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Welcome!

For the past year, our Life Story Club has met every Friday to share stories in community. Now, we're delighted to share a few of these stories with you! Some are funny, others painful, each are memorable, all are true. They are some of the countless small moments that make up our lives. We offer them to you, with love. Thank you for listening!

The Man on the Horse

Ragaa M.

My name is Ragaa. I was born in Egypt, Cairo. My mom came from a French background, but she was born in Egypt. My dad was Egyptian. 

Every year during the school vacation, the summer, we have three months, my father would go and rent a chalet on the water for us, and then go back to Egypt and leave me and my sister and my brother, or my sister and my brother and me, and mommy in Alexandria. And he would come back on his vacation, which is the last month of ours, and he would be with us, until we go back all together to Cairo. 

I had two swimming costumes, so I was very happy to go every day with the family to the beach. My father was not minding that, and my family, we all together go always in the water without so many thoughts or anything. 

But when I got married, I asked my husband, “I have two swimming costumes, what do I do with them?” 

He said, “Take them with you, because the girls have swimming pools in the school. It’s an English school, and you can go with the girls. My two sisters will be able to have you.” 

I said, “Oh, great, wonderful.” But none of that happened. 

I went to the Sudan and they never asked me to go with them. And I was very angry that I wasn’t able to go with them. But they came to ask me if they can borrow my swimming costumes, so that they can go. Although I felt shy and I couldn’t say no. 

I said, “Why not?” I gave them the swimming costumes. They went and they did whatever they did, and they came back and they washed them and put them on the line in the backyard.

So my father-in-law was walking and he came across them on the line in the backyard. He asked them, “What are these?” 

They said, “They belong to Ragaa.” 

He came to me in the room. He always wanted his respect, so he came and stood next to me and he said, “George is talking: stand up!”

So out of respect, I stood up. Ok. He said, “What are these things on the line?” 

I said, “What things?” 

He said, “These two things,” and he pointed with his cane at the line. 

I said, “Oh, these are my swimming costumes.” 

“What are they doing here?” 

I said, “I was cleaning the closet and I found them dusty, so I said I’ll wash them and put them on the line to dry.” I did not get his two daughters involved, so they will not be in trouble.

So he said, “Oh, did you have this to wear? What are these exactly? Who do they belong to?” 

I said, “This is when you go to swim, it’s called swimming costumes. You wear them and go in the water.” 

He said, “You wore these two rags?!” 

And I said, “Yes!”

He said, “Where?” 

I said, “To swim.” 

He said, “And the whole beach looked at you?” 

I said, “No, not the whole beach. We used to go from eight o’clock to ten o’clock, because from eight to ten the beach is left for women and girls only, females. And then after ten o’clock everybody can swim.” 

He said, “And who made this rule?” 

I said, “The government got a guy on a horse, and he told the whole beach going back and forth: ‘No man is to walk on the beach until these females go out.’”

He said, “Oh my God.” 

I said, “What?” 

He said, “You want to tell me that the man on the horse saw you wearing this thing???” 

I said, “Yes, well, I don’t know.” 

He said, “If I ever knew that before you got married, I’ll never ever let my son marry you!” 

How could his son marry somebody who wore these rags on the beach and the whole beach saw me – no not the whole beach, just the man on the horse, that is enough! Hahaha!  

Here you have all the freedom, all the freedom, you do what you want and nobody tells you anything. 

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Two Minutes

Anne S.

Hi, I’m Anne, and I’m from Guyana originally, but I’ve been living in the United States for the past 39 years. So here I am, telling you about my little story that I have. 

I came to this country by myself, and then I did a sponsoring job, and I brought my husband and my children back. So we’re all over here now. 

But my son – that was a very bad experience for me – my son, when we came over here, he worked it out very hard. They all did, they all went to college, and they worked. But then, two years ago, he complained for chest pain. He was driving home, and he just feels sick that he had a little chest pain again. He said it was a different kind of pain. So instead of coming home, he drove himself to the hospital. When he got there, right away, they had to take him down and give him the open heart surgery. Then he came back home. Everything was good, thank God. 

Then last year, a year and a half now, he was home. We were getting dressed to go to my sister’s wedding anniversary, her 60th wedding anniversary. And we were getting ready to go there. And then all of a sudden, he said he doesn’t feel right. And I hear his wife telling him, “Don’t worry, just put your shirt on and we’ll go.” 

