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.