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This is my grandmother at 99.
My aunt worked with her over the last ten years to write down her memories of growing up, of meeting her husband and starting her family. In honor of her 99th birthday this week, my dad and I laid out all the stories into an epic book, which will be passed on to family members. My grandmother cheekily calls her book of memoirs My Miserable Childhood and What I Made Out of It.
Some of the stories are funny, some painful. There’s a story about spending Saturdays heading in Boston on street car with her father to shop on Salem Street in the North End. A story about how she was expected to leave school after her 14th birthday to get a factory job, and how it took her a year of standing in line every morning to finally get chosen for work. It was 1931. She wrote stories about meeting my grandfather, falling in love and the surprise of her life when she found out she had twins.
She worked in a factory, as a seamstress and alongside her husband in their show repair and tailoring business. As the oldest, she helped raise her younger brothers and sisters after her mother died and her father went back to Sicily to find another wife. She raised three of her own children, her four grandchildren and her soon to be three great grandchildren.
Reading her stories of growing up the child of immigrants during the depression, I was struck both by how much has changed and how much has yet to change.
At her 99th birthday party this past weekend, she was glamorous in all black, draped in gold necklaces and rings and bracelets. And true to form she was feisty with her staring down cameras skills as sharp as ever.
I wanted to share this publicly, in honor of a woman in my life who showed me how to be glamorous: not to slouch my shoulders, to embrace statement jewelry, to love my curls, the difference a good fit makes in one’s clothes and the power of coming together over good food. I am thankful for the perspective reading her memoir has brought into my life this week. Thankful that this legacy is continues.