Friday, May 11, 2018

Happy Mother's Day

My Mother on the Left and My Aunt Elena on the Right
My Children & I in the Middle 
1998 or 1999

I was very blessed to have two amazing women and mothers in my life 
after my father passed away when I was a baby.
My gentle & sweet mother Rose Patricia or Patti as everyone called her,
and her younger sister,
my dear Aunt Elena. 
My Aunt helped to raise me and lived with us until I was 10 or 11 years old 
when my mom remarried.

My mother was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio in 1916.
She was the 2nd oldest child of Italian & Sicilian Immigrants,
Benjamin & Anna Geraci.
My mother started to work at an early age in the garment district in both Cleveland, Ohio, 
then later in Los Angeles alongside her Mother Anna,
 as a sample maker.
Her sewing skills were so exquisite that it was her work that the salesmen took with them 
to department stores so that the buyers could place their orders.
She made everything from Wedding Dresses to Lingerie during the 1930's thru the mid 1950's.
And when I was in my early twenties and very slim,
I was able to fit into some of her own beautifully sewn garments.
In fact, 
on the day I was hired to teach here at Whitney in August of 1980,
I wore one of her mid-calf pencil skirts and her gorgeous tailored, satin lined jacket to the interview. 
I think it was due to the outfit and the high heels that I was hired.
Wink, wink.
When I was born 1956,
 she became a stay at home mother until I was in the 4th grade,
then she started another career as the Emery Elementary Librarian
 at the school I attended in Buena Park, Ca.
I remember that I loved knowing she was there while I was. 
The kids loved her because she made it her mission to read every book in the library
 so she could recommend good ones to each of the children she got to know.
She worked there for 22 years until she retired in 1988,
so that she could become full time nana to my son & then later a part time to my daughter.
She lead a long active life after retirement as well,
helping out at her church,
bowling with her league,
playing cards with her friends, 
and line dancing with her exercise group. 
She never looked her age and was only 4'10" tall.
Tragically she spent the last ten years of her life battling Alzheimer's Disease
which finally took her at age 92.
I miss her everyday and am always looking for signs that she is with me and close by.

She had one brother Johnny and 3 sisters,
Josephine, Elena & Stella, 
and there was only enough money for this immigrant family
 to send their oldest daughter to college,
my Auntie Jo,
who became an elementary school teacher for 40 years of her life 
while she raised 4 children of her own.

 Aunt Elena was a whole other story.
Feisty and stubborn,
 she never married,
but man oh man did she love all her 11 nieces and nephews.
She brought us treats and took us for long car rides,
took us to carnivals and to the movies,
and babysit and slept over a lot.
She loved life and fun!
She never missed a birthday or an important event or celebration in our lives.
I liked to think she loved me the most,
because she lived with us for my first 10 years.
When she left I was devastated (when my mom remarried).
She moved herself to a tiny little house in South Gate, Ca.
 where she lived most of the rest of her days.
Even though she wasn't able to go to college,
 she was probably the smartest and sassiest of all her siblings.
First she worked at her dad's grocery store in South Gate and was in charge of the produce dept.
From there she moved on to become the head secretary for the UAW,
the United Auto Workers at the GMC South Gate Plant until she retired.
And because she loved to tease,
she was the auto workers favorite gal at the Plant.
I used to love going to work with her in the summers because she had so many nice friends there
that would come to her window for help with their wages, complaints ,etc.

When she lived with us,
she and my mother created one of the most beautiful gardens in all of La Mirada, Ca.,
 a suburb of Los Angeles.
(my mother and Aunt bought the brand new home in 1960)
It was like the Huntington Gardens in the San Gabriel Valley.
They planted a huge rose garden,
palm tree garden,
cacti & succulent garden,
huge vegetable garden,
a greenhouse with staghorn ferns, fuschias and orchids,
and every fruit tree you can imagine.
In the summertime we had so much produce that we rarely had to go to the grocery store,
and a lovely swimming pool they had built right in the center of it all.
My backyard was one of dreams with so many fond memories.
My mother taught all the neighborhood children to swim there;
 we had the only pool for miles around at the time.
We had a sign that read,
"We don't swim in your toilet, so please don't pee in our pool".
Funny the things you remember the most.

And could my mother cook!
Full course meals every nite of the week.
There were no fast food restaurants around us at that time.
Everything from scratch,
just like her own mother.
Wish I'd paid way more attention.
Aunt Elena would drive home from work and mom had dinner on the table for the 3 of us.
except of course for the liver & onions amd stuffed peppers she used to prepare.
 life was not as grand after my Aunt moved away,
and my mother's new husband moved in.
But my first 10 years of  life were fabulous!

Aunt Elena continued to enjoy her life after she moved out.
She traveled a lot, 
spent tons of time with her nieces and nephews,
and socialized with friends.
She loved the independence of living on her own in her tiny little home in South Gate,
and created a lovely garden there as well.
Her Camellias & Hydrangeas were spectacular.
I did many sleepovers with her in my early teens,
and she would tell me stories about when she and her siblings were young and what life was like.
It sounds like her dad was quite the character himself,
as well as her baby sister Stella,
my only living Aunt left.
She resides in Phoenix, Arizona.  
She raised 5 children of her own in Pico Rivera,Ca.
She is recently widowed from her 2nd husband but keeps busy with bowling,
swimming, traveling to visit her children & grandchildren,   
But I don't think she'd want me to tell her age,
I Love You Aunt Stella,
and Happy Mother's Day to you too!!!!

Elena lived on her own until her mid 80's when she developed dementia,
a bit after my mom and their sister Josephine did.

My mother always had a very gentle nature 
so the transition from her home to a 24/7 care facility wasn't too bad,
but not so with the feisty Elena.
We had to practically drag her kicking and screaming from hers.
It was ugly and she was so mad at us for a long time (her nieces),
but she couldn't take care of herself or drive anymore.
The last year and a half in the sister's lives where spent together in a 24/7 home care facility
in the same bedroom where they didn't even recognize each other in Anaheim Ca.
But I think at some level they must have known 
because I went often to visit my moms and here they'd be, 
resting together (below).
This was one of the last photos taken of them in 2007
when they passed within months of each other. 
My mother was 92 years old and Aunt Elena was 88 years feisty.
My son & I visit them often at their grave sites.
Happy Mother' Day mommies.

Mom & Aunt Elena in 2007


  1. That sounds like a very wonderful and hard-working family

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you Liz, I didn't know it was going to go on forever, it just sort of came pouring out of me. I'm hoping that one day my own children will take the time to read it so they can know their where many of their own traits came from. My son is my mom and my daughter is like the feisty Elena ha ha
      Hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day. I spent it with my feisty one LOL