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Continued from Meanwhile, at home:

On that April day in 1991 when I sat beside my mother’s bed, scratching the walls inside my empty head to keep conversation going, I had asked her that uber-trite question, “Mom, is there anything you wish you could do over again, but differently?”

At that time, I considered myself unflappable. There was nothing my mother could say that would shock me. Till she responded.

“Well, not really, I don’t think. You know I loved having you kids.” (I’d heard this before and disbelieved it then as I did now.) “But I guess if I could do anything I wanted, I’d have six or seven children . . . each with a different man . . . each with a different nationality.”

It’s a miracle that my jaw didn’t crack on the linoleum. Then we laughed. What else could we do?

But I would ponder that nugget in the years to come. And when I found, in her stacks of hand-written stories, one in which the narrator falls in love with a Chinese man, I remembered her surprisingly studious attempt to learn Chinese after the death of my stepfather. At the time, she explained this away as something she’d always wanted to do. Since her nemesis, President Nixon, had thawed the ice in 1972 with his historic meeting with Chairman Mao, thus opening the door for American tourism in China, maybe she’d finally get her chance to visit that fascinating country.

She’d realized two of her six or seven children with different fathers. Maybe she’d come closer than I ever realized to the other four or five. The browned pages of her story take on a breath of reality forming the next wild chapter in her life.


New York City in 1939 buzzed with anticipation of the World’s Fair which was scheduled to open at the end of April. Begun in 1936, a massive construction project at Flushing Meadow transformed a former dump into a park and fairground with exhibitions, pavilions, statues, fountains, and public art. The project produced precious employment to a city still sucking air from the Stock Market crash ten years earlier. Against the backdrop of growing unease about the Nazi threat overseas, the World’s Fair was a distraction from war talk. Boasting participation from over 60 countries, the fair promoted peace and interdependence between nations. A new bridge and a subway line, the IND World’s Fair Line, were installed to serve the fair. Countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia, and France, who were already under the thumb of the Axis powers, ran their pavilions with a special nationalistic pride. The only major world power that did not participate for the 1939 season was Germany, citing budget pressures. The USSR Pavilion was dismantled after the first season. The New York World’s Fair presented the vision of “the World of Tomorrow.” (Time Magazine 2014)

And in 1939, Yry was once again working at F.H. Paul & Stein Bros, where she was always warmly welcomed, even if she did find the work unbearably boring.