The Tardy Times

   Painting by Paul's mother, Rita Moran; the teacup is from Margaret Collins, Helen's mother


     Helen Moran wanted him to know;    
   'Home,' she said, 'is where the heart is'

His grandmother's obituary
follows excerpts from
Paul's oral history
 interview in 2006.


Paul's Notes
SHE IS OLD and pale, with grayish white hair and clear, blue eyes. She has a round figure and face with a stern expression, but as I sit down across from her, her face melts into a smile, the laugh lines on her face becoming more apparent. Suddenly, she seems a warmer person, more welcoming. She wears a white bathrobe with flower patterns on it, and blue slippers.
   Helen Moran sits on a gray sofa in the living room of her home. On the wall is a large
                                                                                                            (continued below in Column One)

painting of her late husband, Malachy, who in his 70s designed and built this cottage. Next door live her youngest daughters and her three granddaughters in the big house where the proud mother lived before her husband’s passing.
   On the wall is a circle of photos of her 10 children as toddlers. It surrounds a cross-stitching of an old Irish blessing:
May the road rise up to meet you,
       May the wind be always at your back,
       And may the Lord hold you
       In the hollow of His hand.

   Another painting shows an old Irish farmhouse, built like a simple white box with almost windowless walls and a small, narrow door. Finally, a group photo shows all  25 grandchildren on the porch of her old house. The entire room is filled with an aura of comfort and familiarity. It's also spotless.
     From the large windows, I can see out across the small valley next to the house. The valley, which extends for about half a mile, is covered with enormous oak trees, verdant shrubs, and the golden grasses so familiar to California in the late summer. The house is on the hill overlooking the valley, and the sides of the hill are supported by a 20-foot wall made of stacked stone, made and rebuilt by her husband.
     We sit down to talk.

The Interview (Excerpts)

MY NAME is Helen Theresa Collins Moran. When I think about home, the first thing that comes to my mind is an old quotation: “Home is where the heart is.”
    Your home is where you can go back to, where everyone will love you and accept you and make you comfortable, and are delighted to see you. They're interested in you, and will help you. (Above, Helen with husband Malachy at their wedding.)
   Certain things about the people I am with make me feel at  home. It's usually the acceptance that I feel from the people that I'm around is the first thing that comes to my mind.
    Now, when I think of  my early childhood home, I think of being in charge, because I was. In the family that I grew up with, I was the oldest of five children. I had  two brothers and two sisters. My mother (Margaret Collins) worked in a restaurant in New York. Stouffer’s Restaurant, as a matter of fact. She cleaned the salads.
   My father could not support us, and so my mother depended on me for an awful lot of help at  home.
    She had to be at work at 12 o'clock, so before she left the house, she cooked the dinner for the coming night. When I got home from school between half past 3 or 4 o'clock, I would warm it up in the oven and serve it to my brothers and sisters and try to keep them in line. My mother expected me to keep them organized, and they were a rambunctious bunch. To this day they call me “The Boss.”  Oh, my God!  (Laughs.)
MY MOTHER would be so happy to come home at night. She got home between 9 and 10.  All she would want to do was sit down and have a cup of tea or something like that. She worked very, very hard. There were no washing machines. You washed in the washtub with the board, the washboard.
    My mother was very clean and tried very hard to keep a clean, tidy place – and in those days, all those apartment houses were infested with bedbugs. My mother's method of killing bedbugs was unbelievable. She would take the mattress off. There were open springs that the mattress would rest on. She would take the mattress off the springs. She would put each leg of the bed in a big bucket and she would pour some flammable liquid over the bedsprings and set fire to it to kill the bugs. (Laughs.) She burned the buggers out! (Laughs.)
  We moved around a lot when I was growing up. Looking back on it now, I think it's because we just couldn't afford to pay rent.
   We moved out and started fresh at a new apartment and we'd be there a couple of months, I guess. The apartments were called railroad flats; one room led directly into another one.
THE FIRST THING that comes to mind was the walk I used to take from 143rd Street, where I lived, down to 138th Street, just walking down the avenue. It was to get away from home, really. Sometimes it was unpleasant, because of my father's alcoholism. There was a lot of agitation, fighting, drunkenness. I feel very sorry for him, but he made life very difficult for my mother and my brothers and sisters and myself.
   I grew up in an Irish ghetto. All our friends were Irish Americans. There was a lot of drinking and a lot of carousing, and I didn't have any desire to drink and carouse. All of the children of the Irish immigrants went to Catholic school, where we got a very good, fine education. The example that was set for me was the importance of education.  
  The one constant was my mother. Through all the apartments, I know I used to look forward to being at home so I could dive into my bed and get under the covers and read. But the most constant aspect was the presence of my mother, even though she was working. Everything revolved around her. We worked to please her and to have the house nice when she came  home from work and to protect  her, because she in turn protected us.
   Oh, I felt safe there, particularly when I was a young child. My mother was very good to us. In those days my father may not have been drinking as much. He was a funny guy. He was a very

