In this photograph of 1948, my mother and I are ice-skating together in Lenzeheide-Valbella, my native Swiss mountain village. This is the only image I have just with my mother alone.

On the skating field, one could hear waltz music played. You can see how my mother, who was an accomplished pianist, is leaning into the music, whereas I am a rather awkward 9-year-old. I remember the blue material used for our identical skirts as well as my mother’s white skates and my brown ones taken over from my older sister.

We were five siblings and grew up with governesses. My mother helped my father in the Grand Hotel, which was “our home,” especially during the war years. Later, my mother ended up with tuberculosis and had to spend many months in a sanatorium in Davos. As each of us finished elementary school in the only school of our small village, we would all be sent to boarding schools and would return home only for Christmas and summers.

All this resulted in very little time spent with my mother.

The joyous togetherness, as depicted in this photograph, is the most precious gift I received from my mother.

This compassionate human being, person of deep faith and an invincible spirit, most gracious and gentle lady, ever-so-patient mother has truly been my “Vorbild” (image to live after) and is always within me.

Monica Karales-Stepanek

Charleston