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Continued from Role Playing

Sitting at her small green desk with the drop-down writing leaf, Yry ruminated about the merry-go-round of high school romance. “The little ninnies slobber all over some boy one day, only to find his best friend more attractive the next day.” These shallow, mean-spirited girls had no idea what real love was. She, on the other hand, was a survivor. She knew real heartbreak. She had no interest in joining the snotty, conniving little prima donnas.

Instead, she struggled with iambic pentameter and rhyme, catharting her anguish on paper. Theater provided another outlet to lose herself onstage, backstage, and even script writing. She journaled prolifically and established a life-long habit of scribbling thoughts and quotes on any available scrap of paper which she archived for future reference, providing acerbic commentary to her experiences and a disjointed path through her life. The American West still consumed her. She developed elaborate fantasies about her future life in the west. When she voiced her desire to live in some isolated place and scratch a living from the empty landscape, her parents chuckled and assured her that such a life would soon grow tiresome. She dreamed on, despite ridicule. Yry played the gypsy one day, the elegant horse rider another day, and when called upon, she posed as the stoic young lady.

In 1931 both Herman and Norah became naturalized citizens of the United States. A storm was brewing around the in world and Herman wanted to secure their rights and voices in the democratic process. Citizenship also provided a measure of protection for overseas travel, a crucial element for Herman’s work. My mother had entered the country on a US visa which was valid while she was in school. As high school graduation approached, she applied for an adjustment of immigration status. The adjustment had to be arranged from outside of the country so the following year the family vacationed in Montreal. The process took about two weeks, during which time they practiced their French while seeing the sites and visiting the museums.

Letters continued to arrive from Rio de Janeiro. Alfred’s letters to Norah were warm and thoughtful.  Despite his own failing health, he never missed an opportunity to inquire about hers. Her doctor had advised her to lose weight. Her father commiserated, “When we’ve had to sacrifice so much, it is just too cruel to also have to sacrifice good food.” He also asked about Herman’s business. Father and son-in-law, both merchants, worried about stormy global politics. The Brazilian government had ceded power to the military in a struggle between the landed gentry and the growing industrial complex. The military purged high ranking officers who might have held allegiances to the ousted gentry. Brazil was in turmoil and trade was tenuous. Herman and Norah often slipped $30 into their letters to Grandfather Dillon. Alfred had mused about returning to Germany, but his wife’s illness had prevented the journey, and now his health was too frail and his pocket book too thin. He was stuck in Brazil’s turbulence. Norah worried about her father, but was helpless to do much for him.