(continued on Column Two)
Helen Collins Moran

SHE OFTEN SAID  home “is the center point of life” and “home is the people,” always wanted all 10 of her children at the dinner table every night.
   “I wanted there to be a sense of peace in my home,” she told her grandson, Paul. “A sense of welcome.”
   And if one child were missing, “The rhythm would be different. You’d just know it, someplace in your being, that the rhythm is different.”    
 The rhythm changed forever when Helen Moran, who was 82, died March 20 in Saratoga, with her close-knit family at her side.
   “All my children, all my grandchildren, they all mean home to me because they’re people that I love and who love me,” she told Paul. “I feel very, very fortunate.”  
She was born in New York City and grew up in what is now called the Fort Apache neighborhood in the Bronx, then mostly Irish immigrants. After high school, she passed up a college scholarship to get a job and help her mother support her younger sisters and brothers.
   In 1947 she was married to a young engineer,  Malachy Joseph Moran, whose career took them to Burbank, Atlanta, back to New York and in 1958 to Saratoga.
    She was predeceased by Malachy, who was 83 when he died in 2005 of Lou Gehrig's disease. As an aerospace engineer for Lockheed, he helped design the Constellation aircraft, the Lockheed C-130 and C-5A cargo planes, the Voyager spacecraft and the Polaris and Poseidon missiles.
   Her eldest daughter, Rita Moran in San Francisco, is the mother (with Pauline Scholten) of Lynn’s son, Paul Moran, 16.
   Helen lost her son Kevin in the 1970 antiwar riots at UC Santa Barbara. He was in a group of anti-violence students trying to put out a fire at the Bank of America’s temporary office in Isla Vista. The family was told that a wrought-up police officer mistook him for a rioter and shot him.
  Helen leaves her other children: Terence Moran, Aptos; Brian Moran, Los Gatos; Joan O’Brien, Chico;  Mary Drexler, Enniskerry, Ireland; Malachy Moran Jr., Seattle; Kathleen Menasce, in Los Altos; Sheila Couch, Saratoga, and Margaret Weir, Saratoga.  Also,  25 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.     
    Nearly 200 mourners attended the Mass for Helen Moran at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Saratoga. Burial is in Madrona Cemetery next to her husband.                

Lynn Ludlow
The Tardy Times

(Continued from Column 1)

interesting kind of person: very bright, full of poetry, full of history.
MY IDEA of home changed after I married. I realized what peace was. I felt very badly for my brothers and sisters when I left home to get married. It was one of the happiest, and one of the saddest, days of my life because I knew my mother was so dependent on me.  I thought the whole shebang
would collapse after I left, you know.
   But it didn't; it continued for about seven more years until my father died. My mother had a peaceful life after that . . .  

Her Thoughts on Motherhood

Five years ago, Helen's daughter, Sheila Couch, persuaded her mother to write a few words about motherhood "because she believes I know a lot about it."  Here is an excerpt:

TRUE, I have had a large family and been "mothering" a long time.  I even remember when there was no such verb as "to mother".  It was only a noun.  But, then again we are living in the age of computer driven simplicity.  Everything has to have a name , and if there were no such verb as "to mother" how would we describe such an occupation, job, career, vocation, life's work, etc.?
     Women are now Accounting, Lawyering, Policing, Modeling, Nursing, Doctoring, but "Mothering"?  I don't know.  What are the qualifications?  What are the courses required?  How does one get a degree?  Are there any degree programs?  Is there any recognition for a job well done?  What are the rewards?  What is the bottom-line?  How does mothering contribute to society?
     Yes, I know these are all rhetorical questions, but it makes one think, does it not?  Just because some people have described it as a "thankless" job, does it have to be?
     I remember when various European countries were granting children's allowances to encourage women to have more babies.  Populations had been so decimated because of war.  Countries needed future soldiers.  "Cannon fodder"?
     There was a time when mothering was an honorable profession.  Is the same true for "child care" today?  I do not believe so.  Is it not one of the lowest paying jobs in the country?  Where is the honor?  

The Tardy Times
July 2008

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