THE LIFE STORY OF
PHILOMENA KATHERINE CURATO BROWN
Interviewed by Elizabeth Lisa Howe
April 18, 1996
Ooncetta Papparata and Cuiseppe Curato left Italy as teenagers~ arriving in this country at separate times and then meeting here as young adults~ The Curatos were to bring twelve lives into this world~ and except for Philomena~ who was born in Boston on November 9~ 1917, they were all born in Rumford~ Maine. Philomena Brown is a seventy‑eight year old woman of Italian‑American descent~ She is retired from her career as a seamstress~ but continues sewing for private customers. Philomena’s parents are deceased, as is her husband~ who died in 1959.
Philomena has four adult children~ eight grandchildren~ and nine great‑grandchildren. Philomena’s hands are never idle~ she sews, reads, attends meetings, and is remarkably busy. Although she presently enjoys good health, she has had some health problems such as recently undergoing surgery for cataracts. However~ she responds to such experiences with courage and a positive attitude which she attributes to her faith in God to help her in times of adversity.
I was born in Boston, Massachusetts on November 9, 1917. I am seventy‑eight~ My parents had twelve children and I am in the middle. My parents had half of the family in Rumford, Maine, and they moved to Boston because my father loved Boston~ We moved there and I was born~ But. all the other children were sickly so the doctor told my parents to move back to Rumford~ The health of the children was at stake, so we moved back. The rest of the children were born in Rumford) so I was the only one who was born in Boston. I don’t remember living in Boston because I was just a baby. I think we lived in the North or South End of Little Italy.
When we lived in Rumford, my father worked for the railroad. When we went through the Depression, he worked as a laborer~ digging ditches and that sort of thing. I don’t know what they call it, but he did foundations for people ‑ I guess he was a stone mason Then he went back to the railroad: he retired from the railroad. He used to test the tracks up by Smith’s Crossing. We’d see him coming up the railroad tracks, and he’d be in the driver’s seat. He’d wave to us. It was exciting for us kids at the railway station~ they had something they called a roundtable, and he used to bring us kids for a ride, and the train would go right around the roundtable. That was fun!
I had wonderful parents! They both came to America from Italy at different times My mother lost both her parents when she was just a little girl, so from a young age she had to go from family to family to work to earn a living. When she was hanging out clothes one day for the woman she worked for, she fell about two floors, and she hit her head on this rock Her skirt covered up her body and no one found her for quite a while. When they finally picked up this “garment”, my rnother was laying there. Her skull was open and her brains were all exposed and they took her to the doctor The doctors cleaned her brain ‑ I can’t believe it! They must have had wonderful doctors at that time in Italy~
Anyway, my mother had a place on her head about the size of an orange that was hard with no hair growing there where they had to operate She came out of it fine ‑ she was a wonderful mother I don’t think she ever knew her parents at all. She had a sister who was in America and her sister sent for her. And so she came to America and she met my father and they got married There was ten years difference between them. They had a wonderful relationship and they were wonderful parents! Our family didn’t have much, but I didn’t know we were poor. What they taught us was honesty and appreciation for other people’s belongings: not to touch things that didn~t belong to us. That has always stayed with me~
My mother talked about. Jesus a lot~ I got introduced to Jesus whell I was ~ust a baby ‑ a young girl~ We went to church ‑ to mass every Sunday~ We had to walk there because we had no automobile at t.hat time~ L.ater on my brother ~id get an aut.omobile~
My father always had a garden, and my mother a.lways canned food~ and we always had plenty of food. In the summertime 5 my father would bring home a barrel of apples and we went through tho~e apples like you wouldn’t believe! But my mother always saved some and put them down cellar~ In the wintert.ime when we were all s;.tt;n~ around the table doing our studyi.ng, my mother would go down In the cellar and get us each an apple~ and that apple tasted so good!
We didn’t have electricity. We had candles, and for a long ti.me we had to st.udy by candle light. Well, we had a kerosene lamp, too And we had a backhouse ‑ we di.dn’t. have a toilet until later on when I got older. Then we had a toilet put in
Where I lived, there were three houses that were one great big farm and they chopped it up into three hou~e, and we lived in the middle house. It was a small house There was one big bedroom and there were three or four beds in there and I think I shared one bed w;t.h my sister~
I also remember that my father always went‑ shoppin~ for US . He took us shopping 5 and that. was for ~hristmas, ~ast.er~ and the fi.rst da~ of school. He bought us all clothes~ from shoes to hats~ ~e all came home with a whole new outfit. to wear for the first day of school or for Faster Sunday or to wear for ~_~hristmas. I don’t know how he manaaed it with twelve children. I don’t see how he did it. Well, things didn’t cost that. much then n
I was so afraid that one of my brothers or sisters would steal my clothes that I took I took them tQ bed with me [laughing~! I dorl’t know why I worried about that. My clothes meant a lot tQ me and I didn’t want them to make a mistake and taks my ‑ whatever I had. Because we were very close together in age and so I took my clothes to bed with me rhey had stores where you could buy dresses, but my mother also sewed for us. My father would bring home a whole bolt of fahric and my mother would make ~Is all dresses Now I don’t remember this, but my mother said that I was cryin~ one day when she was sewing, and she took me up on her l.~p and I saw the needle go up and down and I put my finger ~Inder there and caught t.he needle in my finger~ Now I have a bad nail. from that and I always thought that the Lord gave me the gift of sewing because of that~ I mi~ht be wrong, but I like to think that!
My parents didn’t tal.k much about. Italy~ hll~ my mother d;d tell me about how women would come to her house and tell her ~;.)ld l~Jive’s Tales. Oh dear~ I c.an’t think of any right now! I t.hink my mother was ~J.ad t.o be in ~merlca, and she was glad t.o be out. of the country of It.aly because she didn~t have any friends there. ~nd the only relative she had was i.n ~mer.ica already ‑ her sister. I wish 1 had talked t.o my mother more when she was alive! I feel bad that I didn~t discuss things with her when she was ali.ve, hut. she did tell me the st.ory of her accident.
