Monday, April 10, 2017

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

Today is my mother's birthday. Ruth Elizabeth Silberman Brague would have been 107 years old today.

Unfortunately, she died at the age of 47 when I was but 16. I am going to show you a few photographs of her from long before I entered the picture. I was born in 1941, a month before her 31st birthday. These pictures are all from the 1920s and 1930s. I do not have specific dates for any of them.

In my all-time favorite picture of her, taken around the time she graduated from West Chester State College in 1930, she wore a black dress and a long necklace made of what looked like mahjongg tiles linked together. It has somehow managed to become lost. This one was taken a few years later: :

Here she is with her mother and sister:

Here she is with her brother Jack. He called her Roothie-Poothie. He became Dr. J. DeWolf Silberman, M.D., and set up practice in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania:

Here is my mother with her sister Marion, probably in New York:

And here she is with her parents, my grandparents, Rosetta and Nathan Silberman, possibly on the boardwalk in Atlantic City:

Long-time readers of this blog may remember some of these photos as I included them in posts in 2010 and 2013, ancient history as time is counted in the blogging world.

Some years ago I wrote the following sonnet. I was remembering two small oval-framed photographs of my mother's grandparents, Max and Sarah Nussbaum Silberman, taken around the turn of the twentieth century, that I once saw in my uncle's house. I wish I could show them to you as well, but I cannot. Perhaps you will think of some old photographs of your own relatives as you read it.

On Being Shown a Photograph of an Ancestor
by Robert H. Brague

Those things speak most that never say a word,
Like eyes that meet on streets when strangers pass;
The loudest cries so often go unheard,
Like silent prayers reflected in a glass.
Though never have we spoken, there’s a bond
That shatters my veneer, my thin disguise;
You look beneath the surface and beyond,
And all of time is frozen in your eyes.
Departed generations in between,
Like links of chain from viewer to the viewed,
Peer over Heaven’s edge, survey the scene,
Hold their collective breaths, and don’t intrude.
While thoughts of love, and death, and DNA
Swirl through my brain, they bow their heads and pray.


  1. A lovely tribute to your mother. She was an attractive woman. I'm sorry you had such a short time with her.

  2. Emma is right. A beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman.
    There are few photos of my parents and none of earlier relatives.

  3. Thank you, Emma, and also Elephant's Child aka Sue Down Under or Sue in Oz (pick one), for your kind words about my mother. She considered herself very plain wth "mousey-brown" hair (her sister had all the curls).

    I hope to get to Part 2 in my father's story very soon (I posted Part 1 last August) but don't hold your breath.

  4. That poem is so beautiful rhymes, it brought tears to my eyes in truth. Just as beutiful as your mum, and she really was, that first picture is stunning, so I'm glad you still have some of her so clear for yourself, and for the children too *smiles warmly and hugs him*. Lovely post. x

  5. Thank you, Michelle aka All Consuming, for your two compliments, one about my poem and the other about my mother. I appreciate them both, truly I do.

  6. The poem is very evocative Bob. Thank you for sharing it with your visitors. I can certainly relate to the notion of being linked to blood relatives who departed this life before I even arrived. There may not be words but there is connection. It pains me that I never met my paternal grandparents and only knew my mother's mother. Both of my grandfathers fought at The Battle of the Somme and both got home... with what memories I cannot tell.

  7. Thank you, Y.P., for your comment. I never met my paternal grandparents either, or my mother's mother. I knew only my mother's father, and actually didn't meet him until I was about 13. There are connections nevertheless.

  8. I do indeed remember your lovely photos! I may not have 'kept in the picture' where Blogland is concerned, but my memory is still functioning fairly well. :-)

  9. Did my first comment disappear down a black hole? Oh dear, never mind... I guess I'll remain patient, to see if it pops up later, the same way the memory of your photos did. lol