THE STORY OF THE WIFE OF THE POOR
BOY FROM IRELAND
MARY MOSKOW IT Z
JUNE 28, 1989
The person whom I chose to interview was Nora O’Leary Hogan. Nora is my grandmother on my mother’s side. She is 82 years old and was born on Jan. 2, 1907. She grew up in New York City in a poor, urban neighborhood. Her father died when she was 7, so her mother was left to raise herself and her two brothers and one sister. Her brothers are now both deceased.
She was married young to Charles Hogan, an Irish immigrant, and they had 3 boys and 1 girl. They were a very religous family and two of her sons chose the religous life as a vocation.
Nora currently resides in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. with her sister Julia and her youngest son Neil. Her husband died several years ago.
Physically her major complaint is severe arthritis in her right shoulder, which causes her much pain, limiting her abilities to do many things she used to do. Mentally she is very alert. She reads alot and is very aware of current affairs in the world. She has a great memory and remembered some events better than I.
Nora seems to be content with her life now. She is a very religous women and her faith has gotten her through some hard times. She has a good sense of humor and feels blessed with what life has given her rather than bitter about her old age. She has 7 grandchildren through her daughter and enjoys regular contact with all of them.
Her story is filled with fond, humorous memories of many happy times spent with family and friends, in a “kinder and gentler” world of years gone by.
I was the first girl born into the family on the 2nd of January, 1907.
I had two brothers that were born ahead of me, so I was my father’s favorite and he was a very sweet, gentle man, chubby and liked to laugh alot and sing and he used to sit me on his knee and teach me about Ireland. I have a sister who wasn’t born until seven years after me in 1914 and needless to say I was very jealous because I thought I was gonna lose all the love I had. He used to take me to places with him all the time and when she would cry alot I would tell my mother to send her back.
My mother was a sweet, gentle lady also born in Ireland and was just a housewife. My father was a coachman for a wealthy family and we used to go to Great Neck Long Island ‑ winter of all times when the family that he was working for was away. We were down there as caretakers and my father and I would go through the house and make sure all the windows and everything, doors, were locked and there really wasnlt that much excitement in the winter except for playing in the snow. We would move back then to N.Y. when the winter months were over and just live day to day.
We lived in an area where the families were poor ‑ we were not rich.
My father died when I was seven. He was 42. He died in a week with blood poisoning and the family wanted my mother to put us all in a home ‑ because they thought that would be the best thing but she said no she wouldn’t do that ‑ ever. While she had hands to work and feet to get there she would keep us together. It wasn’t easy for her by any manner of means ‑ she had no formal education ‑ coming here from Ireland ‑ one of 14 children. Every thing she wanted to do in Ireland like being a nurse or dressmaker, her father wouldn’t permit it, so she came here really without any formal education and she just had to take whatever work she could get. It was tough because ‑ well ‑ if you don’t have all the things you need ‑ well like shoes on your feet and umbrellas over your head ‑ you just went out and you had to make the best of what you had. She worked very hard. When she would leave us in the morning she would always say, “I’m going to work and I’m leaving you in the hands of the Blessed Mothers and the Sacred Heart and don’t do anything that I would be ashamed of you for.” We always tried to live up to that because we realized how hard it was for her and I guess one of the things I might have learned growing up was that it pays to listen and to be obedient.
When I got through I only had grade school education. I went to work for the telephone company when I was 14 because that was the only job I could get that would pay $14.00 a week unless I worked overtime ‑ which I did lots of times. When I got through working for the telephone company I worked for a law firm as a switchboard receptionist. I was there for two years and then I left and I worked for I. Miller, the shoe people, in Long Island City, running a switchboard. In the meantime, I met my husband. We went together for about seven years. I met him through my brothers.
He was also born in Ireland. In County Water Ford and he was one of 17, but there were two wives; 13 by the first wife and four by the second and which my husband was one. He was five years older than I so when I met him he was 21 and I was only 16, so we didn’t date until maybe I was about 18 or 19 and I wasn’t married until I was 23.