My mother didn~t know how to cook: my father tau~ht her how to cook. He did most of the cooking until she learned how. ~nd it. was ~uit.e .~ job to feed twelve kids. My parents spoke Ital.i.an and the children spoke Engl;sh~ My parents learned to speak ~n~lish~ but we (kids) didn~t learn to speak Xtalian~ I feel bad ahout that’ I wish that I had learned t.he Italian lan~uage and then I could say that I spoke two languages. My parents never encouraged us to speak Italian they JUst took it for grant.ed t.hat we spoke English t.o them and they understood what we said$ and when they talked Italia.n5 w~ understood what they saidY They learned to speak ~nglish pretty good’ I w.ish they had insisted that I learn to speak. Italian ‑ my oldest sist.er is the onl.y one that I think could speak Italian
I don’t remember this ‑ this epJ.sode happened before I was born. My father~s parents came to ~merica ~or a vi~^:;t. and theY took mY oldest brother .~immy hack t.o Italy for a
visit. They were supposed t.o send hirll back~ l~Ut MUS501 1 ni came into power at that time and he wouldn’t let any men leave the count.ry~ He wanted al.l the men he could for his army. My brother must have ioined the Navy becallse they said that his ship was bombed by an ~merican plan~ and he went dol‑Jn in the ocean He was married in Italy and he had three ch;.ldren~ We never saw my brother again, and my mother and father were very sad about that~ very time we got a ].ett.er from my hrother, we had to call this man who COU ld sp9a k and read Italian~ And my mother and father always cried when he read Jimmy’s lett.ers~ This man would also write letters for my parents to ~immy. Later on~ Jimmy’s wife and children ~two hoys and a girl~ came to Ameri.ca and lived i.n ~umford for a~‑Jhile~ My fat.her was so happy to see his grandchildren! Later on they moved to Massachusetts ‑ they had friends there so they wanted to live there~ They used to come back to ~umford every so often to visit US ~
I had an aunt that had ei~ht or nine chiJ.dren~ She li.ved ;n Rumford5 and my rnother t.ook care of her every t.ime she had a child. She went to her house and took care of her kids. And I remern~er when I was young and going to grammar school, I would do everything I could to help my mother~ I would clean the tahle off of dishes, wash the dishes~ sweep ~h~ floor~ and sweep the front walk~ One day I went to ~ch‑~ol. with my apron on and t.he teacher thought that was somet.hin~! She tol.d me I was a good girl to help my mother~
I remember my mother called me Philomena~ but when I went to school my teachers thought that was too diffi.cult to pronounce, so they called me Fanny and I always hated that name! ~ome of my relatives still call me Fanny ‑ they can’t. ~et used to callin~ me somethin~ else When T came to Portland to work~ my hoss changed my name to Fifi. To some people~ ess I will always be Fanny~ but some people c~ me Fifi.
I di.dn’t feel like I was poor when I was ~rowin~ up: everyone was in the same situation. I had a ~irlfriend who was poorer than I was, but. we ~ot al.on~ ~ood I never felt. different. It never hothered me that my parents were Ttali.an We had nei~ bors who were Scottish and the other ne;~hbors were Engl~ y parents got alon~ very well with them.
~ y mot.her was iJery hospitAble: every time someone f ame~ she always ~ut food in front of them~ especially if someone was pre~nant! She felt that if anybody was pregnant and they SalAJ food that they wanted and you didn’t gi~e it to them~ t.hat it would “mark” the baby~ That was one of h~r f~ld Wive’s Tales.
My mother was so hospltable. I remember when she used to ~o visiting the neighbors and I would go wit.h her~ she wou]d always brag abo~lt. me ‑ about. how much of a help I was to her~ She would say, “This is my bsst daught.er ‑ she helps me out ‑ she’s always clea.ning and doi.ng somet.hirlg around the house”. ~y sisters er~’! ‘t interested in doing that, and T just fel.t that. I had to help my mother~ I enjoyed doing it
rer!l~mher that wh~rl we had ~urldaY dinner. ‑r ma de n~ mother s.it down because she made the meal. ~nd T cLeaned the table off. I t.hink that she appreciated that because she was tired all the time! She was tired from bringin~ up al.l. of ~IS kids~
I~Jherl I graduated from High School~ I couldn’t ~et a job in the mill, so I use(i t.c~ ork for this lady who had a apartment house in town, ~nd she had rne clean apartments aft.er families moved o~lt ~ r ha~pened to be there one weekend when her sister came from Portland, and she had a millinery department in this store in Portland~ and she was l.ooki.ng for an apprentice mil.liner. She asked me to come for an inter~iew after mass on Sunday. ~o she int.erviewed me and X t.old her I l;ked to sew, and she invited me t.o come tc Portland to li.ve with her t.o bec.Qme a milliner~ I was exci.ted because I wanted a job so bad 5 and I rushed home to tell my mother Years l~tsr, my mother tc~ld me that I WAS SO excitecl t.hat she didn’t want to discoura~e my happiness so she didn~t say anything, but she said she went into the Ir.~athroorn and cried~ I was one of ~he first. ones to move out of Rumford to Portland.
My far.her used to tease me. One daY he was doing sc~me car~entry work around the house~ and I asked him what he was doing, arld he saicl he was building a box to send rne back to ~oston since I was no ~ood anyway. If I didn’t know him, :r woul.d have felt hurt~ Rut I knew he wouldn’t. dQ that~ he wasn’t that type of a person~ He was teas~n~ me: he ].oved to tease me.
I remember when I was sweeping the floor for rny father I would tell him not to move and I would sweep ar~und him ~ecause I knew he wa.s tired. ~ut my sisters wou1d s.ay~ “Mo~.~e your feet! Get. out of the way~ papa!” And he w.~ld ~et l!p and mo~e I felt sc, bad for him. I wondered how t‑hey could do that to him7 He worked so hard all day and I ne~er did t.hat to him I always swept around hi.m.
~ y parsnts had their disc~.lssions~ hut I think it was most.ly to tease her~ I remember when we went t.o ch~lrch, I wo~J.d ask him for some money and he would put his hand in his pocket and jig~le his money He wouldn’t give me ~n~ and my mother would try to ~et him to give me some to me to ~ive to ch~lrch. He would fInally give me some. But. I don~t think he really trusted my mother with money, be‑.a~lse he wouldn~t even let. her go shopplng. He did all the shopp;n~! ~ even the grocery shopping~ ~nd he always bought our clothes~ I gl~less he felt that women couldn~t handle money: that he had to do it.
