continued from New York City, 1924
Herman entrusted the care of not only his wife and child, but also of funds to purchase land, build a house, and establish a business partnership. Disapproval dripped from mother’s voice as she told me the story. It was Uncle Adolph who selected the lot, the builders, and the plans for the home in New Rochelle. The house that Adolph built with my grandfather’s nest-egg, was an immense two and half story stucco with an expansive garden, a fish pond, a gazebo, and private tennis court. The house at 819 North Avenue, was a Cape Code minus the clapboard siding. It was one of the first homes built in a new subdivision called Wykagyl Park. Initially miles of undeveloped woodland surrounded the property. Yry roamed the woods and dreamed of the Wild West. She was astonished to be given choices about her room decor. Unlike her quarters in Germany, where she’d had to make do with whatever was available during post-war scrounging, Yry got everything she asked for in her new bedroom.
Was this, perhaps, an attempt by Norah to soften Yry’s dislike for Adolph? I think back to how my mother prepared me for the disruption in our lives when I was 14. I was blindsided when she announced her engagement to a man I’d always known as Mr. Tracy, the plumber. Within months, we left our house in town and moved with Mr. Tracy and his 19-year-old daughter into the house on mom’s ranch. For the first time in my life, I had carte blanche for the décor of my own bedroom. Mirror images?
Yry’s new bedroom cocooned her for the next eight years and she loved every aspect of it. Positioned on the top floor, her room was large, but the space was cut by the angle of the roof. The chimney bisected the wall at the end of the room. The chimney was flanked by two small fan-shaped windows on either side of it. Below each window, a built-in storage bench, covered with pillows, provided a cozy perch from which Yry surveyed the entire valley and noted the changes as the neighborhood filled in. She devoured books by authors like Zane Grey and Owen Wister. Those bucolic forested hills behind the house shape-shifted into rugged Rocky Mountains populated by cowboys and Indians and horses.
After years of suffering and scrounging Norah was at last happy. This was the style of life she had been raised to expect. A butler, Cyril, doubled as a chauffeur for their Rickenbacker. They had a full-time maid and a Chinese cook whom Yry never forgave for her awful soups and spinach that tasted like it had gone directly from the ground to the plate.
Where did all the money come from, I wonder?
Meanwhile, I assume from mother’s comments that Uncle Adolph was working to launch the New York City base of an import/export business partnership. The details of how this came to be, once again elude me. But future business partners, Fred and Joe Stein begin to show up in family photos in the winter of 1925. During that same time, photos of Uncle Adolph appear on nearly every page of the album. He was a pudgy man with a mustache, pipe, and fedora. He proudly escorted Norah and Yry to nearby landmarks. One Saturday, Cyril drove them north to Kensico Reservoir for a picnic outing. They motored across the dam, stopping along the way for photos. Construction on the dam had begun in 1911 and had lasted for nearly four years. Yry was amused that she and the dam were the same age.