I should say it, right from the start: I’m taking liberties with the label.
They weren’t an “item,” as it were. Mom simply dated him. It was the late 40’s, and she was living in Manhattan. She was sharing an apartment with college friends, and because she had not yet met Dad, she was enjoying the company of a number of men. Back then, apparently, men and women dated a variety of others. They weren’t all focused on establishing exclusivity, so calling him her "ex-boyfriend" is stretching it a bit.
Still, though, they dated. And they dated enough for her to mention his name when she wrote in her journal during an oceanic voyage to Europe in 1948.
I once read that journal entry, where she compared him to a man on the ship. But aside from that, I don’t have too many details. I remember only Mom’s sharing with me that, at the time of their going out, he was at a loss for what to do with his life. Still in his early 20’s, he was considering becoming a rabbi. That, or maybe something else. He wasn’t sure.
He also told Mom a story once, and it was quite amusing. You see, when he was a child, he had surgery that resulted in his getting a glass eye, and perhaps because that acquisition began at such a young age, he ended up with more than one ocular back-up. And for some reason and at one point, he needed to use the eye that was kept at his mother’s in Ossining. So he let her know that he wished to retrieve it.
“Oh, no!” his mother responded. “That’s your Bar Mitzvah eye!”
...When Mom returned from her trip to Europe, Dad was waiting for her. And shortly after that reunion, they made plans to marry. They were living in Greenwich Village before and after their April 1950 wedding, and it was around that time that Mom ran into her “ex.”
He was in the neighborhood because he was taking classes at the New School. (Still unsure of his future; still trying to find himself.)
He also was strapped for cash.
When he asked Mom if he could borrow five dollars, she didn’t think twice. She went into her wallet, extracted the bill, and handed it to him.
And that was the last time my Mom saw Peter Falk.
She's always remembered him fondly.
July 2nd Postscript: I stand corrected. I'm not sure how the story became urban legend, but it did. I just spoke with my mother on the phone, and learned -- after 30 or so years of believing what I stated -- that I got the story wrong. Peter borrowed the $5 from her back when the two were dating. They were at a pizza place, and he was short on cash. A few days later, he dropped by the office where she worked, and he paid her back. Let the history books be written accordingly, and my apologies for getting it wrong!