Transcript of interview with Mary Pagliuca from “In Their Own Words” Post.
“With the help of elderly volunteers, Mary Pagliuca cooked meals for hundreds of elders who missed their traditional dishes. When she died in 1990, the elders hung a commemorative plaque over the kitchen door in her honor.”
— Anthony V. Riccio
“Sharing the Shoes”
“In Italy I had seven brothers and seven sisters in my family. My father was a representative and he was always at city hall, my mother took care of all the children. My father was a big shot—he never worked on the farm. On the farm I used to carry the stuff, almost three hundred pounds on my head. What do you think, on my shoulders? I was a slave because my mother had too many kids. I raised pigs, goats, chickens, sheep—everything, I took them grazing. You had to make milk, cheese, if not, what were you gonna eat on the farm? We had four cows and I made milk and cheese, if you saw how much cheese I made in Italy, oooh, out of this world!
We had a lot of food on the table—milk, bread, once in a while kill a chicken, make chicken soup, once in a while kill the rabbits, make it with the macaroni. But not every day eat a meat, once a week. I ate beans and macaroni every day. My mother made fried eggs, make a big frittata (omelette) with onions, peppers, and cheese, and give a piece each to the children. Sometimes scarola (escarole) with beans. She got a fourteen a people, what are you gonna do? And no shoes, no zoccole, (sandals), I only had one pair of shoes for two sisters, every two girls had a pair of shoes.
To go to church on Sunday my sister came back and gave me her shoes so I could go to church, go to Mass. And when I got back, I’d take them off, clean up the shoes and put them away. I couldn’t use them on the farm because I only had one pair of shoes. My father couldn’t support all the people, we had to work on the farm. To eat, not for a good time. If my sister didn’t come back, I couldn’t go to church. Lots of times I’d miss my Mass because my sister would start talking with her girlfriends, she no come a home early and I couldn’t go to church because the Mass was already done. I’m a cry like a baby and my mother she say, “What are you cry for?” I want to go to church! “Vai (go) next Sunday, no worry about it, the priest a no give a you a piece of bread, what a you cry for? You cry because you lost a piece of bread? You go next Sunday!”