My oldest brother always wanted to be a fireman or policeman but he wasn’t tall enough. You had to be I think 5’8″. So he became a salesman for the Roger Peat men’s clothing. He spent many years with them and he was keeping company with a young lady who he was sure he was going to marry and all of a sudden they were not going to get married. So about five years after I was married he met a girl also from Ireland and he married her witl,lin about two months. I remember him calling me up and asking me what I was doing on Sunday. I said why? He said, would you like to go to a wedding? I said whose wedding? He said mine. I said yours? He said yeah. I said to who? We haven’t met anybody and he said to a girl ‑ her name is Catherine. I said, what did Mom say? He said she’s still not talking. She’s been shocked too. So we went to his wedding and we were very much surprised. She was a very nice girl. Very simple girl. They had two children and he moved on to become a guard in a bank.
My other brother, Frank, went on to be a sergeant in the police department. He married a very nice girl, Mary Kane. They had five children.
Both of my brothers died quite young at 63 and 62. My brother who was in the police department died of kidney failure and my other brother died of complications, I think. I don’t know what that was, several things went wrong.
My memories of my childhood overall were very conservative memories of living day‑to‑day, no real excitement in anything.
As teenagers, we always made excuses. We were great people for wanting parties and we’d have a party every Saturday and Sunday if my mother would let us. She always told us as we were growing up our friends were welcome in the home. She would rather have us bring our friends home so that she would know who we were with and where we were at different times. I think it paid off because we were all really brothers and sisters in the group. We had friends by the name of Buckleys. There were three brothers and a sister and friends by the name of Fleming, brother and sister and quite along most of them were brothers and sisters. Maybe that was one reason we never got into any real trouble. We always were watching one another.
One memory I had, which was very unselfish on my mothers part, but very disturbing to us, because we had a neighbor who had five children and she had a husband who wasn’t the very best of husbands (or fathers). This one day, she came to my mother ‑ and in those days we had gas meters. You had to put .25¢ in the meter so you’d have enough gas in the gas jet to light it and she asked my mother if she had a quarter. Unfortunately it was my mother’s last quarter but she gave it to this lady because she figured she had children and she would probably need it lit getting up at night and we were very upset. We kept saying ‑ well how about us? My mother just said you can go to bed early and get up early in the morning and do your homework in the daylight. Well that didn’t make much sense to us because we didn’t like the idea of getting up at maybe six o’clock. We had to be in school about 8:30.
There were many chores we had to do around the house before we went out if my mother was working. She sometimes had jobs as assistant to midwives and when babies were being born (in those days babies were born at home) she would go and take care of what ever young children were there until the baby was born and she would stay on until the mother was able to get up and take over. Sometimes she’d be going out at three o’clock in the morning and it made for alot of disruption. My sister, of course, being so small, meant I had to take care of her and if she cried it meant I didn’t get any sleep while my mother was helping to deliver some body elses baby.
We had nice times, they were simple times. We used to live out on the fire escape. In those days you could put a blanket out there and sleep and look up at the stars at night. That was a treat. You had to be careful though, or you would have gone down the hole.
We had neighbors that were very kind. In those days every body lived for one another. There was no such thing as a neighbor doing without something to eat. Any little thing where we could help, like there was an Italian vegetable man that used to live in our house and he was like my mother, he was very kind. Every night he would come up and he would bring up some vegetables and he’d say here Mrs. O’Leary ‑ feed your kids. These might be a little old, but cut around the spots and my mother was very glad to get them.
My mother had the greatest influence on my life. She was a hard worker. I remember cooking when I was seven. I remember ironing. I used to do all my brothers’ things. On Monday you could always tell it was going to be wash day because in those days you put the big boiler on the stove and boiled the clothes to whiten them and I hated it. I used tohate to come home from school on Monday because the house was always upside down. I might have cleaned it on Saturday and it would mean that I’d have to start cleaning it all over again on Tuesday.
She worked real hard. I don’t think we probably appreciated it as much in our youth as we did as we got older and we saw what people had to do to get through life. There was no such thing as not having clothes or having food. We used to get stamps from the Catholic church and that would entitle us to milk at what they called in those days a milk station. We could get clothes. Any time we needed anything that my mother didn’t have the money for we could go to the church and they had a collection of all kinds of things. You’d pick it out and take it home with you.
My mother always kept a nice clean house. She was a great believer in the fact that you didn’t have to be dirty while there was wate~ and soap.
The best memories I have about fun at home was when we grew older and we were able to have friends in and have parties. We always invited the lady underneath us because when we started dancing she started hitting the ceiling with the broomhandle ‑ so she came up.
