I am Francesca!
I was born in Italy in 1926, in a lovely beach town called Viareggio. And I saw, first-hand, WWII.
I was not in the army, but I still got wounded. An enemy plane dropped a bomb near where I lived. And a piece of shrapnel got me in the leg. It bled a lot. And we were a long way from any help. So my friend and I wrapped up my leg as best we could. And we walked. And walked. Until we found a first-aid station for help. There were no painkillers, but they pulled the shrapnel out.
In those days, life was harder. But I think it made us stronger.I was a war bride and came to the United States when the war ended with my baby daughter and new husband. I spoke very little English. But I taught myself how to read and write and speak English.
I have four children. Three beautiful daughters – Rosella, Christina, and Deborah and one handsome son, Rudy. My son is with God now and this makes me very sad. But I feel certain that he visits me and this makes me feel calm and peaceful. And I have a beautiful daughter-in-law, Rita. And I have two granddaughters, Katie and Claire.
I was a wife and a mother. I cooked. And I cleaned. And I did laundry. And ironed. And sewed. And I took care of my kids. And I did not mind any of it! I loved it!
My husband was difficult. He had a drinking problem. And often, money was tight, but no one ever went hungry in my house! I even fed the neighborhood kids. It’s not right when children go hungry. I could stretch one whole chicken into many meals: soup, salad, meatballs! Lots of good meals from one chicken! With one egg and some flour, I could whip up fresh pasta. Add a little butter. Some salt and pepper. It’s a good meal!
I love opera! I wanted to be an opera singer! I wanted at least one of my kids to be an opera singer! But that, like so much in life, did not work out. Still, I love to listen and, in my imagination, I am on the stage. Singing!
When my husband died, I had to go to work. I was afraid to start working, but also excited! I remember my first pay check. Oh, my goodness I felt so strong! I did what I know how to do best. I cooked. I cooked in a restaurant and in a cafeteria and in a lunchroom for Lord & Taylor. And then I landed a job at Mobil Oil in the executive dining room. Not only was I cooking and preparing special foods, I was in charge of other people! And I had my own car. My little blue Pinto. I drove to work every day, no matter the weather. Even in the snow, my Pinto got me to where I needed to go! I loved working! I loved my Pinto!
I have been a daughter and a sister and a mother and a grandmother. I loved to read and could spend hours wrapped up in a book. My only vice was smoking. I smoked to escape for a little while from my difficult marriage. I smoked to feel part of something outside of myself. And I smoked because I could! It made me feel strong and defiant!
But then, you know, I got lung cancer. And I took the carton of cigarettes I had just bought and threw them out. And never smoked another cigarette again. Ever. And I survived that cancer! I got an operation and I survived! I have lived a long, long, time. And I have seen a lot. Even though I am now very old, and cannot get out of bed, I am still here! In my dreams I am young again and back in Viareggio. My beautiful hometown. Things that are happening now don’t seem as important to me as they once did. If I sometimes say things that don’t seem to make sense, you will just smile and go along with me, ok? You might be as old as me someday and you would want someone to do the same for you, I am sure. I am Francesca. I am still here.