What follows is part of my grandmother’s memories, recorded when she was in her eighties. The first four parts described life in Sicily on an almond farm and coming to America; part 4, here, has links to the first three. Parts 5, 6, and 7 (with links to the first two here at part 7) related her going to work, meeting a World War I soldier, waiting for him as he served in Russia during the war, and, after his return, their marriage, which was quickly followed by the death of her youngest sister. In part 8, she tells of their early married life and her first pregnancy. (Her spelling, capitalization, and sentences; I split the narrative into paragraphs.)
Well, time passed and the babies came. Mary D was first, she got Eluisa. Almost 2 months later, I had baby Gloria Costanza. She was born at home. Dr. came about 11 p.m. with his nurse; they don’t do that anymore. Baby came just before midnite. Everything was fine, and we were very happy, and time goes bye. Vincent and Silvia C. opened up a tailor shop on Warren Ave. and business was very good. We added a few pieces of furniture, a sofa, a crib, a high chair. Had lots of baby clothes from [a] shower. 1 month later, Sally had Sophie.
Well, our happiness was short lived. Baby Gloria was fine. At 6 months she was laughing, played with her rattle, sat in high chair. When I fed her beginning at about 9 months old, she wouldn’t eat. Couldn’t sit up straight in her chair. She wouldn’t grab at the rattle. Did nothing but sleep.
We of course knew there was something wrong. So to the Dr. we went. He didn’t know what was the matter. Another Dr., same thing. Meantime, she was getting weaker and weaker, so they told us to take her to a children hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich. After waiting almost all day, they told us she had Rickets, a rare disease that there is no cure. They rarely live to be 2 years old, so don’t waste your money.
But we didn’t give up. Every time we heard of a quack who supposedly cured someone we would take her there. A lady told us of an Italian healer who cured her humpedback daughter. After a few treatments, her back got rod straight like normal. She was so greatful because all the docters she went to told her she would never get better. Of course we went to him. My baby was so small we had to carry her on a pillow.
This man had a tiny office in his own home and it was full of people, everybody talk to everybody. They were saying how good he was. “He helped me,” that’s all we heard. After hrs of waiting was our turn. Went to this room, he had a big desk, a chair for himself. I had to stand. He never asked me a thing, what the matter was. Nothing. He undressed her, everything off, took her by the legs, and held her upside down, all the time whispering some darn thing. Couldn’t make out what he was saying. It lasted about 10 min. Then he said, “Dress her and take her home. She’s going to be alright. Bring her back next week.” I think it was $5.00, which was a lot of money at that time, but when we got home and I told Vincent what he did, while I was crying my eyes out, he agreed with me not to go back.
About two weeks later, we heard of a faith healer who goes to patient’s houses and heals them thru prayer. I fell for that, so we told this party to send him to us. He was the nicest, the gentlest man I had ever met. He just knelt by the crib and repeating all kind of prayers and making the sign of the cross on her forehead. I sat there and prayd with him. The baby fell asleep. He said, “She is going to be fine. I will come back tomorrow.” I was very happy to hear it. He didn’t want any money. He said, “You pay me when she is well. Whatever you want to pay me will be fine.”
That nite I dreamed that I walked in a flower shop. The lady asked me what I wanted. I said I wanted to buy a flower. “What kind of flower?” she said, “a rose carnation?” “No,” I said, “let me look around to decide.” I did look and there in a glass case on the wall was a tiny white casket with a tiny baby in it. “That’s the flower I want to buy,” I told her. “How much is it?” “Oh! That flower is not for sale,” she said. “No one can buy that flower.” I remember pleading with her, “Please sell it to me. Please!” All I could hear was “No! No! No! Not for sale,” until I woke up middle of the nite.
I look in the crib and knew that my baby was dead. I sat there and was rocking that crib back and forth till early morning, when Vincent came in. He said, “Why didn’t you wake me up?” “I never thought of it,” I said.
That afternoon the faith healer came. When we told him she was dead, he didn’t believe it till he saw her. “No! That can’t be!” he said. “I had very good thoughts about this case!” We wanted to pay him but he wouldn’t take a nickel. He looked very sad when he left.
Well the D’s across the st. told us about a friend of theirs that opened up a funeral home a few months ago. So we got him to take care of it. Laid out at home was the thing in those days, so he came and got her and brought her back next day. Guess where? In that beautiful little white casket I saw in the flower shop’s glass case. She had on her christening dress I gave them and a white flower in her little folded hands, a little silver plaque that said “Our darling,” just like in the window. We still have that plaque and a few strands of her golden hair. These are heartbreaking memories, but God only knows why.
Words © 2011 AtHome Pilgrim.
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