Sunday, July 09, 2017

Florence Silverman (1929-2017)
A friend passed away this week. We had known each other for only twelve years, barely a blink in her life of eighty-eight, but Florence Silverman had an outsized influence on our lives. 
Mrs. Silverman ran a small country store that rested on a high point of the rolling countryside of Bethel, NY.  It was an easy place to pull into and visit for a while, filled with items taken in on consignment – everything you could imagine from 12-piece ceramic dining sets from the 1930s, to mounds of books, glassware, knives and forks, radios and toys.  And she sold eggs.  She once ran a large egg business from her farm and even after she had sold the chickens, she continued to sell eggs along with the output of her vegetable garden.
The store was open every day and usually Florence was next door cooking or in her garden digging. There was a service station bell that would notify her when someone entered the parking lot and she would come bounding out of her house ready to fetch eggs or answer unanswerable questions about the provenance of some treasure that had been uncovered from the dozens of boxes and crates and piles of the cast-off history of this region of the Catskills.
When we first met Florence Silverman, she and her husband Dave were still running a small café in the store.  She made breakfast for the locals and the workers from the surrounding farms.  When Spanish became the lingua franca of her breakfast clientele, Florence learned enough of the language to keep everyone well fed and intuited what she didn’t understand.  Long after the Health Department determined that it was time to shutter the café corner of the store, Florence kept a pot of coffee on for those who wanted it.  She had the energy of a spirited person half her age and she was an inspiration.
My son was a little over one-year-old when he met Mrs. Silverman, and each summer when we returned to Bethel, we would spend time with her, having breakfast, shopping for toys, wandering around the barn…  This will be our first summer without Mrs. Silverman, and we are just one family among the many for whom this unique person was a loved member.
Yesterday I stopped by the store.  I had recently arrived in Bethel and was looking forward to seeing Florence.  When I arrived her daughters were organizing the Funeral service that would take place that afternoon on one of the lawns next to the main house.  I knew she had been ill and I felt when we left last summer that it might have been our last visit.  But that knowledge does not dull the loss. 
Scattered about this cabin are items from her store; delicate glass, carving knives and china, and a gilded wooden treasure box I discovered last summer.  I haven’t found a specific use for it yet, and maybe I never will.  It was just something beautiful that intrigued me, something I would not have gone in search of, but once discovered, I could not abandon. 
With love.


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