A lovely article by Edan Lepucki in the Times this week had women considering photos of their mothers’ vibrant youth.
Can a son do the same? I would think so.
I went scurrying to the digital files I am assembling of our diverse family. My siblings and others have contributed photos they squirreled away in boxes or scrapbooks.
May Spencer Vecsey passed late in 2002, at nearly 92. It is bittersweet to look back at the serious young woman in the old black-and-whites – the student with so much promise, the daughter permanently mourning a beloved father who died in her early teens.
She does not strut her stuff for the camera. There is precious little smiling, even when her father was moving the family from Southampton, England, to Coxsackie, New York, with enough money saved for a large house in town and a farm just outside.
The father is English (via Australia) and the mother is Irish and they are now upstate bourgeoisie, until her father hits a tree protruding onto an old country road now used for automobiles.
This is the great tragedy of her life. (I saw her sob when Franklin Delano Roosevelt died in 1945; he was her surrogate father.)
She apparently was always serious – a top student at Jamaica High School after her mother moved to Queens. A good friend of mine from high school says her mom used to talk with respect about May Spencer, writer and scholar.
The college photos are the same: the photo with the hat depicts a sober young lady at the College of New Rochelle, a star in academics, yearbook, essays. Her classmates and the nuns said she would go far, even in the growing Depression.
As Edan Lepucki notes in her sweet article in the Times, these young women in the photos cannot imagine what lies ahead. My mom would become a social worker, then a reporter for the Long Island Press, then society editor, where she would meet my father. (“They met at the water cooler,” my brother Pete has said. “Pop was buying.”)
They would share a belief, a passion, if you will, for The Left; they were management but they would go on strike with the workers, facing the Cossacks on 168th St., and would never get back in that building again.
Could she envision hard times during the War, my father fearing a blacklist but always having work in the newspaper business? Could she see herself learning to cook, clean, wash and iron, to care for five children within 10 years, to care for her dying mother, to go through hard times in the family and then get whacked by multiple sclerosis – and fight it off with long daily walks up to Cunningham Park with her loyal dog Taffy?
She was strong. I find no evidence of her mugging for the camera, no frivolous outfits. But I remember once, in a casual aside, my father compared her to a movie actress. Pop knew movies as well as he knew his Brooklyn Dodgers and politics and books, but I cannot remember which actress it was. His attraction was real. That’s all I know.
She put her seriousness and her morality and her intelligence into her family. All five of us are doing well. That studious young woman in the hat made sure we did.
5/13/2017 10:32:27 am
George--you came from good stock.
5/13/2017 10:49:52 am
Dear Alan and Sandi: Our best to you at Mother's Day. That is some longevity. Probably all families have stories they can tell. Photos restore the sense of hope and dedication, where it begins. Worth collecting and annotating. I started asking some questions of my mom when she no longer could recall some of it. Marianne, fortunately, took notes from her grandfather....invaluable now, decades later. Best to you both, G&M
5/13/2017 11:16:41 am
Morality and intelligence -- good things to pass on. She would be proud.
5/13/2017 11:23:40 am
Di: thanks. She would have loved you. G
5/13/2017 03:57:05 pm
I love this! Really captures mom. Thanks for writing and sharing this. Wish we could have one more day with her. Love you .
5/13/2017 05:04:16 pm
Jane, thanks. I agree....but all five were there when needed, later. You did fine by her. I'd like to ask more questions about her earlier days. She once told me she remembered being in Southampton when the Lusitania went down, May, 1915 -- she had turned 4 -- and saw women and children walking down to the White Star docks, knowing the crew was gone. Imagine the details of her early life.
5/14/2017 07:29:51 pm
This makes me laugh. I can just see Mom sitting there with her "look" of disbelief. And saying, "well, well, well." Memories. And yes, I remember her talking about Southampton.
Helen Rossi nee Almoslino
5/13/2017 06:49:39 pm
What a treat it was for me to read this article. She was quite the woman with such a wonderful family, of which I spent many a day with. Thank you for This!!!
5/14/2017 08:33:18 am
Hi, Helen, great to hear from you. I miss seeing you around midtown.
5/14/2017 02:22:42 am
5/14/2017 08:40:01 am
Gene, nice, did you look it up or did you reproduce it, verbatim?
5/14/2017 01:29:48 pm
Aw, shucks, George. That’s a nice compliment, but to reproduce it verbatim, I’d have to have a memory like Will’s.
5/14/2017 07:20:42 pm
It is amazing what you can find on the web. I found a play I saw in Milan in 1993....Baresi got kicked in the head, was in a fog for rest of the half...and Maldini played two positions. The youtube for the inadvertant kick and his dreamworld stagger were on line.
5/14/2017 03:15:07 am
Beautiful tribute, George.
5/14/2017 08:41:33 am
Mendel, Thank you, GV
5/15/2017 04:46:26 am
I sent this to Sophie, May's great grandniece if I've got that right. Very impressive woman your mother. AND she made a good cup of tea. Xx
5/15/2017 08:18:10 am
Dear Jen: Tea in the parlour. Mom was so proud to entertain a relly from Oz. She geared herself up. Nice day.
5/15/2017 07:39:10 am
5/16/2017 10:00:05 am
Comments are closed.
“I don’t think people understand how Covid affects older Americans,” Mr. Caretti said with frustration. “In 2020, there was this all-in-this-together vibe, and it’s been annihilated. People just need to care about other people, man. That’s my soapbox.”
---Vic Caretti, 47, whose father recently died of Covid at 85.
---From an article by Paula Span, who covers old age for the NYT, which currently has 2646 comments, the majority criticizing the American public – and public officials – for acting as if the pandemic is “over.”
Classic wishful thinking, at a lethal level.