The true magic of the world wide web isn’t cat videos. OK, maybe that’s part of it.
But the real miracle is its ability to connect us. Across the miles. Or in my case, across nearly half a century. Two and a half years ago, I wrote a blog post on my mom’s birth date, about how I was so young when she passed away that I don’t really remember her. You can read it here:
A couple of weeks ago, on my birthday, someone commented on that post:
Needless to say, I did connect with Veronica “Ronnie” S. (nee Wain). She said she and her siblings would often wonder about what happened to their old neighbors on Liberty Avenue in Jersey City. She Googled my dad’s name recently and saw his obituary. A few more searches led her to a blog post from 2015… on a blog that only a handful of people even know about… it’s a web miracle!
Ronnie was able to provide several tidbits of info about my mother, helping me fill in the blanks and connect a few dots, and start to “know” a mom I don’t remember. Her email was far and away the most wonderful email I’ve ever received (sorry Nigerian prince who wants to share his millions with me).
I’m sharing her wonderful note here because it made me smile… through the tears, of course:
I have endearing memories of your mom from the 1960s that I’d like to pass to you:
She had a beautiful smile, always, and looked exactly like the photo on ur page (wearing the pretty coat).
Your mom and dad were both devout Catholics. When she was expecting Jeanne she would attend Mass on weekdays.
Our family didn’t have a car and to save us the bus, train, bus trip to North Arlington to visit our brother Joe, she would often drive us, despite having so much to do at home.
When Marie graduated from high school, your mom was kind enough to contact
someone at Thacher Proffit law firm and secure her an interview; she was offered a secretarial job soon afterwards. She subsequently worked for William Simon at
Salomon Bros., before retiring from the Port Authority of NY/NJ in 2000.
Your maternal grandmother would visit you often, and I recall visits by your Aunt (Florence?) as well. She always dressed impeccably……I loved her hats!
My mom enjoyed chatting with your grandmother (she was a lovely, soft spoken person!) and she shared stories of your uncle’s S.J. missionary work in the Philippines. Your grandmother missed him and sometimes worried about him.
Your maternal grandfather would visit and help with small jobs around the house. He amended the soil in the front yard so Olga could have a small garden. He planted tomatoes and flowers there.
We didn’t see him later in the 60s….I don’t know whether he predeceased your mom or, after her death, was too broken-hearted to return.
John was very attached to your mom and would always be in her arms…..until you arrived, Damien (you were the sweetest baby!). Then he took his place by her leg.
There was a back room on the first floor of your house and she asked my mom for advice on turning it into a playroom for you, J, J and V.
I would see your mom from time to time as I passed your house on my way to the Blvd. bus, going to high school. She always showed an interest in what was going on in my life, and offered me advice. She did very thoughtful things……like one summer day, taking me for a ride to your aunt’s (Pat?) house in Verona. I remember hearing them laugh and talk in the kitchen. I think your mom was very close to her.
Your mom and mine talked almost every day…..usually outside when the weather was nice, over the backyard fence or by phone. Olga was an authentic friend in every sense of the word……and the sister my mom never had. My mom never quite got over her death. Our neighbor George Martine (wife, Sabina, who also passed away around that time) missed her terribly as well.
We knew she had become seriously ill yet never expected she would be hospitalized and not return home.
Many neighbors and friends attended her wake and funeral Mass.
(Damien, I think you all were too young to attend her wake….I didn’t see you there.)
After her death, your grandmother came almost daily to help your dad, and close neighbors checked in and did whatever they could.
When he decided to move to Arkansas we were really sad yet knew he did
it with your best interests in mind. NJ was becoming pretty unaffordable even then.
When he returned east to visit family, he would stop by to see my parents, and they would pick up on conversations, like he had never been away. (I believed they continued to exchange Christmas cards and letters about family life….and baseball.)
I happened to be home for one visit (I had since married and move to West Orange) and was really surprised to to see that Jeanne had accompanied him.
She was all grown up and sooooo beautiful!
The most significant lesson I continue to value from life on Liberty Avenue was we didn’t have much materially, and I sensed your mom and dad struggled more, yet we had everything we needed.
Damien, I have no doubt you, Jeanne, John and Virginia are fine, fine people and
ultimately that is the most enduring tribute to your mom and dad.
God bless you, Ronnie – you gave me a priceless gift on my birthday. And:
That is a very nice letter and very warming. You are a good man Damian. Stronger than you know. Enjoy the day. Belated Happy Birthday. I am not as good at those things as you are yet striving to be……Enjoy
Wow. Ronnie’s response is so detailed and meaningful – I’m glad you shared this. The photo of your mom is beautiful. Her friendship with Ronnie’s mom, when they would talk on the phone together or over the backyard fence, I can just picture. It sounds like your mom was an extremely positive influence on those around her. My heart is warmed after reading this.