We had a st.ove with an oven with a warming oven on the top where we put dishe~ to warm up. My parents cooked mostLy [t.a11an food.. We had spa~hetti every Sunday~ 5paghetti and meatballs every Sunday: that was our st.aple! She would cook ot.her st~.lff like hamburgers and fried potatoes and always cooked vegetables from the garden She~d open up 3 can of veget.ables that she had canned herself and she made bread. We used to take turns with t.he bread mak.in~ b~cause we had to
hnQad it in a great hi~ pan. When it was m~ tur n tG cio it 5 was always gLad to do it. because it was my turn~ Bllt I had one sister who would take off just ~efore it was her turn 5 and she tr;ed to avoid lt every time~
I remember that on HaJ.Ioween some of t.he men in nei~hhorhood wou.ld come t.~ each house and I woulcl hi.de hehirlci the stove I was scared to death hecause they had masks on. I don’t t.hink kids went out~ my mot.her wouldn5t let me~ .~ust. the olc!er people did it in t.hose days~ I don’t know why T think when kids ~ot older they could go out~ but not when they were lit‑tle But I rernember hidin~ hehirld that sto~e and peekir~ at the people They would do some antics ~o try to .~:care us. My mother tri.ed to ~rot.ect us
When I was a teenager babysitt.in~, my mother always appeared at the door to take me home hecause she was so afraid something would happerl to me~ She was very st~r.ict. If I went to a mo~ie~ she wo~.lld folJ.ow me to the theater 5 and when I waLked out, there she was waiting for me! I don’t think she trusted me She was afraid I~..she Was t~ery strict when we went shoppin~ and I said hi to a classrn~te~ She didn’t like t.hat. She said~ “I don’t trust yo~.l t.o talk to boys because I don’t know what you will do when yo‑l~re not with me.” And I would say~ rrl not ~onna do anything ‑ he’s just a friend. I ha~e to say hi to my friends ” She didn’t understand that. She was t,~ery strict and afra;d I was gonna ~et into trouble
T net~er had a boyfriend net/er went t.o a prom I netJer
had a date until I mo~./ed to Portl~nd~ t I lived with my bo’3~‑ ~3nd she enoouraged me to go out~ If I ~ot in~ited to a birthday party 3 c.he always helped me buy a g.ift. If lt was a wedding sh~ er or baby show~r~ she always hs1.ped me buy a ~ift. ~he helped me wrap it and she always made sure that.. I got t.o the place where she ~ot the party~ Her name was ~ad~me Gauthier and she managed t.he mil~.iner’s depart.ment at ~ilda Giguere’s ~ress Shop on Congress ~treet. I was happy there and I learned to make hats and just before I got into the designin~ of hats, I quit workin~ and I got‑ married..
I had fo~r chi.ldrer,. I met. rny husband 1n a restaurant. I was with another man. He said he fell in love with me. We got. married hecause I wa~. twenty‑four years ~J.d and all my girlfriends wsre married I was afr.aid of being an old maid, so ‑r said yes to the first. one who asked me~ I had a bad marr;age ‑ he treated me badly~ He was wonderf~l.. before we were married~ He opened doors for me and he~ ash~d m~ hair once, and said 7 “Now let me know if I’m hurt‑ing yo~.l” 8ut after we were rm3rried he washed my hai.r once and said, “Now hold your head down!” He was abusive~ ~o t.hat. was the last tirne he washed my hair~ ,4fter we l,lere married, he chan~ed his attitude ‑ he treated me hadLv~ I can’t understand why~
I thi.nk because he was older than me that he was afraid that people would ridicule him beca~lse he married a youn~ ~irl who didn’t know anythin~ ~ut I had to learn like other people have to learn~ He critici.zed everything I did ‑ my cookin~ ‑ sverYthin~ a~out. me. He W.3.$ verY critical. I
tri.ed to defend myself but. ir didn’t do any goocl made matters worse so I just took it.
l~he only t.ime that he was nice to me W.?S when he had been drinki.n~ He would bring home a fifth of whiskey and he would ~o on a binge and he drunk for three days. ~nd he would al.ways put his arms around me and tell me how muGh I~F~ loved me~ He was very sweet. But when he was sober he was really bad~ He had a funn~ way of showin~ h;5 1.ove if he really loved me But I think down deep, he probably did rea 1.1y love me
He was in business~ he had his owrl busi.ness as an electrician. He was very busy b~lt he never sent out any hills so we never ~ot any money. No money was coming in don ‘t know how he mana~ed to pay the l~ills: I don ‘t understand i t,
.4n~.AJ.?~.~s, when my yo~.ln~est ohild was fou.rteen I decided to go to work, I had been doing housewsrk. for people ~ and he ridiculed that. He said thats all I was ~ood for, to clean other people’s filth, And I thought that if that was the way he felt about it I ~d !~etter get a decent joh ~ So I went int.o towrl and I got a Job at ~orteo~ I worked there for ei~ht years and then I worked for Martha Mcl ean for eight years and I worked at Ward Brother’s for ten years~ ~Iy kids mana~ed to keep t.he home going, E3ut before I started workin~l~ when I was cleaning houses for other people, I was tired, B~lt I still kept my house clean, I was very fussy about that. But. my husband never appreoiated anything that I did
I remember when I went. to work, T picked up the ~roceries, I paid the milk man, I ~ave the kids the money they needed to buy t.heir clothes~ I don~t know how I did al. ! that I did with the little pay that I got. ~nd one night my husband met US at. the grocery store and he started putting things in the cart that I couldn’t afford and I asked him who was ~!i ng to pa~r for it~ He told me that I was going to pay for it and that he would pay me back~ But he never ~;~
He always had to have ~utter and that was just for him. ,qnd we had to have margarine. ~n~ there were six of us in the family and when you huy something that has a half a dozen, like don‑lts or cu~cakes~ he wou1.d have two ancl the chi.ldren would each have c.~ne and I WOl.l ld go without. He was
If iS~l ~
My husband always 1.iked my first daught.er becau.se he thought she looke~i like him. ~ut he thought my second dallghter~ who looked like my family, belonged ro sorne other man. But all my children belonged to him~ I would never step Ollt on him. He t.hreatened m9 that if he ever caught me with another m~n that he would kill both of us. But I don~t t.hink he would have~ ~ut I was afraid of doing anythin~ wrong.. I cc.~uldn’t bring myself to even look at another man e
I left him three ti.mes and the third time I tolcJ hirn that I would never come back. The first two times that I left. him and went to Rumford, he came to Rumford and heg~ed ms to come back He promised to be good an~ he promlsed to he c~ifferent. 5 hut he was worse: each time he was worse~ ht
th8 er~C~ ^ was ~et.t;ng ~i.ckly ~ ere~;s of th~ Liver.
I ne~ter yot~ along wit.h hls mother~ she di.dn’t. like me because I was Italian. I just sensed it. She was f~lrious every time we had another hahy. My h~.lsband was i.n the first Worlci War and he was gassed and wounded and he always blamed t.hat. on hls prob1ems. I think he was ment..ally ill: physlcalLy and mlentally ill~ t he wouldn’t admit it. He tried to choke me once and he hit me across t.he face onoe and knocked my glasses off. He forced my wedd;ng r;ng off my finger once and threw it across the room. And that.’s the only time he really physically abused me.
r~uring the second World War, my sister came t.o live with
. She worked at the Shipyard We had to live on food st~qmps at. that time~ It was kind of tough: yo~l col.lldn’t buy anythin~, b~lt I was used t.o that. T never had much anyway. I don’t know how we managed‑ it was ll1St. ~ miracle that I was abls to di.vide ~Ip this money that I earned doing housework and then I started sewin~
So my sister Esther eame to Live with me and she made good money at the Shipyard She sent money to my parent.s and t.hey got o~lt of debt. Ons ni.ght whlle Esther was staylng wit.h me, my husband’s brother’s wife oame to ~.~isit me and s~lggested that we go out to s‑l~per and to a movie~ Well, that so~lnded so good to me beoause we never went. out ~nywhere. So I asked ;f Esther wo~lld babysit and she ~id s~Jre and we jivied u.p o~.lr money an~ went to supper and t.o t he
St.rand Theater. tt was ~ery full and we had to sit up front ~n the way home, we missed o~lr b~ls and had to walk all the home ‑ frorn downtown to Brent.wood Street.
