Since nothing much happened this past week according to the statistics for Skaneateles, I thought I would take a moment to write about my mother. This would have been her 90th birthday today. She passed away in 2006, having lived the last 4 years with us in a most marvelous in-law suite.
She was born in 1920, in Syracuse, a city where she always resided until moving out to Elbridge. She was raised during the Depression by a single woman with two older children, having lost one to polio. They were poor - very, very poor. She tells a story about giving away her one true possession, a string of fake pearls, to a girl who had invited her to her birthday party. Unable to come up with a gift, she gave her the pearls. The girl looked at them and threw them away in front my mother - "They're fake!" she scorned.
My grandmother tended a florist's shop. I always liked that detail - my grandmother was tiny, barely five feet tall, and still spoke a bit of German. She had been charmed away from her New York home by a man who brought her to Syracuse and then abandoned her after the birth of the four children. (My biological grandmother also loved flowers and had a shop.)
My mother eventually went on to be the Valedictorian of her high school, a vocational school. She was timid - she told me she used one ribbon for the typewriter all the way through school because she was too afraid to ask anyone how to change it.
She met my father, already an executive at Carrier Corporation, at a dance at the "Y" when she was 23 and he was 36 (but he told her he was only 34). They married and bought a house for $5,000 on the east side of Syracuse. Their mortgage payments were something like $5.65/month - I found the receipts from the checkbook when she moved out.
I was adopted when she was 32, and she became the ultimate homemaker. My costumes for Halloween were always handmade and elaborate - I was a black cat one year and scared our cat terribly. My last year at Sumner Elementary I was Santa Claus, with the costume donated afterwards to the school. I never learned how to cook because she was an excellent cook. I did learn to bake because sitting around that tiny kitchen was a wonderful experience.
After I left for college she and my father settled in to a life of dog-walking, reading by the fire, and going out occasionally to the symphony. He took her to England, finally, in 1973. They were planning a trip to Seattle for Alex's birth when he fell ill with prostate cancer and died that fall.
My mother then became almost a recluse, although the dogs (first Missy, then Dulcie) always got two walks a day in Thornden Park, rain, shine or snow. She read through the winters with a cat or two close by, gardened some in the summers, and enjoyed her music and books.
She also loved her sister, Grace. Grace lived in Florida most of the time until Hurricane Andrew wiped out her home and life. She returned to Rochester to live near her husband's family and visited my mother on occasion. Their visits were always filled with laughter and memories - Gracie was always good to be around. When Grace passed away in May of 2005 we knew it wouldn't be too much longer before my mother joined her.
So this blog is meant to honor her quiet life, and remember her with some compassion.
And the update - for you who have been so patient - there are 140 single family homes of which 32 are in the village listed as active in the Skaneateles area. None were marked contingent, two were moved from contingent to pending, and none closed this past week. A quiet time - my mother would have enjoyed it!