Inside our Wilton, Conn., CubeSmart Self Storage, Diane Rohde owns a couple of boxes full of various treasures — school awards, drawings, baby clothes — from her two sons and three step-children that she collected during their childhood.
On the day before her youngest son's graduation on June 23 from Wilton High School, Diane reflected on the passing of years and her role as a single mother.
"It's really funny to see them pull out their baby outfits and put them in front of their bodies now," she said, laughing, while seated in the lobby.
Diane has worked as an accountant for 30 years, most recently for a company that allows her to work from home. She has lived in Wilton for 26 years.
"It's safe," she said of her community. "Great schools."
Diane grew up in Hyde Park, N.Y., moved to Albany, N.Y., for five years, then moved to Fairfield, Conn., before settling in Wilton. She went through a separation in 2003, followed by a divorce two years later. She moved into a two-bedroom apartment 5 years ago, after her sister, with whom she rented a house, moved back to Pennsylvania.
"Single parenting really rocks your world financially, emotionally and physically," she said, adding her sons did not have the benefit of grandparents because both sets had died long before the divorce. When she first faced the prospect of raising the boys on her own she would sometimes call her brothers, sobbing.
"They told me to break it down and do just one thing," she said. "I don't think this country does enough for single parents. I would break it down to even this town. It's a wealthy town, a bedroom community with a lot of married couples. But a rash of divorces went through the community. "We need support groups," she added.
Indeed, a few years after her divorce she approached the town and asked for a support group. The town then secured a one-year grant run by the social services department that featured regular meetings and speakers who addressed financial planning, healthy eating and meditation, among other topics.
"I got a best friend out of it and met several other people," Diane said. "It was a way to support one another after the devastation of divorce… It was wonderful, actually."
Diane described her parenting style as easy-going. She said her sons enjoy teasing her. "We have a saying — ‘Everything is mom's fault,'" Diane said, with a laugh. "But it's fine."
Her oldest son, Carl, 24, who is studying to be a physical therapist, moved back home about three years ago after getting his bachelor's degree in physical exercise science from Hofstra University in New York.
Diane said she has sought to instill in her children the value of hard work and honesty and that "happiness comes from within.”
"My goal is to live somewhere where there are palm trees and I can swim outside year-round," she said of her own idea of happiness. She'll be visiting friends in Florida and Georgia in the next few years and giving serious consideration to moving south. In the meantime, she was looking forward to Christian's graduation. "I'm really proud of him," she said. "He's matured a lot over the last six months. And I'm excited about his future."