We had good times and as kids I don’t think we ever thought of times being tough. We just went along. We just lived each day with whatever came. My brothers, I recall, one brother worked in a grocery store after school. The other also worked in a butchers. When we needed coal for the coal stove, he used to go around the car yard where all the kids used to go along the tracks and pick up the pieces of coal. Then you got some wood and some paper and you made a fire. When the fire went out and it was cold you went to bed.
Our neighbors were Germans and Jewish people galore. We lived in what they called tenement houses. There were five floors and there were four families; two in the front and two in the back. We had Irish and we had Italian. We didn’t have oriental people, like Chinese. We had a Chinaman across the street. Everybody’s door was open to everybody else. It was funny, you couldn’t go through the halls without Mrs. Murphy opening her door and saying, “hello Nodie” or Mr. Leonie or Mrs. Leonie doing the same thing. Most of my playmates were Jewish girls. We played regular games that all kids pay on the streets ‑ stoop ball and we’d go roller skating.
During the war years big trucks would come along and they’d have a piano on the truck and they’d have these screens and they’d put up all the songs. Everybody would start piling out of the houses and we’d all stand around the truck and sing all the songs that were played and the words of the song would be up on the screen. That was a big deal. We used to also have what they called block parties. Which was fun. We used to decorate the fire escapes with the American flag and paper streamers and balloons. If we were rich enough to buy them. They were only a penny a piece in those days.
The war affected everybody. Alot of the people had sons and daughters that went away and there was always kind of sadness be cause there was always parties for the kids that were leaving. The parties would maybe consist of nothing more than a jelly sandwich and a soda or a glass of milk. It was to honor the person that was going ‑ to bid him farewell and good luck. There were a few women whose children were killed in the war.
In those days we had horses and carriages and very few auto mobiles. The junk man had a horse and carriage and a bell. It was funny, we always knew when the warm weather was coming because when we heard the junk man come through and heard the cow bells that he had on a string ove;r his head, we used to say, “uh‑oh, here comes the junk man, it must be spring.” He’d come around and collect all the things you’d want to get rid of in your house.
One of the things that kept us all straight was religion, and as I grew older I think I appreciated it more. Because we were lucky. We had good fortune as we came up along the way. I always remember my mother going out on a cold morning and not feeling too good and she would turn around and say, “Don’t do anything that I wouldn’t do and don’t make me ashamed of you.
I think that really rang a bell with the three of us. Eventually my sister Julia went to live with an aunt. It was my father’s, brother’s wife and they had no children. So she went to live with them because my mother had put her in a day nursery and I used to pick her up after school. They hadn’t been too kind and they left her pretty much uncared for. So my aunt and uncle decided that instead of putting her in the day nursery, why wouldn’t they take her and raise her. They always lived near my mother. We always lived on the same street, just a couple of houses apart so that my mother could always see her and she could see my mother. She got so that she was so fond of them that she didn’t want to come home. We’d bring her home and she’d cry half the night for Aunt Katie and Uncle Charlie. So, they finally decided after talking it over with my mother that they would keep her and raise her. So we really didn’t know a whole lot about her growing‑up years. I mean, we were in touch with one another, but her friends and my friends were different because of our age difference.
My mother always felt very quilty about this and as she got older I think she felt more so. But, the fact that she did it for my sister for her betterment and she had a much better growing‑up years because they had no children. I remember when she got silk stockings and I was working and I was still wearing cotton. That was a big surprise to me. I felt neglected. She was making out better in the long run than I was.
I think the fact that my mother had such a tragedy in her life with the loss of my father at such a young age. Everybody kept saying “oh, don’t worry about Mary ‑ she’ll get married again. She never did. She had an offer of marriage and when my brother heard about it he said, “you’re not giving me a stepfather, if he comes in that door I’m walking out the other door.” In those days you heard great tales about stepfathers and stepmothers so that when you saw one you expected to see horns!
