A Few Things About Mom on Her Birthday

In 1939 she bought a White sewing machine so she could make clothes for Jeanie who was born that year.  I still have and use that machine.

Harriet Duncan about 1935

She painted in oils and in watercolors.

In the 1950s she published stories in True Story magazine and others.

She was a docent at the San Diego Natural History Museum having passed a rather rigorous class and exam to qualify.  She was a secretary in the Astronomy Department at what was then San Diego State College.  She probably learned more about astronomy than most workers.

For as long as I knew her she sang as she worked in the kitchen.  Sentimental Journey.  You Are My Sunshine.  Rags to Riches.  I noticed when I took care of them late in their lives that Mom sang as she washed dishes especially when Dad was being difficult.  It took her to a healing space so that she could cope.

When I was young, to encourage me to be a little tidier, she would say

PS It works.

In 1931 just after her high school graduation she and her best friend drove from northern Illinois to Washington DC and back.

She had friends for life.  She kept in touch with high school friends, friends in every city she ever lived in, neighborhood children into their adult lives when they brought their children to meet her.

When I came home during one college break, she went with me to collect plants for my Field Botany class.  She had good ideas on where certain plants would be.  She was a trooper!

She inherited the Duncan enthusiasm.   And she was “born lucky” – this was discovered when she would win any door prize that was offered.  In the 60s she won our first color TV in local supermarket drawing.

She would have been 97 today.  The best way for me to celebrate is to do something she would have enjoyed doing.  Eat popcorn for dinner.  Go to a movie with a friend.  I wish I could walk on the beach, but I think I will sit out and look at the stars.  And then have that popcorn.

The Duncan Sisters: Helen, Harriet, and Barbara

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10 Responses to A Few Things About Mom on Her Birthday

  1. Rose says:

    I love that you remember and share your family online as a way to keep their spirit alive. Your mother reminds me very much of my grandmother – very similar in age and spirit – and she sounds like a beautiful person.

  2. Douglas Crews says:

    Great post. I adopted her “born lucky” attitude long ago, and whether or not its empirically true, it leads me to a profound thankfulness for all the benefits I’ve enjoyed in my life.

    One of which is the purring cat on my left wrist currently causing me to type this one-handed.

  3. What a lovely tribute to your very special mom. I remember my mom when I eat pea soup, which will be very soon.

  4. Aspen says:

    I see you in the faces of all three sisters, Donna and you have obviously inherited your mom’s magic. Beautiful lovely memorial…. (and i can only hear the Baritone part of Sentimental Journey in my head as that is what I sang in Sweet Consequences, so I could harmonize with your mom!)

  5. Mama Zen says:

    This is such a lovely tribute!

  6. auntiewarhol says:

    Let me introduce myself. I’m Harriet Duncan, I paint in oils & used to paint in watercolors. http://www.harrietduncan.com.
    I eat popcorn for dinner (with potato chips mixed in).
    And I have an Uncle George who would have been 82 on Dec. 10.
    I love the photo of your mom in overalls! And your New Mexico doorway!

    • I hardly know where to start. I read your comment on my blog this morning – it made me laugh and cry. It struck a very deep chord. I’m beginning to believe that Harriet Duncan spirit is a nearly tangible force! And it lives. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. Did you know there is a shop in Carmel CA called Harriet Duncan? I stopped there once to buy a scarf just so I could get the bag with the name on it for Mom.

      You are a wonderful artist – I need to spend more time on your website. And it’s the first site where I turned the music up rather than off. I’ll return. I like the page on your site “My Favorite Things” – may have to attempt to add one to mine. And then I see you also designed the website. Great talent.

  7. auntiewarhol says:

    So many Harriet Duncans, all of them tend to be artistic! Thank you for the lovely reply! Great photography! I’ll check back to see more.

  8. firasz says:

    Amazing post through history! Love it:)

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