by Alice Florio Magner
Mary Florio was someone different to each of her children, her sisters and brothers and her friends.
Listening to her children discuss her, you would think we were talking about a person the others didn’t know. Her two oldest were always “put upon.” I remember when she would ask my older brother Anthony to bring in wood for the stove on which she cooked all our meals and for the furnace which heated our home. He would grumble. Especially if he was gluing tiny pieces of balsa wood for his model airplanes. Mother would kindly say, “That’s all right, I’ll go and get the wood myself.” In a flash he would be out the door without a cross word.
My sister Phyllis missed many outings with her friends because she was the “built-in baby sitter.” This situation instilled in her the love of books she has to this day. Also, because she was “in” so much, Phyllis became our private seamstress, a talent taught to her by our grandmother DiBianco. We all benefitted from that talent. Ask Anthony how he would take his time picking out the feed bag which would make the best shirt.
My sister Betty was a wonder to behold on her horse. My Mother loved seeing her ride. She was such a good sport person as a young woman. Always very focused on what she wanted from life. When she saved a young girl from drowning, the family heard about it from neighbors. Mother always used Betty as an example when she talked about self-esteem and what a person could become.
My sister Lee will admit that she has secregtarial skills, cooking skills, and plays a great piano thanks to her Mother. She was encouraged to go against her brothers and sisters and attend Commercial High which was not the popular choice. Mother laughed at us and stood by Lee. A piano was always in the house and Mother encouraged her to play. “She can play by ear” was Mother’s praise of Lee. And, we all agree, that Lee carries on the tradition of being my Mother’s culinary heiress.
My sister Mary Anne and brother John were the youngest in the family and there was a large gap in ages from the original five. We all helped Mother pamper, play, and scold these two. My Mother had time for May Anne and trotted her off to photographers every chance. Her clothers were bought with great care. She was my Mother’s toy. But John was her favorite child. She had time to enjoy his piano playing, to be proud of his excellence at school and his very nature suited everything she loved in life. They would argue and talk and always be on the same “wave length.” When Mary Anne died, it was John who suffered her doting ways, her fear of the unexpected, and her need to keep him close.
We all knew her by her generosity. She shared her marvelous cooking with everyone. Ask Patti Levey Lebow about her pizza. I will hear her singing in her kitchen in my mind forever. She shared her winnings from the lottery to Hai Alai with all. My trip to Ireland and England was underwritten by my Mother. My Mother was quick to forgive. When we moved to Orange, she received many phone calls of a “derogatory nature.” “They have nothing better to do with their time” she would say and quietly hang up the telephone. She never indulged in petty gossip. “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” was her constant reminder to us. Her family and friends meant everything to her, and she was loyal to each of us. Her flair for life was especially felt by me when we would sit on the bench near the pond and she would smile and say so softly, “We are on a boat at sea.” She always could think of a verse when asked a question and can see her with her friend, Christine Stebbins, at my dance recitals. She always had red roses for me. She encouraged me to be myself and always stood by me in the choices I made in life.
Rosiland Russel said,
“The joy of life is a women’s best cosmetic.”
I believe my Mother to be the most beautiful person I have ever known.