My mother played a large part in my life about my faith but my husband played a greater part because I think he was far more religous. He had spent two years in the seminary studying to be come a catholic priest and then his father died and his mother died the 23rd of December and he came out of the seminary because he had a sister that was younger than him and he had to go to work. He was alot smarter and he taught me alot. I felt, through the years, that I became more respectful of my religion through him then what I had gotten on my own. Like my mother would send me to church and if I knew there was a party around the corner, I’d go to the party instead of going to church. I did that one night in the pours of rain. She came knocking at the door. She knew where I went and when they opened the door, I heard her voice saying, “Is Nora here?” Oh, I’m gonna get it! This fellow came and said your mother is here. I said, so I heard. So I went out and I said, yes? and my mother said, “I thought I sent you to church?” “Weren’t you suppose to go to the mission?” So I said yeah, but it was raining so hard that I decided I wouldn’t go that far. Fred was having a party so I came around here to be with the kids. She said, “well you can get your hat and coat, you’re going home.” So I got my hat and coat and I went home.
My mother wasn’t always able to go to church because there were lots of times she had to work on a Sunday. All through her life she hoped to be able to make up for the years that she lost by not going to ~ass and I think by the way she lived her life and what she did for us kids growing up that the Lord would never hold it against her for not going to Mass. You did what you had to do and if you could make it you made it and if you couldn’t you didn’t.
I don’t think the Lord expects anymore than that from a person. As long as you’re kind to people and you don’t injure anybody, it’s your life and I think you can either live up to what you started with or do whatever you want. Today, anyway, religion is alot more open than it was in my time. You had alot of rules and regulations that you had to live by and if you didn’t, you felt very quilty. I don’t think the young people today have that feeling. As far as my spiritual existence is concerned, I think that my mother first and my husband second planted the seed of knowing where all good things come from. You have to work to get what you want, but the Lord gives you the ability to do so. You don’t get that without being given brains.
My dreams for my travels through adulthood weren’t very far fetching because I didn’t have the education to do other than what I did and I just thought what I would like would be to marry a nice man and to raise a family; which was mostly I think what young people in those days thought about. Today, everybody has a college and high school education and you have a choice. Growing up, I didn’t have that choice. But I think I struck a pot of gold and I got married and I had a wonderful family. I always felt they were my wealth and my jewels. My first baby was born about nine days before my first anniversary, Eileen, to be very much loved by her father and mother. She went on to become a nurse and she met a very nice, gentle, loving man by the name of Dr. Robert They are sharing a beautiful life. They had seven wonderful children.
My first son became a Jesuit priest and has been 34 years in the priesthood in the Philippines. This June 18th he will celebrate his silver jubilee ‑ for which makes me a very lucky lady. I’m just sorry his father isn’t here.
Then we had Patrick who grew up to be a fine young man also. He’s a Marist Brother, teaching in the Brooklyn diocese. He teaches high school.
I also have Neil, who I always say is the icing on my cake. He developed spinal meningitis when he was a seven‑month old baby and lost his hearing. He has done remarkably well. He can speak and he has made a good life for himself. Sometimes he gets a little dispondant and you can’t blame him because you don’t know all the time if people are talking about you when you look around or whether they’re laughing at you if you don’t get the conversation. He’s a wonderful son to have. He’s warm and gentle and kind and he likes people to no end.
There were stressful times with the kids. Bob, the boy who became the priest, was quite sick when he was a baby. He had a condition called “weeping excema” that lasted for about 23 months. He cried about 20 hours out of every day. That was stressful! It was day and night. My mother would come and spend a couple of weeks with me from time to time so that I could kind of get a breather. I was living, unfortunately, at a place called Baldwin, Long Island. One time I took him to the doctor for a check‑up and he asked me if I took him to the beach and I said, well we live near the water, the Sound. We do go down to the beach every weekend, sometimes late in the evening when my husband would come home. We’d go down and watch Charlie swim. The doctor told me I should move away from the salt air. Not to take him on the beach because the salt air was penetrating and it affected the skin so we moved back to Jackson Heights where I started out from and in two months he started to sort of mend.
Then, at a later time, he developed a blood infection which was pretty rugged. We couldn’t seem to stop the infections. Every time he had one lanced, one came out again somewhere else. One time he was real bad. He was about four and he couldn’t even walk when he had to get out of bed. We had to teach him to walk again. He got over that, for which I thank God, and from then on he seemed to be alright but it was kind of “nip and tuck” for awhile.
Eileen and Patrick were ok. They didn’t have any excema, neither did Neil. So they just had general measles and mumps and chicken pox, like all kids have.
Bob also had allergies to different kinds of food. He couldn’t eat anything ‑ tomatoes or spinach. Anything that had acid in it he’d swell up. He couldn’t have anything that would have egg yolk in it, but he grew out of that too.
