Mother was always called Nellie, which she liked because it was Irish. She had a twin brother Jack, and five other siblings, Arthur, Rose, Joe, Agnes and Evelyn. Her family was very poor, living in a log cabin without running water in Ontario, Canada. Her father was a horse trader and her mother a housewife. Nellie went to third book in school and then went to work to help the family. The sisters were tight-lipped and kept one another's confidences throughout their lives.
Nellie married my father, Andrew Prebis, when she was nineteen and he was twenty-eight, and moved to Buffalo where he was living. They had a good marriage; the only problems they had concerned money. Even when my father worked steady at Wickwire, there was never enough. You could guarantee they would have an argument every Friday over the paycheck. 'How do you expect me to run a house on this?' Nellie would ask. She died less than two years after my father and I really believe it was from missing him.
Nellie had ten children who lived-- five girls and five boys-- and two still births. When I close my eyes I see her peeling potatoes. She needed to peel a peck of potatoes for each dinner. But her house was always open. After World War II, due to the housing shortage, several of my siblings lived with us after they married with their children. She was loved by her grand kids, and always had time for them. She was good with all kids. When I was nine, my sister, Margaret, brought home a woman who had a child out of wedlock and my mother took the child in for several years.
She was an aware mother. You could never pull the wool over her eyes like you could do my father. If you said something to her and she didn't believe you, she would say, 'And the farmer drew another load away.' She was proud of her quick thinking. She told the story of when she was a young girl, going out for a ride with the farmer's son and he got fresh with her. She told him, 'It is too uncomfortable in the buggy; take the horse blanket and spread it on the ground.' When he got out of the buggy, she turned the horse around and took off leaving him standing there. She got out at her house and gave the horse another crack and the horse knew how to get back to the barn.
She was mischievous and had a good sense of humor. I felt that I could go to her and tell her anything. She wasn't a judgmental person, but she was strict. For instance, one day Mother was in the kitchen cooking and Margaret came in and went into a dark living room. Mother went to ask her if she was all right. Margaret said, 'Yes.' And mother went back to work. And then there was a knock at the door. A man asked, 'Does Margaret live here?' She said, 'Yes.' He said, 'Is she O.K.?' And my mother said, 'She seems to be.' Then the guy explained that he bumped into her with his car and wanted to make sure she was wasn't hurt badly. Mother went flying into the living room, and turned the light on and asked Margaret, 'Are you hurt?' When she found out she was fine, she gave Margaret a licking. 'I told you not to go in the street.' She laid down the law, and you didn't cross her.
Given how poor we were she did a good job in creating a happy home. Our family moved all the time, because it was hard to find a place that would take so many kids. Yet, she always had dinner on the table. I think she had too many kids. She would say, 'One mother can take care of ten kids, but ten kids can't take care of one mother.' I was the youngest. I know by the time I came along she was tired but I appreciate that she did the best she could. We gave Dad credit for everything. We took her for granted. But now that I am older I understand that she was the one who solved the problems, and worried about each of us.
Written by Bobbi Prebis with Liz Kennedy