The Order of the White Moon Goddess Gallery Presents
A Goddess Among Us: Dorothy Vetri
Level 3 Final Project for the Sisters of the Rising Moon School
(© 2011. All original material in this site is under copyright protection and is the intellectual property of the author.)
Like many Goddesses, Dorothy Vetri didn’t leave much information behind. I had the privilege to know her for 32 years and so I have a small part of her story. Knowing her changed my life for the better, and I feel honored to share her with you.
My first memory of Mrs. Vetri, which is what I always called her, was of her giving me the yummiest lollypop I ever had, after I lost my Good humor ice cream money by putting it in the cracks of the tree bark, of the large tree in front of her house. I was waiting for the ice cream truck to come. There were 5 or 6 of us kids waiting there, on a summer day. I was 3 or 4 years old and while we waited I was messing with my nickels and dimes in the tree bark, and not paying much attention.
The ice cream truck came and I couldn’t find all my money, and so I couldn’t get a Popsicle. I was upset and I may have cried, I don’t remember. What I do remember was the other kids laughing at me and Mrs. Vetri coming out of her front door. The other children suddenly stopped and fled. I wasn’t sure what scared them, but they were gone and Mrs. Vetri asked me if I would like to come in for a minute. Mrs. Vetri lived next door to me and in those days we weren’t so worried about ‘stranger danger’, and I didn’t see any reason not to follow her. She took me to her living room and told me to sit on the couch. This room was amazing, it had a piano, books, and what I learned later were treasures from around the world. It all seemed new and beautiful to me. She came back and gave me a red lollypop that was shaped like a cylinder and tasted like fresh strawberries. Mrs. Vetri introduced herself and told me I was welcome to visit, but to ask my mother first and she sent me home.
Looking back now, I realize that Mrs. Vetri must have had some contact with my mother as after that I could go to Mrs. Vetri’s anytime. I also realize that maybe Mrs. Vetri scared the other kids as she had the face of a pig, with a distinctive nose, thick coke bottle glasses that made her eyes huge, hair that seemed to stand on end, and a large lumpy, potato sack body. She was not a physically attractive woman, but to me I have always seen her as beautiful.
Over the next 8 or 9 years I would appear on Mrs. Vetri’s doorstep, and she always took time for me. She taught me about classical music, antiques, art, her travels, food, and drinking expresso in the Russian way through a sugar cube, out of a glass demitasse cup. I got to meet Mr. Vetri, who was a retired diplomat from Paris, and even to my young eyes I could see he was incredibly handsome, urbane man with lovely white hair and a manly physic, and such charm he even caught my attention as a 5 year old girl. Most of all Mrs. Vetri shared with me her story and in doing this taught me to value myself. Here is what she told me….
Mrs. Vetri was born on a Wisconsin dairy farm in the early 1900’s. She had a number of lovely sisters and handsome brothers. Mrs. Vetri was a stout child and a stout woman, heavy boned, and she said, with the face that could take people aback, as she was homely. On top of that she couldn’t see well and always needed thick glasses. She had neither beauty nor grace, and to make matters worse, she was smart and didn’t want to marry. Not that any of the local boys ever looked at her, she wanted a career. She finished high school, unlike some of her sisters who married by 16, and learned to type. She had a hard time finding a job, as back then men were secretaries and the only professions open to women were nursing and teaching. Mrs. Vetri wasn’t interested in either of those.
World War II came along and she was able to enlist as a WAC and use her typing skill in the Army. Mrs. Vetri was stationed in Belgium where she started collecting pigs, she said because they must be related, because she looked like them. When she told me this it taught me to find the positive in anything, especially the things we can’t change. Anyway, back to her story.
While in Belgium and enjoying feeling purposeful in her work, Mrs. Vetri met Mr. Louis Vetri, who was doing diplomat work. He was from France and was lovely to look at, and still is she said. But he did a terrible thing; he flirted with her and kept asking her out. Mrs. Vetri thought he was making fun of her in some sophisticated way, and turned him down flat for over a year. But Mr. Vetri didn’t give up. He sent flowers, candy, invitations, and small appropriate gifts, like gloves and scarves. Finally she went to a Russian tea room with him and had espresso for the first time. He was a gentleman and even after this kept asking her out. They started seeing each other, Mrs. Vetri knowing nothing could come of it, but she was young and overseas, so why not. Then Mr. Vetri threw her for a loop, he asked her to come to France and meet his mother. Mrs. Vetri knew this was the end, as Mr. Vetri might be blind to her ugliness but his mother would not be, and she would put an end to this lovely time. All the same, Mrs. Vetri agreed to go as she felt all things must come to an end sometime.
