Fateful Words From the Archive: When My Mother Met My Father

I’ve been in San Miguel de Allende the past few weeks taking care of my mother, who had another stroke. As her memory fades, historic family photos and letters become all the more cherished. I spent some time in her archive room today and stumbled on a letter that she wrote to her mother on May 14, 1957 from Syossett, New York.

In it, she writes about taking her toddler son Jan to see the penguins at the Bronx Zoo, having tickets to see My Fair Lady on Broadway, and her excitement about an exhibition she had coming up at the Roosevelt Field Art Center–there was going to be an ad in the art section the New York Times (“so you must rush down to the newsstand on 16th Street [in Omaha] early on the Tuesday morning after it opens to pick up that Sunday’s Times!”) and the gallery had agreed to pay for the framing of six of her paintings…

“The man who handles the framing there, Ralph Hyans [sic], is such an interesting fellow, and so enthusiastic about my work. We hit it off right away, especially after discovering a mutual interest in Zen. He paints, sculpts, botan-izes or whatever you call people interested in plants and has been involved with artists and the art world in Manhattan and on the west coast for years. He’s a very nice person, a real Tree-Feeler-No-See-Um–the first I’ve met for a long long time.”

She was married and six months pregnant with her second son. He was a widower, 13 years her senior, with two young sons. She doesn’t remember now what she meant by “Tree-Feeler-No-See-Um,” but for better and worse, that was that — their fates were sealed.

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