Athletes of the Spirit:

An Exploration of Disability

through Art and Writing

Ten Hats – Ten decades

34 1/2" x 26" NFS

Elsie Cohn, Age 94,

Millbrae, California USA

One day, while a friend was giving me

a facial massage, she placed all of her

fingers in front of my face  very much

like you see in this painting of my grand-

mother. Through the darkness, an

image of ten hats placed on ten fingers

came to me. But my face was no longer

looking through my friend's hands;

instead, the eyes of my grandmother,

Oma, were looking at me through her own hands. Immediately, the idea took shape as a representation of my grandmother's life. Each hat would represent a decade of her life, and she would be viewing each decade through the transparent veil of her hands. Oma and I have been very close all my life.  I learned a lot about her while asking her about each decade of her life. The German Holocaust, in particular, was the hardest subject for me

to confront, but I want to applaud Oma's courage.  She made a wonderful life for herself and her family in California, overcoming the trauma of

leaving a homeland where people turned against her.


Here is a description of each hat, starting from the left:


10 - 20 years old:  Tante (aunt ) Geanette's hat.  Tante Geanette was

a very flamboyant woman who was loved by everyone.  She taught

Oma how to recite poetry and how to love.

20 - 30 years old:  Oma married Ludwig Cohn (Opa).

30 - 40 years old:  Oma and her immediate family were fortunate to be

able to flee from Germany just before there would have been no chance
of their surviving.

40 - 50 years old:  Oma worked long hours every day as a caterer's

assistant in the Bay Area. She and Opa bought a home.

50 - 60 years old:  Oma formed her own catering company and was so
successful that she never had to advertise for business. (My family and I
have been fortunate to enjoy Oma's superb cooking).

60 - 70 years old:  Oma and Opa took lots of trips together. At last there
was some time for leisure!  Opa died when Oma was 69.

70 - 80 years old:  Oma moved to an apartment and played Canasta

many times a month with her good friends.

80 - 90 years old:  Oma has always enjoyed reading, but this was a time
when she devoted many hours to books.

90 - 93 and on her way to 100 years old:  Oma is now living very
comfortably in Millbrae, California.  She is blind in one eye and has turned

from reading to one of her favorite pastimes, listening to classical music.