Through Any Given Door ~ Catherine Sevenau

Catherine Sevenau Catherine Sevenau is a writer, humorist, and storyteller living in Sonoma, California. The stories in this series are excerpts from her book, Through Any Given Door, a Family Memoir. The full memoir is available as a web series at A longtime Realtor and Owner/Broker at CENTURY 21 Wine Country, she can be reached at [email protected]


They knew Mom was of a different flock

Posted on August 3, 2022 by Catherine Sevenau

Chapter 37: 1947 • Minnesota ~ Dad’s first trip back to the family farm was for his mother’s funeral ten years prior. He and Mom took the long train trip to the Midwest, bringing Larry who was almost four and Carleen who was a year younger. Farm kids were seldom catered to, and this woman from California indulged her children, especially Carleen, giving her daughter anything she wanted while the Minnesota relatives watched and raised their mid-western eyebrows. My father had been gone from home for 15 years, and hadn’t spoken to his mother since he’d left; he was sure his she didn’t care about him. What he didn’t know is that she cried daily, hoping each time the phone rang it was her son who’d run away to California without even saying good-bye.

Our parents returned in June 1947 for his father’s funeral. Larry stayed with the Day family for three weeks, Carleen went to the Fouchs, and Betty and Claudia stayed with Uncle Charley and Aunt Velma; this was the year before I was born. There wasn’t much to do on the farm, and Mom, finally being free of her children, wanted to go, go, go. Never wanting to sit still, she wanted to see the country and kick up some dust. Instead she visited her in-laws’ farms, meeting the Clemens, Conway, and Nigon clans.

The family liked Mom. Well, the men and the kids liked Mom with her easy way and sense of humor. She had an air about her that made the women uneasy, nor was she serious about duty. The farmwomen took care of duty, busy raising corn while my mother was out making hay. They lived the better part of their busy days in aprons and house dresses, wore sensible Red Wings or work boots, used no nail polish or make-up. They had chores to do, men to feed, and kids to care for. They knew Mom was of a different flock. She dressed, sat, and spoke differently, wasn’t as proper and reserved as they, not as buttoned up.

There is a picture from this trip taken at the Terrace Room at the Oaks, a restaurant overlooking the Mississippi River. My mother is front and middle, wearing a low cut black dress, legs easily crossed at the knee—not the ankle—sandwiched between a handsome uniformed Pat Conway, his arm draped casually over her shoulder, and Dad, his hand discreetly tucked under hers. No, Babe was not a Minnesotan, and she was definitely not like the rest of the women in Dad’s family. Nor did she care to be.

When I started writing about the family, I asked Uncle Joe, my father’s youngest brother, what he remembered about Mom. He told me, “Well, she was nice enough.”
I asked what ‘nice enough’ meant.
“You know… nice enough.”
I said, “Nice enough… like what?”

“Well, she wasn’t bashful, quite the talker, and not afraid to tell people what she thought of them.” (My mother rarely had an unarticulated thought, and believed everyone was entitled to her opinion.)

I persisted, “That doesn’t mean ‘nice enough’ to me. What exactly do you mean?”
He paused a long second and said, “Well, I guess you could say she was like a Monica Lewinsky nice enough.”
“Oh,” I said. That was way more than I wanted to hear about my mother, so the conversation ended there.

To be continued…

Catherine Sevenau is a writer, humorist, and storyteller in Sonoma. The stories in this series are excerpts from her book, Through Any Given Door, a Family Memoir, available at Catherine is an author of three books, several volumes of family genealogy, and a longtime Broker/Realtor at CENTURY 21 Epic Wine Country. [email protected]


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