When I ~ot home t~he door was locked~ So I made a hole ir the screen and opened it t.hat way. We went in and we had a CUp of tea and a cQok;e and then ~!9 went. to bed. When I ~ot into bed, my husb~nd got. out of bed5 came around to m.~ s.ide and opened ~Ip the covers. He p~lJled me o~.lt of bed and said~ “Where the hell have you been.~” I told him and explained that we had missed the bus and had to walk home. He said, “That’s ~a I.ikely st.ory.
He looked at. my coat and there was some straw on rne nem of i.t You know how kids in a theater wlll pick at chairs well ‑ the chair I had sat. In had the straw stuffing coming out and it h~d gotten on my coat.~ He acc~l.sed me of heing in a ~arn with some mani of having sometlling to do with an~ther man~ But I said 5 ‘INo~ 0 he called up his brother anf.~ saidJ “~,ome pick up your w;fe. She got my wi.fe in trouble.” ~o her husband came after her. I think I was pregnant with my son Joe at that t.ime~ and he went in the room ~nd asked if anyQne knew that I was ~re~nant He saic! ~ “If she is pregnant, it’s not mine.” ~nd i.t was Joe~
~ y hUSballd~S brQther LOllie was glad tha~ T had gone ol.lt with his wife He saidJ “X’m gLad you an~ Hel~n.~ got t.ogether. You should get. t.ogether more often.” He was very nice~ b~t my husband was very ~Ipset~ He didn’t want me to have anY f~.ln at all. We had visitors one weekend when he wa.s
away on a fishing or hunt.ing t.rip an~ we T‑an oilr OT ~ el didn’t realize that we were going to have a cold spell atter he left Some family memhers came over and t.hey were furi.o~ls heca~lse I w~s cold. He came hom~ from his fishing trip~ furious t.hat my family wa~‑ there His daughter from his first marriage~ Barbara was thet‑e~ too~ *~lt right offi h~ ordered some coal and got $ome heat in the hr‑~lse~ ~nd everyt.hing was alri.ght~ But he was like a tyr.~nt ‑ I was afraid of him~
I left him three times A The last t.ime, he was sickly, so I waited unt.il he got back on his feet and back to work i~efore I. left him~ I t.ook t he furnit~re I needed He had t.~.lrned t.he ho~lse into a ‑ T ~on’t know. He ha~ so much stuff: books and ma~a~ines a r!d electrical appliances and newspapers all over. I couldn’t clean~ there was just ~ pat.hway t.hrough the kitchen and the living room and I just co~.lldn’t take it anymore ‑ I couldn’t clean~
I couldn’t t.ake it anymore so I just left. hi.m. Six mont.hs later~ he passed away If I had known that he was ~oIr!~ to d.i.e. .the doctors said he could live a day cr ten years ~hey jUSt didn’t know~ ~nd I just. couldn’t take any more abuse from h.im so I left him~ He had sc1er~.sis of t.he liver 5 but I didn’t think he drank t~hat mllch. I never complained about. hi~ drinkin~ becallse that. was the only time he was ~ood to me. When I went to t.he hospital to see hI.m, he was very sweet to me and told me how m~.lch he loved me. B~lt I tol~ him it was too late.
.L asked him if he w.3nted me to say a prayer one n:ignt ~nd he said no. T can~t remember what I pr~yed ‑ I wasn’t ~hristian then ~ut. that. ni~ht he passed away~ I lived ^n ~tate Street at th~t time and they called a neighbor to te~l me t.h~t my hus~and had passed away that n;ght.. I don’t. know ‑ I was questioning whether h~ went r,o hell or tQ h9aven. ~y second daughteri ~ev, said, “Yoll don’t know that. th~ prayer might have affected him or changed his attitude ~efore he died~”
I don’t. know ‑ when I married him I converted from Catholicism tc Prot~sstant ‑ Presbyterian~ r think r hurt my mother~s feelings but I explained to her t..hat I cou.ldn’t be m3rried in the Catholic church beoause I married a divorced rnan. ~s f~r as t.he Cathol;c reli~ion was concerned~ he was st.i11. m.~rried to his first wife So we were marrie~ by a .~ust.i.ce of t.he Peace. And I explained t.o my mother that there was only one Jesus Christ and He was in 0very Church! Tt didn’~. matter where you went to church: I said t.hat even before I hecame a Christian. Isn’t that amazlng~ A!m‑; rf!y mother accept.ed that~
rhere was a Baptist Church at th~ erd of our road~ I w~nted my children to be ~r~u~ht Up ~.n some ki.nd of church and have a ~ood Christian upbrin~in~, so I talked t.o t.he wom~n across t.he st.reet She said, “We’d welcome you ‑ just c~ome'” ~o each of the kic!s were baptized and J was baptized at~ the ~entral Square Baptist Church~ They made me feel welcome ~nd ~ sti.ll ~o there but my children are strewn all
o~.~er the country~ I have four children~ t..wo are borr~ a~aif~ ~hri~ti.ans and two are not~ I pray for the ones who are not~.
I didn’t real.ly have any dreams when I was younger ‑ I was just glad to ger~ a joh~ F rem~m!‑)er when I first Game to work when I got my first. paycheck I went t.o Owsn ~oore Store and ordered all kinds of linens and sent. a great. bi~ box to my mother. She was shocked when she ~ot. that. hox! ~ecause I remember when I lived at home~ all the towels and t.he sheet.s were jus.t t.hreadbare. She was so glad to ~et all t.hese new things! I was a prett.y good kid! l~lhen I went to Rumford t.o ~isit my mot.her; she saici that when she got t.hat package she j~lSt couldn’t l~eli.eve ;t~ she thought that T wa~ wonderful t.o do t.hat.
