I grew up in a small booming steel mill town in the fifties and sixties. Beside the Foundry and Copperweld, there was the” Glass House” and that is how my hometown got its name – “Glassport.”
I grew up a city girl, I lived with my parents and younger brother in an alley behind the main street. At night, in bed, I could hear the streetcars, trucks, and cars going through town. I also heard the trains rumbling on the tracks, and sometimes, during the night, the whistle blew. The trains had a caboose back in the day, a man sat in the caboose, and he would wave to us when we waved. I fell asleep to those sounds every night.
When I turned seven years old, I got my first puppy dog, Skippy. He was all white and such a good little dog. He use to follow me to school and the nuns would make me send him back home, if I didn’t, he would have waited for me all day. I had him for a while, he was my best friend. I looked forward to going home after school, because I knew he would be there waiting for me to play with him. One day I came home and he didn’t come to greet me. My parents were sitting at the kitchen table waiting for me, they told me they had to give my dog, Skippy away because he had the mange. I was heartbroken, I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye, or hug him one more time. The grief is still inside of me and I still remember him wagging his tail when he saw me.
Hemlock Alley was a great place to live. It was filled with kids playing dodge ball, riding bikes, playing tag, mumbly peg, or the guys stood at the corner of the alley talking or “watching the girls go by”. We girls hung out at the local drugstore, having vanilla or cherry cokes, sitting in booths talking about boys, their D. A. haircuts, dances, skating, hair, and clothes. In the summertime – Glassport Swimming Pool was “thee” place. Every day, usually 6 days a week I could be found there along with mostly all the other kids that lived in town.
On Sundays all the stores were closed, it was truly a day of rest. We would go to church and either family & grandma would come for dinner at our home, or we would go to my grandmothers for dinner. It was either homemade gnocchi, ravioli, pasta, Braciola, with homemade bread. I didn’t care what it was because it was all delicious.
We didn’t have a sit down breakfast on Saturday or Sundays. Saturday we were on our own, and Sunday was always an early Italian dinner, usually around one o’clock.
It was an innocent time. Moms didn’t have to work outside the home, they made homemade meals and baked cookies. I remember my mom making homemade Eggnog. It was so delicious, made with one raw egg, milk, vanilla, and sugar, beaten with hand beaters until foamy. And - my mom made the best “eggs & toast” when I was sick. It was a 3 minute egg mixed with toast that was torn up in a bowl. Her Pastina soup would make any one better! When I was a young mom and my boys got sick, I made the same things for them, and they liked it as much as I did.
Our teenage “bad things” consisted of smoking, and the guys also liked to drink beer. We had our own “Fonz.” He use to ride on his motorcycle up to the high school every day at noon. The guys would gather around him and the girls would admire him from afar.
Most of us after high school didn’t go to college. I went to Franco’s Beauty School in Pittsburgh, graduated, and worked as a hairdresser at Yolanda’s Beauty Shop. Guys who didn’t go to college went to trade school or went to work in the steel mills.
I married at the age of 20 and had my first born at 21, and 3 more followed. My 20ty’s were “having baby” years. I had four boys between 1964 and 1971, with the two oldest being Irish Twins!
The time has gone so fast, I cannot believe I am now in my twilight years. It does not seem possible, truly, it doesn’t.
I’m not complaining, believe me when I say I am thankful I have made it this far. God willing and the creek don’t rise (as my dad would say), He will let me live to see my oldest granddaughter graduate from high school.
They call us “survivors.” They say that the day you are diagnosed, you are a survivor. I will just say that I have had cancer 3 times. The first time was in 2006, the second time in 2013 and was called a recurrence – of Triple Negative Breast Cancer, the fourth time in 2014, was called metastasized – stage 4, because it went to my right lung.
My oncologist says I am stable, not NED (no evidence of disease), but stable because I still have some spots on my right lung. I am taking oral chemo pills to hopefully keep me stable or better yet NED.
The pills I take one week on, and one week off. The week on I am fatigued and in pain, but I push on because it is better than sitting at home twiddling my thumbs. Working 3 days a week keeps me sane, and I am around people. I would not see or talk to a sole if I stayed at home. No one is around, the phone does not ring, (sometimes I wonder if people think I’m contagious) so I am very thankful for my work at the library.
I get so involved that I forget about unpleasantness, until it is time for me to get up to get a drink, or go to the rest room – (I am unsteady on my feet and walk as if I have had a little too much to drink.)
God has been so very good to me. I pray to Him and St. Jude every day. St. Jude is the saint of the hopeless or impossible. I have other saints I pray to also but not every day.
I’m thankful for the little things. You know how people try to make out dogs, dragons or cars from the clouds? I look for and make out angels. I have not only seen them in the clouds, but a lot of them here on earth.