Pretend I'm talking like an old lady. And hacking up a lung every so often.
I always had a feeling that things would happen in my life that would be magical. I think everyone has that feeling. I thought I would grow up to be... whatever it was I wanted to be. When I was in high school, I wanted to be a writer, a journalist. My dreams have not been fulfilled personally.
I was born in 1918. My first memory, as a young girl, was going to elementary school, not being able to speak a word of English, feeling panicky and running the whole way home. I became ashamed of my mother. She was very emotional and used to make scenes. I didn't want her to take me to school anymore.
I remember the crowded city streets, my father on the pressing iron, my mother sewing in the store, everyone playing on the streets. I don't look back on those times with loving nostalgia. The street was miserable. But I always thought that way up in the summertime, in the late afternoon, when the sun was shining and everyone was coming home, it was always a magic time for me.
Oh, our neighborhood was a mess. At the same time, it was a wonder. There was a lot of anxiety because of the hooliganism. Our parents were worried that the kids might get involved and that it might touch their lives. There were killings on the streets. We were used to seeing that. The Italians had padrones who went out to mediate the fights between the neighborhoods.
There were blacks who came to our store, left clothes. They were people who painted, did carpentry. They were craftsmen. Our parents -never had any animousity towards blacks. They- the immigrants- saw themselves as being in the same predicament - trying to make it in the city. I don't remember and racial conflict when I was younger. Later I saw it.
Today, the community is very small, five or six square blocks. There's public housing, largely black. The medical center students and young people from advertising and TV who see it as a part of chic downtown. There are a few Italian families hanging on. It began to change as my generation was growing up. People my age waned to be more like the people from other communities. They inaugurated a cotillion (laughhack) where they had the young daughters dress up, emulating 'society'. People sent their children to Catholic schools. Our parents sent us to public schools. Friends of mine would rather meet up elsewhere than bring their friends into the neighborhood. That didn't happen in my case because I went to the Hull House. I was growing up in a whole different atmosphere of pride.
I don't have any regrets. I believe- and I see signs of it today- that what we were trying to do and did not succeed in doing has left its mark on the people there. They don't take things sitting down anymore. They look back on those times with a certain amount of sadness and a certain amount of respect.
I don't dream anymore like I used to. I used to believe that in this country, we would have all we needed for the decent life. I don't see that anymore. The self interest in the individual- "I'm number one" has contaminated much of our thinking today. It's happening in the institutions as well. They seem to be acting in their own self interest.
The world doesn't seem as definable anymore. Even in this city. Things are getting more and more disoriented. I'm against bigness for its own sake. We walk down the street and we don't even look at one another. We're strangers. It's a time that's hard to figure out.
It's a world I don't know. The world of the computer and the microwave oven. I'll never have one. (laughhack) Younger people will find it easier to deal with as they grow up, but I doubt it. Big Brother is always there. I think they will become digits. I don't see myself as a digit yet, but I know I'm becoming one. I have to carry my social security number and driver's license with me all the time because I don't have any credit cards. It's un-American. Anywhere, I gotta pay cash. (laugh) You see, I'm not a digit yet.
I don't even know what the American Dream is anymore. Maybe it's picking up some peices I left behind.
Will edit this with more typing tymes later. <3