When my first. daughter Joyce wae born~ she look.ed jl.lSt like her father: she was bald like he was ancl he couJ.dn5t deny that child. He always fa~Jored her and he thought she was a good f:ook and she was. ~nd she went to school but. she quit. schoo1 bec.‑~!se c.:he wasn’t going to graduate. The school called me ln and t.oJ.d me t.hat .Joyce wasn’t getting any passing grades, and sj.nr~ she wasn’t going to gradllate, shs might~ as well quit school and ~et a job So I sa;d~ “Yes~ If t.hat’s what. you t~h.ink we should do.” I ~new ch~ wollld fee1 bad if all her c1.assmates were going to graduate ~nd she didn~t~ She was a little slow. I would try to help her wit..h her studying but she would ~et frustrated and X wo~ll.d ~et frl.lStrated 5 t.c.o, because she couldn’t. get it through her head. She couldn’t look ~Ip a WOl‑’i i.n a dictionary. She
would say, “How can 1 ~ind a woro i.n the di ~ c>n~ry lt‑ .i. don’t know how to spell it?” She fo~lnd that very diffic~ .t‑ t.o ~lo.
She wen~.. t.o w~rk at a Donut shop and she was fine as 10n~ as it was sLow~ Rut the minute they got bu5y~ she ~10 fr~.l.ctrat.ed and t.hey iust firec! her. She went t.o work at shrnan ‘s Rakery . Then she went to work for a dress factory .. But she was so fussy that she cou ld not ~et t.he wor k out as fast 3S they wo~lld have l.i ked her to do . ~nd they Le~ her ~o. Toda.y she i.s ‑ I guess she’s kind of retarcled~ She ~3ets a check from the government to live on and food stamps~
My seconc! chi1d, Beverly~ was smart in school. Her teacher kold me she was t.he salt of the earth, and that she~d ~.~e good co1.1ege mat.erial. ~ut we couldn’t. afford to send her to college. In fact, she met this man and.~ t.hey felJ. in love and got. married and she quit. high sohool. I love all of my children b~lt sh~ was jUSt. different. I eo~.lld depend on her. she was always very thoughtful~ Right now I’m li~.ing und~r h~r and she lives ovsr me an~ Ism very happy~ We get along g^od. and her husband Bill and I get along good. ~nyt.ime I nee~.~ something fixed, they’re right here fixing it. ~nd I’m ~/ery happy.
I had to sell my house in Portland ~eGa1JSe I ~ot. to the point whet‑e I co~lldn’t shovel snow ol mow my lawn anymore~ S~ my daughter suggested that I sell my hous~ ~nd move up with her. My son‑in‑law was goin~ to b~lild a two car garage ~ .sked him if he would make an apartment for me over th~
cl~ra~ arld ~ if ~ .i r~f t~l~t~ c~ 1d h~ t~ whole downst.air~. Their three kids were all married and they didn’t need such a bis house. So t.hey fixed the downstai.rs for me and Put in a kitchen. ~nd I’m very happy. It was a bet.ter idea than over t.he garage in Gase I ~et. to the point. ~here I c~n’t eJ.imh stairs.
My thi.rd chi1d was a son~ Joe. He ha~ .a wc.~nderfl.l1. sense of humol~~ He has been marl~ied twice and divorced t.wice He’s a machinist and he always said he had to ~o where the money was. ~nd he’s heen to Connectic~lt and ~ermont. and each t.ime he came back to Maine and then went to anot.her state to find work~ Now he’s in Wisconsin and he ‘$ saving money to get. back t.o Maine.
I can’t live with .Joe. I t.ried it for a while I 10~/~ hi.m but I j~lSt can ‘t live wi~th hlm~ We tried i.t for a while t~lt I told him I was sorry he had ~.o find a rent~ ~9 said~ “Okay.” He fo~lnd an apal‑tment ~nd mo~/ed ollt.~ B~lt he co~es home every summer to vi.sit and stays t.wo weeks and I don’t mlnd that. We get along pret.ty good and he takes me out to eat. He still has a good sense of humor and he still makes me Laugh a lot~ 8~1t T have to han~le him with kid gloves be~a~.lse I could get into an arg~ment very easily with him if I don’t watch it.. And I~ don’t like to live like that
~ ~r r y
~ly yo~lngest ch.ild 5 S~ISan iS a daughter and she~s
married wIth two children. One child is married~ and one is
a teenager. When my husband passed away~ she li.ved me~ and
~ y~ ~t f; 1. rl~. ~.r,~ i~J~l‑k~ .~ f1 t ~ !i.t. dep~rt.m~
×~f Day’s Jewe3.ry st.~ore r ~he met. hel‑ husband there and the~ got. married and moved to ~illinocket~ where he managed a Day’s Jewel.ry Store. When that went out of business, he got. a. job in t.he mill until.. he ret.iredY Right now they have a restaurant an~ they ~e11 Italian sandwiches and ~reen ~o~lntain (~offee and they’re doing very well~ Rut t.hey never ~ot alon~ He b~lilt her a bea~lt.it~ . heuse~ h~lt. I ~uess h~ t.re~.ted her more 1.~.ke a si~ter instead of a wife. That made her frl~str~t.ed ‑ I c~n understand why~ It was hard to visit and stay with thfm~ Th~re was a lot of argu.i.ng. I felt my dau~hter was a J..ot like her f~ther. very critical and opinionated Th.~.t h~rt~ my feelin~s a lot.. I oonfronted her one summer and told her that she was t.reating me like her father did and I wasn’t f~oing to take it any more~ ~nd she was jllst.. as sweet. as could be aft.er so I g~less it paid for me t.o ~low my t.op. I guess she can~t help ~eing t.he way shf wa~~ she has her father’s genes.
~ ut you know~ on her last visit~ she was a different person~ 5he and her husband are going to a psychiatrist and ~ f.o~ld tell that there is difference in their a~ti.tlldes They both act.ed differently ‑ they act.ed like they are ~et.tin~ along better I’m thankful for that.’
