Meet Jane and Helen August

Location: New York, NY
Age: 63 (Jane) and 95 (Helen)
Marital Status: Dating (Jane) and Widow (Helen)

You couldn’t wait to move out when you were a teenager… but now, the recession is forcing many FOF moms and daughters to cohabitate. US Census data shows that more and more, single FOFs (almost half a million of them, according to a 2010 analysis by AARP) are choosing to live with other FOF women. Meet Jane and Helen August, a daughter and mother who chose to move in together a few years ago, to save money.

“We bicker sometimes” says Helen, the 95-year-old mother of FOF Jane. “But, it’s respectful,” says Jane, lead designer and owner of her eponymous handbag label. “I can’t imagine her living somewhere where she isn’t comfortable or happy. I’m very fortunate to have her in my life.”

One thing’s for certain… this time around, no curfew.

Helen, when did you move in with your daughter, Jane?

Helen: I moved here a few years ago from Merrick, Long Island. I was born on the Lower East Side, brought up my three children on the island and now, I’m back!

How was the adjustment moving from the suburbs back to the city?

Helen: I’m much older. If I were younger, I’d love the city. But, I’d say I like the city.

Do you guys spend a lot of time together?

Jane: A fair amount of time. I used to have my own office, now I work from home. But, I travel a lot so I come and I go.

Do you travel for business?

Jane: I have a company in Italy where all my handbags are made so I go back and forth. I have friends all around the world. I have a boyfriend in Paris.

When did you start your handbag company?

Jane: Thirteen years ago, in 2000. The line is called Jane August. The bags are made from exotic skins—crocodile, python, everything. They’re custom and high-end.

Where are they sold?

A lot of boutiques. I also do a lot of business in Dallas, a lot of business in the Middle East.

What did you do before that?

I had a career in fashion—I started at the Macy’s training program in San Francisco. I worked for Carol Little, The Limited and a lot of different clothing companies and criss crossed the country.

Helen, did you have a career?

Helen: My career was being married. For a while I did interior decorating.

How did you meet your husband?

About seventy years ago, I lived in Brooklyn. I had 35 or 40 cents allowance to spend each day. I got an orange juice at the luncheonette and left 10 cents for the waiter. A man who I thought worked in the diner chased me out. He said ‘Miss, you left your change.’ I said, ‘Okay, you can have it.’ He said ‘No I don’t need it. But, let me take you home.’ He asked me out on a date to see ‘Roberta’ that night at a theater in Jones Beach. That was our first date. I wore the best thing I had. Eight months later we were married.

What did you like about him?

We loved the same things—traveling, the theater… He owned a luncheonette.

When did you move from Brooklyn?

In 1950. We moved to a house in Long Island. That’s where Jane was born.

Is this the first time you two lived together since you were a teenager?

Jane: In 1998, I moved back to Long Island briefly after I left my job, to save money.

Do you enjoy living with your mother?

Jane: Yes, she’s good company most of the time. When I travel she takes care of the dog.

Helen: It gets me out.

What hobbies do you have?

Jane: As you get older, if you don’t have things to engage in, your mind kind of goes idle. When mom moved into the city, she went over to the JCC, met a group of women and she plays MahJong every Thursday.

Helen: Four or five of us play every week. I also read. The book I’m reading now is very sad–it’s called The Book Thief.

Jane: I read too, I love biographies. I also do a lot of designing.

What hobbies do you enjoy together?

Helen: We watch Jeopardy together. Jane’s a fabulous cook! That soup you made was out of this world!

Jane: I’m really not. We go out to dinner together. Mom, makes a great noodle pudding (Kugel).

Do you have mutual friends?

Jane: My friends always check in on my mom when I travel.

Helen: Her friends are wonderful to me.

Helen how old are you?

Helen: 95

Jane: This week my niece’s daughter was here. She’s going to be eight. She told my mom, ‘Nanny when you get to be 100, I’m going to be 13. We’re going to have a big party.’ How great is that?

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