My husband was really travelling alot at that time. For a couple of years he was cruise director on a ship, the French Line. He, many times, had to go off on cruises for 14 days at a time. My neighbors used to kid me. They’d say, everytime you move Charlie’s in Europe having a good time. You have to do all the packing. That was hard on me and I’d get all upset and he’d say, “well you knew what I had to do when you married me ‑ so don’t complain now.” So that was as far as I got with the complaint. He’d be out for 12 days and he’d be back for two days and he’d be gone for another 10 days. One year he went to work and it was just after Christmas and he called me from the office and said, “I won’t be home. I have to go out on a cruise for New Years.” Well, I almost went through the telephone! Here I was, way out in the sticks, with snow all around me, all by myself with Bobby and Eileen and I didn’t like that at all. So I called my mother and one of my brothers had been sick with the flu, but she got him out of bed and he got dressed and he took the tr~in and came out and stayed with me until Charlie came back.
He had a very interesting life for a man also without a high school education. He just had grade school and two years of seminary and learned how to speak French fluently on his own. He took a course with Dale Carnegie on public speaking. He worked on the French Line and spoke French as good as any of the Frenchmen when he was finished. He worked for them from age 18 to age 65. He did alot of travelling. I didn’t do too bad myself. As the years went by, I made trips to Europe and I went to the South Pacific for 43 days. My husband and I went out as host and hostess for a group of people who bought the package deal. They had all kind of things; cocktail parties, sightseeing, dinners and you had to go with them and make sure everything worked out well, that there were no complaints or nobody did anything that they shouldn’t have. That was the most thrilling thing I think I ever did, was that 43 days. It was just unbelievable! For me it was great because I loved clouds. The sunsets were breathtaking out on the ocean. All and all it was a very memorable 43 days. I got to Ireland another time and to England to visit brothers of my mother. I also got to the Philippines to where my son was,on two visits.
We didn’t have alot of money to start out with. We didn’t have much of anything when I first was married. My husband was making $35.00 a week. He had some money in the bank that he had saved. I had a choice of an engagement ring or a trip to Bermuda and I took the trip to Bermuda, for which I was glad I did. It was the first trip I had made. It was just like a dream. As time went along he was given promotions in his job and increases in pay and things got alot better than when we started out. Sometimes so good I was wishing I was back where I had started. Because when you have more than you really need, you have a tendancy to spend a little bit crazy. It all evened out in the long run. I never wished for anything more than to be able to pay my bills and put food on the table and if you have that much you’re still ahead of the game.
We would pay all the bills and if we had a dollar left over, we would call some of our friends and we would have a little party. They’d come and have dinner with us and we would have a dollar left to buy a bottle of gin for a couple of Tom Collins’!
In the line of work that Charlie was in there were many festivities. We had all kinds of invitations for lunches on board ship, which were fun. They had several groups that used to have about three formals a year. We went away on summer vacations with the kids. We enjoyed that. We used to go down to Rockaway. In those days it was nice down there too. Then it got kind of rough and we decided we wouldn’t go there anymore with the children and we went to Long Beach for vacations and to Stone Harbor. We didn’t have a car because the gas was expensive. We went to Stone Harbor for a month. The month of August. We would have to send all the sheets and bedding ‑ things that we would need that we couldn’t carry, ahead. It was funny, the first trip we made there without a car. We went from trolley cars to busses to the train and we just about made everything through the skin of our teeth and by the time wegot there, (they had the steamer trains and the windows would be down) when you got off the train you had this black soot all over you.
The following year we bought a second‑hand car and went down by car which was much pleasanter. We spent many good summers there for 12‑14 years. We always tried to have family vacations. We couldn’t afford anything else ‑ so we ~11 went together.
Some of my happiest times were in the growing‑up years of my children and the progress that Charlie made in his work and all the good things that came from our family; like my son’s ordination was truely one of the happiest days of my life and something that I never expected. It was a long grind. He left home at 18 and wasn’t ordained until he was 31. Now he’s celebrating his silver jubilee, which to me, is just too good to be true.