~ ft.er my hus~And passed away, I did some thi~.~gs~ I think J was t.rying t.o fincJ love .in th~ wron~ places~ I Joined the American L.egion Auxiliary ~ALA~ and the Eagles~ I sed to ~o o~.lt~ T never drank or smoke very much but. I guess
w~s l~ hi~ c!ve m~ r~ 1 fi n ~nyone to lov~ .me
After I became president of the ~L*. I: $topped go‑ng to these places beeause I started goin~ to BI.ble st~ldj.es~ ~ beoame a ~.;hrist~.~n I was going to several ~lb)..e stlld.les and r joi.ned se~eral Chr.i.stian gro~lp$ I start.s~ r~adIn~ ‑t.he ~ible and I don’t. know what happened T w~s goin~ t.o ~i.b.le st~.ldies ~nd I lGarned abol~t .Jesus and so~sthing happened t~ rr~e I think I must ha~e ~een fil.led with the Holy Spirit. hecause I stopped doing bad things: I stopped going out.~ wit.h men~ I st.opped smokin~5 I st.opped drinkin~. I just. didn’t want to do anythin~ to hurt .Jesus and I just became a different person. I guess that’s what happens when people change their atti.tude abo~.tt Jesus ~ you love Jesus so much an~ you study the Bible, and yQU aUtQmatiCal.ly ~.~e~ome a ~hristian and you.’re filled with the Holy Spir.it and that’s what happened t.o me
I can’t say I’~e had a very happy life because ‑ well. my childhood was happy but my marria~e wasn’t.~ 8ut I’m happy now~ I’m seventy‑ei~ht. years old and I’m still workin~ still sewing. And T enjoy it~ I worksd for Porteous for eight= years and my boss treated me badly. I think she was iealous because Mrs Porteous and I were very close. Mrs. Porteolls was the wife of the owner of t.!‑l~ stor~ When I worked with Ms~ Giguere, Mrs~ Porteous c.ame in the store one day and asked if some~ne oould help her put her c10thes away~ I was chosen ~nd I went~ to her home on Chadwick Street and I
ironed a.l~l. ner clothes an~ r,~,r t h~1r~ s~1 joh at Porteo~ls.
My boss i..n the alrerat.ion department at Porteous hadn’t even met me, i.~ t hefore I even got there or before she knew what kind of a persor T was, she remarked to the oth~r empJoyees that, “If Mrs.. Brown t.hinks that she’s gonna ~.~et any favors iust i~eeause she knows Mrs~ Porteou.s~ she~s ~ot a rude awakenin~ nd she didn’t even know mel ~nd she t..reated me badly al1 the while I worked there. And so I oomplained t.o her boss about her and they fired me. ~fter eight years they fired me and that broke my heart oefause I had never been fired before ln ny li.fe
$o then I went to ~artha ~acl~an C~ress Shop as a ~eamst.ress for eight years. She had a sale every January and J~lly and I was ~o busy fitting t.hat I didn’t ha~.~e t.ime to sew. 50 T hrought work home and worked all night and came ~ack tho next. day and punched in my tl.me ~n the time card~ ~nd Mr. Mac~ean c;omplained about my hours~ so they hired someone to help This girl would come to pick ~Ip clot.hes ~nd brought them home to work on. When she hrought them back, and I checked her worki I told Martha t.hat sh~ was doi.ng tGrrible work and T was afraid it would be a reflect.i.on ~n me. ~artha t.olci me not to w~rry~ and that ~f anyQne complained, she5d tell them T didn’t do it
~ fter awhilo5 I asked her for a raise and she didn’t ~peak to mo for two weeks ~he anfl her hushan~ would waJ.k right by t.he altorati..on ciepartm~nt withou.t eVf‑n ~ hello~
~.fter two weeks, she came to me and t.old ~fe I w~s gett. r~J raise~ ~ut I said~ “It’s too l.~t.e ‑ I~m l~aving~” She aske‑! m~ if I hacl another jo~, and I sai.d~ “No hut I’ll find one. She asked me to stay on for two weeks and T agreedJ b~lt those t.wo weeks were miserable I t.hink S~‑!e res.~nted the fact. that. I was leavin~ her~ She didn ‘t treat me ri~ht either beca~lse ‑ I don’t know .i really knocked myself out for her but she didn5t appreciate .7.t .
So I finally ~eft. and T worked at Ward Brother’s for ten ye~rs until they went out of b~lsiness ~nd I’m st.il1 sewing for ,~eople~ e accllmulat~ .ite a few nice ~lstomer~s and I still sew for them~ T sew every ~vailah.ls minute thati I aavs. T t.~. ke tim~ t t.~ do housework, get meals~ ~o to meetings
Oh ~et this! The other day I had to go to a ~oard Meeting of the Christlan Women’s Club, I had to go o~lt to .~unch be~a~.lse I dldn’t wan~ to come way hom~. Then 1 pickcd ~p t.wo ladies for a meeting at my ch~lrch. ~o J. w~s gone a3.3. ~‑Jay~ rhen on ~onday X bowl: I’m ths l~der of ~ BowJi.n~ Icag~ie of the Wom~n’s L.iterary l)nIon
~ o ml.lch of my life sol~nds so negative. ~it.. T chan~sd mv life around by becoming a ~hristian. T ‘m happy. I know the ord~ I visit a nursing home every Monday aft.ernoon after ~owling. T ~.Jislt a~o~lt seven or eight res.i.dents and we discuss t he Bi~1~ and I pray with t.hem and talk to ths~ I have to re~ort to t~he leader ‑ the women in char~e of ~oluntesrs~ And I’ve ~een doing this for si.x ysars. I enj~y
it ~J~ry mll~.h. . ~st as m~Jch ~t cf i. t ?S th~y ~f ~.~Y ~Y~
al.l pre~io~ls old people~ ~ome of them are l~iait..ing to die~
×rhey want te know why the L~ord .is keepin~ t.hem Ali.ve ‑ th~y ha~e no use t~ anybody~ They are interestin~ t.o talk to~ 3nd t.h~y l.ook forw~rd t.o s~siny me ~nd I look forward to seein~ th~m. I j~.~st. th.~nk they’re ~]1 ‑ I love th~m all ~nd th~y are all 1~lst. preeious~ They are all women~
I tell them I wo~ld miss them if they d.i~ an~ that Jesus is n~t ready for t.hern yet There m‑lst be somethl.rl~ the l~rd want.s them to do beff~re nhe.y die ‑ befere He t‑~skes them home.. Mayhe ~e want.s r.hem to wi.t.n~ss t.o someone i.n the hospital~ And when 3 5.3y this, ~.hey a~ree with me~
This ~ro~lr~ rh~t. I he3.ong to~ the iJ^men’s literary lJni.on. it’s the only n2n‑~:hristi.an gro‑lp that I belon~ to but I i.ike it because we have Q howlin~5 team and lim the leader of that. They have wonderf~l speakers at the m~etin~s and they do a .~ot of ~o~d. They ~.i.ve scholQrships t.o Hi~h School kids and they have Rrid~e. Se~in~5 Calligraphy~ Ar~ thin~s that you can join. For t.wo years I had charge ~f ~he l.lJnchG~nsr ~lt I really l.ike the bowl.in~.
I for~t. t~ mention Q~Oll~ somethin~ that happened when T l.ived at home in ~umford. I had one sister who alw~ys avoided helping around t.he house. So I was l~ft. to do ner jobs~ b~t I didn’t mind ~eca~lse I enjoy~d doing things ~r my mom hecause I loved her’ ~nd when I moved t.o Port~and, I~d go home to ~isit Rumford every summer. My mothsr was al.ways ~lad to see me and t.he children. ~nd now my parents are ~oth
1 .. i..~ ~ i ~ t.~ l mford ~,o v i S i t r.~ ne .~, ~c.;t, er wh~.
