I have been focusing on old photographs lately…ones that are in the possession of my family members. Some that belong to me…handed down to me by my mother. Imagine my surprise when I came across a photo of my 15 year old mother on ancestry.com in their U.S. Yearbook collection. My mother kept so many things, but I never saw a yearbook and I suspect that my grandparents thought it a luxury that their large family could not afford.
How delightful to see her young face with her schoolmates and the charming story to include each of the young ladies of Room 330 of Ithaca High School. What was unique about the 1924 yearbook approach was the absence of the usual identification of the students in the photo…left to right…first row…second row…third row. So I had to peer into each face hoping my mother would be easily identifiable.
Could I find my mother? I was born when she was almost 40 years old. Would I know her youthful appearance? Of course, I could. It resembled my own so remarkably that it took my breath away when my gaze fell upon her…third row, eighth from the left.
My mother, whose idea of a faraway trip was the trolley ride to South Aurora street in Ithaca or later the bus ride from Thornton Avenue to downtown Auburn, dreamed of Paris when she was fifteen.
In the excitement of getting her on board, Deborah Purdy dropped her case overboard but Imogen Grover came to the rescue by offering the use of hers when she needed it.
When we arrived at our destination, some went to the fashion show, some to the play called “La Poudre Aux Yeaux” and still others visited historical features of the great city…
I always thought about my young mother as a ‘flapper’…flirting with Cornell men…riding in open top cars…legs and arms akimbo dancing the Charleston, the Black Bottom and the Lindy Hop. Before my serious father came along.
Though she shared so much with me about her childhood, she didn’t share all of it. She was wistful about “Papa’s” troubles and the lack of money that inexplicably plagued the family. Hints. She was so detailed and romantic about Ithaca and home and the happy moments, but never ever spoke of the wish to see the world.
Little did I know that she went to Paris with her class in 1924. In spirit.
Je t’aime, maman.
Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher
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