And there was Eileen’s wedding and I revelled in all of her good fortune with her good kids and each kid was a joy. It was hard to keep up with them at times though, each one a year apart. They would always want a ride on my foot. I now in my old age, have a bad shoulder, but if I’d had a bad foot, I would have blamed the kids for it. So, I had alot of happy memories all through my life. I wouldn’t trade any of them. I certainly never expected that when I started out in life I would be as lucky as I have been. Everybody should be as lucky as me.
After we were married we always went back to St. Vincent’s where we were married and dedicated our children to the good Lord who gave them to us and to guide them and watch over them and help them to do the right thing. We did that every year on the 21st of June, unless he was out of town. He and I went to Mass every single day, which certainly gave me alot more to think about then when I was just a kid and my mother would chase me from parties. He had great respect for his religion. Times weren’t always what you would like them to be. Sometimes you would get annoyed with one another for one thing or another, but he always believed in prayer and the power of prayer which I also learned to do.
I think the turning point in my life was when the children left home and I knew they had all chosen what they wanted to do in life and that I had hoped I’d done the best with the brains the good Lord gave me to make responsible people of them and to always be proud of themselves and what they would do in life. I remember my mother always saying when she would go to work, don’t do anything that I would be ashamed of or that would hurt me. I think that if the children growing up today would stop and think about their parents before they do some of the things that they do, maybe we wouldn’t have so many children blaming their parents for all their mistakes. We all tried to do and advise as we were. I think everybody looks back somewhere in their lives and figures they may have gotten some good advice from somebody that maybe was not their parents but the families don’t seem like families any more as far as I’m concerned. I keep saying this is certainly not my world. When I look back on the people that I met through my life and the people that I knew that raised children ‑ the attitude of the young person was entirely different. Today everybody thinks it’s a free country and we’ll go and do what we please, no matter how we do it. I think that’s one of the problems. Maybe they didn’t get enough encouragement from their families to bring their friends home and to let them have the good time in the home if it was going to be a home. It’s great to have a house, but if you don’t make it a home so that your kids will enjoy it and be able to be proud of what their family has accomplished, their mom and their dad in a lifetime, that you can be proud of what they have achieved. If you think that they were good parents, kind of use the pattern for your own life.
I think it’s great to have an education. I regret that I wasn’t that lucky. But then, I look again and I think I’m glad I didn’t! Because sometimes people know more than they should. In other words, they too can get into trouble with their knowledge if they don’t put it in the right direction.
We all learn from mistakes. Growing up poor was a very good experience. Because as kids you’re inclined to be freewheeling and feel that, well, this is what I want to do. But then you look at your father (mother with me), that has worked hard, and I’m sure she would have l~ked to do other things then to have to go out in snow and rain to keep a roof over our heads and put food on the table and didn’t stop to think about herself and what she needed.
So, I felt that as mine went on to do what they had chosen in life, I hoped that they would take with them the experience of not having been rich in money but rich in love and would appreciate the teachings that they got in their school and their feeling for church and for God and for their fellow man. Like I said to both Bob and Pat, this is your choice, you made it, go ahead and go with it. If you feel that you made a mistake, you can always come back and pick up on something else from there. They went where they chose to go and that satisfied them and they felt that that was what they wanted to do and they stayed with it.
I’m very greatful to them for giving me the blessings that I feel I have gotten from my life and the love I have for them and surely for my grandchildren. They’re a credit to their father and mother. I hope some day they’ll look back and think about some of the things they did and pass it on to their children.
I’m happy now with, as I said before, the results of my children and surely my grandchildren. It isn’t all fun to be 82 but it isn’t all bad either. There isn’t anything in my life that I would change. I’d still marry the same guy. I appreciate the fact that we had to struggle like crazy in the beginning but each thing we bought was money we saved, until Eileen went to work and she bought some pretty thin~s for the livin~ room and I still have them.
If I were to leave any kind of recommendation for life, I would just say ‑ be happy. Don’t worry and live your life and enjoy it. Take each day as it comes and maybe you’ll find a rain bow at the end.
This is the last word of “The Wife of the Poor Boy from Ireland”, which is what my husband used to always call himself. If I ever heard that once, I think I heard it 9,000 times in 47 1/2 years.