×..~ery close to~ bl~lt th.is other sister, ~.~ho never he1.ped aroun~ the house~ complained t.h~t I ne~er visited her. So I dld. l~lelJ. we had a miserable weekend because she threw ~Ip t.hin~s t.o me that happened when we were children.
She told me that after I got. married, if mama knew X was comin~ she wo~lld c~et ~.1 ex~it.ed. She sai.d~ “Mama wo~lld ~Jet so excited ‑ yo~ d think f~od w~s comin~” Ancl r t.h~ h~. th~t was wonderf~ b~.lt t~hat’s th~ att..it.~de my si.~ter t.ook abou~. me. She was envious beca~lse my mot.her and I had a good re1ationc.hip. ~he g~ve me a hard t;meS hut. she doe$n’t.. StQp to t.hink of how m~ch she hated ho~lsework and helping aro~lnd the ho~ e.
I 1ike to tra~e1. When I was married, I had a ~i.rlfriend who lived in ~hode Island, ~nd my h~.!sband allowed me te vi~it. her~ ~he to~k me places that ~ St enriched my ).i.fe. ~h~ to^k me to ~.he ~Janderh;.J.t. ~st~.~te~ and T ~ve seen t~h.~t t.hii.CQ. T ~O on bu~ tri~s wit.h the I~Jomen1s !.~iterary ~Jnion ‑ it~s qllite educatj.onal. I lik~ b~ls trips beca~lse I don~t. 1ike to drive in unfamiliar places. I don’t like driving so~lth ‑ like to Boston ‑ the traffic sc~.res me.
I had ~ lot of ioY in ~rin~ing up my children~ One time .70e r~n away when he was jv~t a little sh?ver. ~nd when I f~llnd him ,< X W~S S~ h.?ppy I couldn’t SCCJ1C~ him~
I~ve always been hardworkin~r I ‘Ve tr;ed to do what is ri.ght.. and f*ir. Rut. I think people have st..epped Qn me heCaUSe IA~Ve heen too good Probably. Wherever I worked,
d~ant.~ge C?7~ mlf‑~ ~ ~ t seem.S r n~?.r. a.l. ~ t r!rou,S~h my ” .i fe : ~ ~d peopl~3 who wanted to h~lrt me or be r~l.de to m. ~nd I cl~,r, ~t. underst.and why A I think I ‘m a good person . I t r i. ed to be good . I tr i ed to be a good w i f e a nd a geod rrlother A
‘I dld 9f,t a 9f?f~d comr~l.lment ~rom my sf~n th~ or her ni~ht. on the ,c?hone. He told me he was depressed and I t~old hi.m h~ ne~f‑.dfdd Je~ in his ~ife I s~id t.hat I r.n~ stt have done somf.thin~ wron~ In bringing him ~Ip, ~nd he ~3~id, ” Mom, ye~l
t hf‑ r~est mot her any boy co~.ll.d have . ” And I ‑ it rnade me el‑~ . Ma~yhf‑. I wasn ~t the l‑~f.St ‑ T fion ~t know . T tried . 1′ tried to be gQod, I t.ri~3d t~, do right h~ m~.f chi ldrer, .
After my h~lsband ~assed away J I w~nted a ho~lse of rny owr~
bef~ se payin~ renr. was i~.~s~ a waste. cf? T asked a ~ri.end of
m~’~ ne WhQ was a bui lder l~ r he cou).d !;~lild me a ho~lse So he
~.howed me a l~.?t on c:ornmonlAJea ~ th Drive and I paid for that
ho~se witho~lt any help from my kid~; . ThQ price was ri~ht
anfl I put down a ~ood down s~aYr,~ent.. The payment.s were $55
month and I o~ Jd swin~ that ~nti.l I ~ot it paic! for.
~i. nce my h~ band c:li,ed ~ T, lsarned to drive and since then
I ‘ve al.way~ had an al~tomohi ~.e ~ I always p~id for my c.ars
with the little money t.hat. ~r earn ~loin~ sew;n~. My sr.~n
,~lway~ told me that I was workln~ for peanuts~ ~lt I t~olcl
him t.hat. he was the one who didn ~t have any root.s ~ He has no home ~ he ~. always broke, and he alway3 h~s had ~ good job 4nd I thlnk t.h~t. I haaJe a~‑com~lished C~ i.te a bit with the ~eanut.~: that. I S~e earneci! Sn I don’t t.hlnk I ~Je done so ~ad!
“F.ifi” wa.s meetin~ her namesake~ Katherine Hepburn~ in the elev~tor in Portso‑ls one day. Newsp~.pers reportin~ Hepb~lrn’s visit to the c;ty confirmed the incident. to Fifi.’s more ske~pt. i ca~ .3 .
“Fifi” follnd satisfaction 1n her role as a milliner ~Inti.~ her m~rrj.a~e to B~nchar~ ~rown, an ol~er, ~ rcc~ man. Her marria~e proved t.o b~ v~ry llnhappy~ a sharp contrast to her cherished childhood. Her yo~ln~ ad~.t.hood~ t.herefore~ was her most difficu1t. life‑stage ~ecause of the emotional ab~.lses she en~re~ .i.n her marita.l rel.ationship. ~3~anchard and “Fifi” had four childrenr. f~lrt.her adding to the stress of her l if e. Ra;slng the chi.J.dren was difficult per haps t he most d i f f i c ~1 l t. U nder t..a k i n~ of her l i f e hec. ause of the ~.ack of love and s~lpport from her hushand.
Blanchard was cruel~y verbalJy abusive5 and highly critical of all her efforts. Fifl ‘s sel.f esteem s~lffered t.erribly during the~se difficult years. She recalls feel,ing so inadequate and wQrthless that she f;na.lly tried to recapture some feel inc~s of self wort.h hy cgetting a “real ” joh .
When Fifi ‘s yol.lnC~est child entered her teens5 Fifi left 13lanchard. ~he could no lon~er t.oJ.erate the emot.ional abuse or believe ;n his promises tQ change his beha~ior. ~lanchard died shol‑tly after t.hey separated. It is clear how m~lch this period affect,ed her5 a.s her fr~lstration and confusion a~o~lr the.i.r relationship rssurfaced repeatedly thro~lgho~lt. t.he i nt.erview . The damage done t,o her sense of self‑wort h was c,3reat, and her attemptS to overcome all the negative .i nf.l uence~s of his ver~al abuse ancl mistrust continues ~. in many ways, to affect her . Throughol~lt her 1ife ~ she has fo~lnd .it difficult to defend herself when critici~ed. ::t is clear5 however, that she is aware of th;s, and h~s struggled to c~ver come t hese negat i ve i mages .
