Continued from Romance: Enter stage left – Philip!
Yry and Philip spent every moment possible together, sometimes alone and sometimes with neighborhood friends. The heat of new passion burned through her fog of isolation. She was fulfilled. Her life had purpose. She guarded Philip like a bulldog, defending him from physical or verbal assaults. Her lofty age offered an excuse to display worldly wisdom. She advised him on his school work and chastised him for being naughty to his grandmother. Philip was as much a younger sibling figure for her as he was a romantic interest. She reveled in the role of older, more mature partner. Phillip accepted her rebukes with humility and promises to try to be a better person, a dangerous precedent for a young man to set in the grips of a strong woman.
Shortly before Uncle Adolf had the car packed for their summer tour, Yry received an anguished letter from Philip who was distraught that she was abandoning him for England! Perhaps young Philip’s geography was a bit off. Maybe she said New England and he only heard England. Or, did Yry lead him to believe that she’d be traveling to Europe? Mother, was this your way of managing young Philip?
Yry enjoyed this trip through Pennsylvania, upstate New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire. They crossed from New York into Vermont on a steamship over Lake Champlain. Ubiquitous covered bridges were picturesque and the family enjoyed swimming and canoeing at every opportunity along the way. One photo shows my mother perched somewhat seductively on a tree trunk beside Clear Lake. The rather impish grin on her face contrasts sharply with the womanly body revealed by her one-piece swim suit. She tomboyed with friends who were still mere kids, but my mother’s body was on its own timetable. She confided to me on several occasions how difficult this change was for her.
In between family holidays, Yry and Philip spent as much time together as possible. She loved pointing her camera at him in different poses around the garden. They shared a love of reading and poetry. Philip’s worship nourished her self-confidence.
Eventually though, Philip’s mother grew concerned about Yry’s constant presence in the boy’s life. She devised ways to intervene; there were summer schools, day camps, visits with distant relatives, and tennis and golf lessons. The absences took their toll. After a few years, Philip began to grow up and grow apart from Yry. His time was filled with other people and other excitements. That anything more important than her could enter his life shocked and devastated Yry. She had come to rely upon his presence and his idolatry. Spilling her misery in gloomy ink, she wallowed in loss for years after the two friends parted in 1929.
Aside from romance, what were the family dynamics during these years? This photo intrigues me. My mother wrote on the back, “Summer 1929; Uncle, Myself, Mr. Paul, Mamy” Mr. Paul? A friend snapped the image. Did he press the shutter before they were ready? Uncle looks so smug. Yry looks less than comfortable. Her father, Mr. Paul, looks so serious. Was he worried about his expensive camera in the hands of their young guest? But the kicker, Mamy. She looks pensive, ready to walk off, away from the tableau of her “family.” What is this photo trying to tell me?