Mr. Vetri took her to this amazing chateau. It was huge and Mrs. Vetri realized that Mr. Vetri was very rich as well as handsome and kind, their time was near an end as she certainly was not rich at all. She almost refused to go in, not wanting their time together to end. But she went and at the door was the most beautiful woman Mrs. Vetri had ever seen, with coiffed white hair, and a lovely figure, obviously Mr. Vetri’s mother. Mr. Vetri’s mother burst into tears at the sight of Mrs. Vetri and enveloped her in a warm loving hug and said “Finally”. She ushered them in and told Mr. Vetri she wanted time alone with his love.
This scared Mrs. Vetri to no end as Mr. Vetri had not told her he loved her, and she did not see that they had any kind of future. So maybe this would be the time when his mother, who seemed as nice as he was, would let her down gently and get her back to Belgium. Mrs. Vetri was taken to a sitting room that was a personal room for Mr. Vetri’s mother and encouraged to sit on a fragile settee’. Mrs. Vetri was worried that it couldn’t hold her weight and size, but she sat gently. Mr. Vetri’s mother sat down right next to her hugged her again, and with tears in her eyes, again said ‘finally’. She then explained that Mr. Vetri had been writing about finding the woman he loved, the most beautiful woman in the world, but he couldn’t convince her of his sincerity, and he hoped his mother could help him. So she explained to Mrs. Vetri that in France there were certain women that were ‘jolle laid’, beautifully ugly, and French men found them irresistible in face and form, but hard to marry. Because these women couldn’t see their own beauty and would reject the men out of hand. She said that to Mr. Vetri she was beautiful inside and out, and she hoped that Mr. Vetri’s heart would not be broken, as he was a good and loyal man, who would treat her like a Goddess every day for the rest of her life. If she would only accept him. Mrs. Vetri was stunned, but her heart opened in hope of true love, for the first time in her life, she wanted to believe.
After she left his mother, she went in search of Mr. Vetri and found him in the entry hall. He came to her and asked “Can you see that I love you, that I am not blind, and that it is you I want?” Mrs. Vetri said yes, she understood now and Mr. Vetri asked her to marry him as soon as she was ready. They were married in Paris the next month. Mrs. Vetri’s tour of duty was over and she didn’t re-enlist. They moved to Paris and lived there until the 1950’s. When Mr. Vetri was reassigned to the United Nations, they moved to New York. When Mr. Vetri retired in 1960, they bought a home in New Jersey and my parents built their home next door two years later.
In the years I lived in New Jersey, I saw Mrs. Vetri at least weekly. I knew her through Mr. Vetri’s death. I asked her why she never had children, and she said her children were those of other mothers. I now too have children of other mothers. She taught me I would always be as beautiful as I thought I was, and it had nothing to do with my face or body. She told me to embrace life and live it so I would have great stories to tell later. She told me being smart meant being interested and it had nothing to do with grades in school. She told me, when kids were mean to be nice to someone else and get away from mean people. I listened to her.
I left New Jersey when I was 12 and I called Mrs. Vetri once a month. We would talk and share as we always did. In 1996 I got to go back to New Jersey and had lunch with Mrs. Vetri. She made salmon mousse, even though her hands were knarled with arthritis. We had our espresso and talked. She could no longer go up and down stairs, so she moved into the downstairs library. She spent her time reading and watching the news. She said her joy was in her nieces, nephews, and her children of other mothers, and she told me about their lives.
When I was 35, in October I called her as usual and someone else answered. Mrs. Vetri died the week before, at home, peacefully. Her family was there taking care of her things. I don’t know why she chose me as one of her children, I’m grateful she did. She was a great mother and mentor to me. She taught me so much, and I miss her every day.
An Unnamed Poem in Honor of Mrs. Vetri
Children of our wombs
Children of our hearts
Mothers of our flesh
Mothers of our souls
Those we love
Those we learn from
Those we never give up
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