~ s Fifi start.ed her “new” ].ife, she was a~le to successf u 1 1 y adapt her sew i n~C~ s k i 11 s t o her new car eer dress‑maki ng ~s she devoted herself to her career as a seamstress, she found increasing satisfaction with herse.lf and broadened her interests as she j~lined severaJ. or~ani7ations. She eventually de~eloped enough confidence in hersslf that she t.ook on leac!ership roles, serving as the Pres;dent for the ~merican L eclion ~uxillary; Women’s fait.h ~r ou pS; a nd a l~ow 1 i ng 1 eag~.e .
F i f i f ur t her d i scover ed gr ea t per so na 1 mea n i ng a n~i direction for her .life when she ~Indel went a sF~iritual t ransformation and became a “born‑again” Christian . 5he continl.les to enjoy learning ancl growi..ng as she p~lrs~les an active spiritual 1ife5 at.t..ending E~ le studies5 at.tending Gospel. conferences, att.ending ch~lrch, and fervent ].y ~I‑aying for her fami ly members ~
~ ifi feels that it is her relationship to God, and His son, Jes~ls, in partic~lar, that. h~s given her t~ack her self es~eem and sense of worth and purpc,se. Fifi places her trust in a God who she feels watches over her and takes care of ‑‑her. Her faith helps her to hand her worries o~er to her
i.‑iod. Her m.~jor concern for now i5 her failin~ eyesl~ht and some loss of hearin~. She has a dlfficul.t time hearing her past.or ‘s sermons a.nd a recent cat.aract operat.ion was unsuccessful . ~1er syesight is of uttnost import.ance to her as she continues to derive much personal satisfaction and financial independence by sewing for her ~rivate c~lstomers. She is tr~lsting Ciod to help her deal ~AJith whatever the fut.ure nnay holc!~ although i.t is clear that. the p~ ,s;b;lity of t.he l.oss of her eyesight. wi 11 be a rna jor cri~.iC for her
It is so inspiring to see how Fifi ~ives of herself. She vol~lnteers t.ime every week with her “precious old people” at a nursing home, visitlng and prayin~ with them~ anc.~ struggl.ing at. tirnes to ~ive them hope and .a reason for living when so many of t.hem fee.! so hope.l.ess and ~Ise] ess . She ls so committecl t o t.hem, and she clear 1 y c!epicted t he mutual ity of what they and she are getti..ng Ol~lt of these visits.
Fifl recently sold her home in Portland~ moving in with her da~lght.er and son‑in‑J.aw. She is hap~y to have reli n~lished the burderls of home and yard maintenance She
,c.,~ a~.~ aC~ t,a~ par~y ~.
onlY a stairway away A Yet ir, spite of her new 1 i.ving .~rr~?n~m~nts~ F.ifi r~3m*7ins a fierc~ly in~t~P~?n~l~nt woman who cont inues t.o learn and grow and give .
There may have been for Fifi ~ some conf~lslng and c.onflict.ing ident.ity iss~eS aS a t.eenager and young adult People kept wanti ng to change her name for her, and she t.olerated this imposition on her ident,ity several t..imes. Her h~lsband f~lrther eroded her self‑esteem by hIs negat.ive criticisms about whc~ she wa~; and what she did.
Fifi emerged from this diffic~l] t time with new goals and an ener~y which rest.ored her productivity and sense of meaning. She reflect.s on her life as a meani.ngf~ whole hecause c~f t.he ~,asic sense of trust in t.he world ~nd people that shs cleveJopecd as a weJ l‑Joved chiJd, beca~.lse of the i ndustr ~ O~IS r,at,.ure she possesses, her close relat.ionships with her adl.llt children ~ her ski] ] and c;om,~Qt,ency as a seamstress ancl ~usiness woman 3 and because of he! fait.h and tr~lst in ~od. ~he lives a good ];fe~ en.joyi.ng ×~r~ ~./a~ in~ the Person she is and the roles she plays
F 1 i ~ ahet h ( 1. isa ) Howe HR~ 6~4
~Response to l,.ife Story Interview Assignment )
Philomena l~.atherine Curato E~rown ls my ~ra.ndmot.her5
known to rne as “nana” What stands out t.o me most ~.fter
r ~f ~ ect 1 nt~ o n t. h i s .i nt.er v 1 ew 5 ar e not. o n l y her r e~r et.s 5 l~ut
her tri~.lmphs . l:t is diff ;C~ t to not try to im~gine how
d~.fferent her li.fe might have !~een if she had recelved the
same ~lnconditional J.ove and support. from her h~ls~and that she
had experienced as 8 chlld. That there are parts of her
whi.ch are st.ill tryi.n~ to heal. from this experienoe is
It was a polgnantly sa.d moment when she shared that
after her husband died, she freq~lented dance clubs, looking
for somGorle to love her. Her staternent5 “~nd I never dl.d
f i, nd anyone t.o lo~e me ” is etched on my heart t.he way she
looked5 her voice ‑ everythin~ about. that, momellt. Arld its
mernory ~rovokes R magnitude of sadness for ~.lnrequi.t.ed 1 ve.
~nd yet I know t.hat she has often stat.ec! t hat ~he dldn ‘t
need .another man ;.n her lif8: she needed ~o~i. And sh~ fo~lnd
!~im in quite an awe‑lnspirin~ way as the Bihlical ~.or i ptllres
j~lSt “came al ive” to her and she experienced a re].ent~J.ess
spi r itual hull~er .
The other regret t.ha.t most affectecd me was her
reaJ.izat.ion that had not asked her mother important
qllest.lc~ns~ She wishes she had spent more time with her ‑ had
kn~Jn her better. And it is here t.hat the vaJ~Ie and
importance of this l if e Story Interview ~ecomes exceeclin~,~ly clear as I reali;~e that what I have done, t.hroil~h th7Ls i nt.er~Jiew, is to clocument the llfe of my ~randmother .in he~ ow n ws~r ds .
I fe~ 1. as though thi.s has allowed me to insure that after h~r ~ieath ~ and indeed i after my own ~ ~ her llfe experience can l~e known to future generations w.ithin our family, allowj.r,~ them. . .. come to ” know” her .
For al 1 my grandmot.her ‘s accomplishment.s, what I admi.re most i n her is her falth and how it is reflected and clemonstrated through her l lfe her de.slre .::~rld c.ommltment to praV for others, to see need‑ and resporld to t hem i n practical ways ~ and her i nsat.iahle spirit.lJal hunc~er are ~ attributes whieh represent to me t.he flnest ~uali.ties in a human life~
; n some measure, the opportunity t,o