a Disneyworld's Tomorrowland stage in Florida), and Victorian Country Christmas in Puyallup, not to mention a handful of variety shows at her children's' schools while we were still in school.

She's a member of the Gadabouts, a group of older women founded by a former Rockette, who tap dance for the entertainment of mostly local nursing and retirement homes.

Mom, 1991

I asked her for a picture of herself that she liked.  She gave me the one above, taken in Richland, Washington, 1991.

 

My personal favorite is the one to the left, of her in motion, taken in 1982.

And then there's this one, above, taken May, 4th, 2003, of Mom --in blue (at age 71) --teaching three ladies at the Seattle Banjo Festival 2003 how to Charleston.

Personally, I think she did a darn good job of being a mom; she had a good teacher.  Because children do not come with care-and-feeding instructions, she had to make some hard calls, but hard calls are part of good parenting.

Mom taught us common sense: "If so-and-so jumped off the roof, would you?"

Mom taught us to respect our elders: "Your father's home.  Quick -- turn off the records and turn on Leave It To Beaver!" (Daddy didn't like the kind of music the rest of us did.)

Mom taught us perseverance: "That's a nice start, keep working on it."

Mom taught us to tell the truth: "I can't help you if you don't tell me the truth."

Many parents have a stock line they trot out when the children do something that scares the snot out of them.  Mom's was: "I'll hang you by your toenails and peel your skin off."  She never followed through on this O! So Dire sounding threat, but, then again, we never believed she would.  However it did let us know we had gotten out of bounds and had best get back IN bounds with all speed.

When me and my brothers were going through that period when siblings try to do each other in, Mom would tell us that a couple of her sisters weren't always nice to her (as I understand it, that's how it can go with sisters), but they were still her sisters and would always be her sisters and she would always love them because they were her sisters.  To whit, I and my brothers would always be siblings, even if one of us did something the other two didn't like.  It was something we would always have, something NO one could EVER take away from us.  She didn't always say it with words, but that was the way it came across and we took it to heart.

She and Daddy made a great team.  Despite their very different backgrounds, their three children have become three adults with their own individual --and sometimes strongly opposed-- opinions on "little things" like politics and religion, but we're still friends . . . thanks to Mom.

Thank you, Mom.

I love you.

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updated 13 Dec 2007