Monday, March 03, 2008

My Grandtree-Dylan Long

Oral History-Dylan Long

There are, in the world, many wise and wonderful women whose backgrounds and life stories are very interesting. I chose to interview my grandmother because she is one among very few whom I know best. I asked her about her life and what it means to her now. I thought this would be a good way to gain insight on life and love.

Where were you born?
I was born in New Haven, Connecticut on October 15th, 1923. I grew up there and have spent most of my life there until recently, when I moved here, to Santa Barbara. I did, however, spend a little bit of my life in New York.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.
My parents emigrated from Italy to America. I was born in America, the first generation. My mother died when I was seven. I became very close to my father; he was cool. Childhood was lonely. I suppose my mother’s death kind of defined the overall feeling when I was growing up.
My parents were bilingual after I was born. I am not sure why I never learned Italian from them. Maybe it was the depression, maybe they thought if I were to grow up in America, I should learn English. I’m not sure.

Do you have any hobbies?
I used to sing and play the piano. I loved to read. I read so much that they almost took me out of school. And since that didn’t happen, my eyes decided to grow glasses early on. I still love to read.

What are your significant memories?
The biggest event of my childhood was driving to New Jersey in the 1930s several times to visit relatives. Sometimes we drove in a Buick, sometimes a model T. My father was a cement contractor in business for himself until my mother died. He always did well.
You said you grew up during the depression, how did you fare?
Well, we were poor, but we weren’t starving. Everyone where I was living was poor. Some people lost their house but my family got lucky.

Did your father remarry?
Not for fifteen years. Father died in 1944, at age 50. I was 20 years old and a senior at Grace-New Haven Nursing School. I was very sad. I had a four month internship at NYC though.
When did you go back to New Haven?
I only stayed in New York for six months. When I went back, I was 21; I spent six years in the operating room, till I was 27, and later became supervisor of the OR. That was nice. I was finally at the top of my game, literally. There was a lot of opportunity to advance; so many nurses had joined the army. Housing was scarce and I had to move in with my older brother. He had a wife and two kids. This was not a happy time during my life. It wasn’t the house shrinkage that got to me, but my brother’s wife. She resented me. She resented me because I had a job and earned my own money.

Did you date often?
No, career was very important to me. In 1948, I married a hometown boy. He had a big smile and my heart thumped when I saw him. In those days, when a woman got married, her job became secondary. I resigned as supervisor and started to work part-time in the evenings. In looking back, this was a loss because I gave up the specialty career I had trained for. At that time, it did not seem a sacrifice, because that is what all women did.

Did you have kids? If so, how did they affect your life as a woman?
As a woman, I was overjoyed and over packed with joy. We had five kids. They all have a different nickname for me. The nicknames actually started when their kids tried to pronounce my name.

Wow! When did this all roll over?
It didn’t; they’re still at it. I am known as Tee-Tee, Me-Me, Grandma Treecy, Grandtree, and Grandma Te-Te. We had our first child in July of 1951. In those days it was rare to wait three years. Now you know when we were married things were not modern yet. I continued to work and hours and off shifts even when I had two children. My first born became a nurse, an RN, like me. My second daughter became an attorney. The twins came in third and my last child was ten years lounger than them. His four sisters pretty much raised him for me. Lucky, I guess. Five is big number to take on, especially when a couple is poor. The twins made the front page of the paper, they were the first twins born that year. It was January 1st, a special day.

How did this affect you as a woman?
From 1955 to 1960 my husband and I owned a restaurant. I worked in the restaurant and my family lived upstairs. About this time the twins had arrived, in 1955. As a woman, this was very difficult to keep watch on. The restaurant created lots of hard work, with a very low profit. I grew up in nice one family house, but I raised my children in an apartment.
In 1960, my husband got a job in a factory. He also got benefits. We closed the restaurant. The restaurant was a kind of “presto pasta” before its time. Life became more stable after this. I worked for the bus company as a “wellness nurse”. I took blood pressures and counseled people about their health. Another thing I did was 10 years of volunteer work at the Red Cross. Around 1970, I started working odd shifts again because my husband’s factory went on strike, and closed for 30 days. Thirty-five years went by; all our children went to college on scholarships. Three went on to graduate school. I now have seven grandchildren and they all call me by different names. This is because when they were little, they found it difficult to pronounce my name accurately. We are now in our eighties, Herby and I. We are married almost sixty years. Two years ago we moved to Santa Barbara to be closer to one of our daughters.

Thank you Grandtree. I liked your story a lot. You have led a very strong life so far. I can tell that you believe in earning what you take from life.


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