I think I’ve told you many things. Things I haven’t thought of in years, in fact. I might have forgotten some things, but maybe they weren’t as important as the things I remembered, because that was the making up of a life. The things that happen in between, you can’t remember them all, but I certainly had more happy and pleasant memories than I have had sad. The only thing I’m sad about is that my husband didn’t live to see the nice grandchildren that he had. He would have had alot of fun with them. And I hope they appreciate the good mom that came out of my marriage. She’s there for everybody that wants her and needs her. She’s certainly been a revelation and a joy to me. I’ve had to make many calls on her for aches and pains. Being a city girl, I never learned to
So I think that’s about the end of my existence Mary!
Nora’s story is about the events and people in her past whom she loved and admired.
She begins with her father, a gentle, happy man whose attention was important to her. She lost him at an early age, which had a great impact on the whole family.
She often refers to her mother as a strong, hardworking woman who fought to keep her family together and raise them to the best of her ability. I believe her mother played a big part in her own strength and development, as she often talked of the values her mother gave them as children.
She met her husband at a young became another important person and role model in her life. She attributes much of her spi!ritual development to him as he was a very religous man whom she‑ deeply admired and loved.
They soon had four children whom she raised with the same values and morals and ideals her mother imparted on her. She was very committed to their development as good , Christian people and was rewarded with their choicesof priest, brother, and mother of seven.
Nora now describes her life in terms of their progress in their vocations and the lives of her grandchildren.
Her life was a simple one. She never finished high school and was happy to find a wonderful husband and raise her family as best she knew how. Her fondest memories are of the times when money was sparse and one got by on very little. Yet what little you had, you shared with your neighbors and friends. She felt as time went on and her husband made more money, life became more complicated.
Nora wishes she could have had an education, yet at the same time fe~ls some people su~,er from too much know ledge and maybe lose perspective of the more important things life has to offer. She is also very disconcerted about the women’s movement and feels “it ruined everything”.
Nora is content in her life story and feels she had much to be thankful for. She would not want it to have been any other way and has no regrets. Given her social, economic, religous and educational background, I feel Nora has attained a high level of self development and insight.
It is quite evident, and was the norm in her time, that Nora lived through the successes and experiences of others and never really took the time or had the opportunities to develop~ her own self story. She was always the caregiver, from age 7 on.
In today’s soclety we have many opportunities for self development, as is the norm, and would not be content in the role women played in Nora’s era. Part of Nora’s content ment lies in the fact that she lived as she was taught and what she believed was her God given role in life, that of wife, mother and nurturer.
In reviewing her life, I can see her development through early life, middle age~, and late adulthood. In her day, these roles were clearly defined. One would marry, bear child ren, provide nurturanceto the family and “retire” into old age. The one thing that is evident here is that there was less role conflict for those who chose this route, as most did. As a woman, you clearly knew what your roles were and you really did not question that. There was no juggling of family and career and school, unless maybe you were widowed Young.
Although I could never lead this type of existence, I, in some ways, envy my grandmothers life story. I now struggle with the question of when to start a family and how I can fit that into my other roles of wife, employee, and student and how to afford it all. I think in our society today we w;ent to the other extreme with women’s lib. In demanding our equality we have created for ourselves a life of confusion, conflict and chaos. Although we deserve this equality and equal rights in our careers and achievements, we are not super beings and something must eventually suffer, unfortunately many times it’s our children.
I think we have much to learn from our mothers and grandmothers and maybe need to re‑evaluate our priorities, male and female alike. Yes career is important, but to what extent?
This interview was a positive experience for myself and my grandmother. She was suprised at what she remembered and how vivid these memories were. She also had never taken the time to look at her life in this way and remembered things she hadn’t thought of in years.
This interview provided me with the opportunity to get to know my grandmother better and things about her I never would have known. Itlalso gave me a better understanding of my family history and the values that we hold.
The most important thing I’ve learned from my grandmother is to appreciate the simple things in life, as she stated “that as mine went on to do what they had chosen in life, I hoped that they would take with them the experience of not having been rich in money but rich in love and would appreciate the teachings that they got in their schools, and their feeling for church and for God and for their fellow man.”
I always remember her talking about the happiest times as the times when life was simple and they didn’t have much. A real treat would be to have friends over for hot dogs and beer.
I would like to be more like her, to appreciate the really important things in life that really matter in the scheme of things/ and worry less of the materialistic values and expectations that society today seems to push.
Lastly, although she named this story “The wife of the poor boy from Ireland, I would like to rename it ” The Rich Life, Love and Lessons of the poor girl from NYC.”
Thank you for this valuable experience. Have a great summer!