Brenda Yale, my mother, the runner up to Prom Queen, the lady with no middle name, was born in Cortland, NY. A town with less than twenty thousand people smack dead in the middle of the state (we have a pole somewhere legitimizing this). She still lives in the same 800 square foot home that she grew up in; the house she inherited at 24 year-old after her father dropped dead of a stroke. From 18 to 48 years of age, she worked at her mother’s clothing store on Main Street. She was beautiful and lean and perfect. Everyone thought she was a snob, never realizing how much confidence she lacked in herself. She thought she made all the right decisions for a young woman born in 1950- go to a two year school, work at the family business, stay in your home town, own a home, marry a handsome man, and have a child. Of course you can try to do it right. The husband left, the business closed, the child grew up, and having a two year degree at 58 years old in a small town doesn’t offer much. She’s an artist who has never shown her work, she’s a lover who hasn’t been loved in over twenty years , she’s a world traveler who has never left her home continent. She is a woman who has reserved every ounce of her heart to me and for that, I am grateful.
Karl Modery, my father, the free spirit, the man of 1,000 lives, was born in Preble, NY, a one-cow-town near Cortland. Quoted as saying that his father was worse that George McFly before Marty changed the course of history, he acted out as a child in search of attention and affection from his parents. Out of fear of tarnishing his golden image with me (too late, Pop), he will not divulge what happened between the years 1970-1975 or B.B. (before Brenda) I know that he was a doorman at Radio City Music Hall, dropped out of Berklee College of Music, hung out with Frank Zappa twice, and wore platform shoes though he was 6’3″. A trait I inherited from my father, a personality quirk that my mother blatantly points out the negative ramifications of, is the fear of becoming bored, of life becoming stagnant. Because of this, my father has had every job under the moon, has had over 35 cars, has had over 15 pet dogs, been married twice, and has lived in six different states. His most consistent careers have been that of a musician, model, and actor. His child-like wonderment of the world is magnificent and detrimental at the same time.
Nan Yale McCormick, my grandmother, was born in…wait, I’m not sure where the hell she was born. I believe she was born in Endicott, NY. A comparable emotional void of a city to Scranton, PA. As a teenager she lived with her Orthodox Jewish grandmother in South Bend, Indiana and quickly decided she hated being a Jew. She moved back to central New York where she landed a job as a saleswoman/merchandiser/buyer for a thriving woman’s apparel store called Leonards’. Being the sassy lady she is, she walked into the bank, took out a loan, and proposed she buy the business from the crotchety one legged owner. He obliged. From that day on, my grandmother ran one of the most successful independent women’s apparel stores in central NY. She and her daughter would make buying trips to the city and hold fashion shows in our hometown. Though my grandmother was one tough cookie, she was a complete idiot when it came to men. Her first husband (my grandfather) was 13 years her senior and enjoyed watching “The Smothers Brothers” more than conversing with her. After she dumped his ass (during a time when women didn’t dump asses), she married a CIA agent/colonel with a bad rug and an even worse wandering eye. She dumped his ass as well, but politely (and moronically) decided not to ask for anything in the divorce. Currently she has been seeing Lionel, a huge nudge, whom she began dating after falling and breaking her arm in the building he owned and suing him. She is 82 years-old and goes to the gym five days a week. The classiest and most dignified woman I know, I often fear that she has never fully experienced passion.
That is my entire family.
The axis of my world.