So I said, “Where are you guys going?” 

And then she said, “Oh I’m going to the hospital with him.” 

I said, “What happened?” 

She said, “Nothing.” 

So I said, “OK, I’m coming.”

So by the time they run down the stairs, I put on my dress and I ran down. As I ran down the stairs, I saw them pulling out and driving away. And I keep waving my hand, but nobody would take me on. So I called my grandson. I said, “Come on, let’s go!” The two of us take a taxi and we went over to the hospital. 

Oh yes, I was very angry with her. I was crying all the way in the taxi going to the hospital, and I’m saying, “Why couldn’t she just wait for us? Why couldn’t she just wait for a second”

When I got there, he was lying on the stretcher already. And the doctor says, “Oh, you can’t come in to see him.” 

I said, “But I’m his mother, I want to know what’s going on!” 

Then he said, they have an emergency, he has to go right away into surgery. Then I break down. I start crying, because I didn’t know what was what. His wife went to park the car. So by the time she came back, he was already gone. 

So we sit, the two of us went up and we sit down with his son. We sit in the waiting room and I’m crying, she’s crying. And anyway we start praying and his son was crying too. We’re praying. 

Then the doctor came out and he said “Everything went well. He had seven bypasses.” And then he said, “Thank you guys for bringing him so fast in, because in two or three minutes, if he had stayed away, he would have passed away.”

And I break down some more, at what I’d done. Because I was very upset with my daughter-in-law too; I didn’t tell her at that time but in my heart I was. Because I said, “She could have waited that minute more. Just let me come down the stairs to go in the car.”

But then when the doctor told me that, then I realized that minute could have taken my son’s life away. God knows best, you know? I’m very thankful to her for that. I am obligated to her for the rest of my life for that, as a matter of fact.

So I turned around to her and I said, “Thank you very much for doing that. I am not mad anymore, but I’m so thankful that I don’t even have enough thanks to tell you.” 

So that was my dilemma, the biggest dilemma in my life. I never want anyone to go through that. It was hard. But right now he’s doing good! He’s back on his toes and working and living a normal life again. He’s just had a new baby too! So they’re doing good, thank God. 

That was my little story. Thank you guys for listening. 

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THE RING

Lena P.

I’m Lena. My story is, I was a teenager, I walked from West 4th Street to 132nd Street and Lennox Avenue with my boyfriend. I didn’t get tired. We stopped on the way, looking in the windows on Fifth Avenue, and then we kept on walking.

But then one store we stopped and I said, “Oh, that’s nice!”

So he said to me, “Oh, you like that?”

I don’t even know what I said was nice. He said, “You could get anything you want.”

I said, “No, I don’t want nothing.” That’s because my mother raised me: ‘Don’t be taking things from men, you don’t know what they’re up to or whatever.’ He was really a new boyfriend, not somebody I knew a long time. And I didn’t want to say “I want something” because I didn’t know how he was going to take it.

So he was a good friend to my brother. And we went uptown. And then he said, “You all walked all the way from 4th Street up here? You’re not tired?”

We said, “No, we’re not tired.”

So he said, “I asked your sister what she wanted, when she was looking in the window, if she wanted anything, and she didn’t want anything.”

I said, “‘She didn’t want nothing?’ You had no money to buy anything!”

He said, “Yes I did. I had $600 in my pocket.”

I said, “Well, too late for that now. Keep your $600.”

And we went on and had a little fun uptown. And we came back home on the subway and that was it. But I often think about that. I said, “This man had all this money in his pocket: $600! And he asked me what I want and I didn’t get nothing! You are crazy, Lena.” That always stuck in my mind.

Then he came one Sunday when I was coming from church. He came to the house at dinner time. So we sat down.

I said, “Sit down and eat.”

So he said, “OK.” 

So what happened was, I already had cooked that morning before I went to church, because I was cooking since I was ten years old. My mother made me cook. That Sunday I had prepared a Sunday meal before I went to church. And so he sat down and he said to my mother, “Thank you very much for this, it’s very nice.”

She said, “Don’t thank me. Thank Lena.”

He said, “Thank Lena?! What for? What am I going to thank her for?”

She said, “Because Lena prepared our meal today. This was her Sunday to cook.”

He said, “Lena ain’t cooking no meal. She can’t cook.” That’s what my husband said. He said, “She can’t cook. She ain’t cook nothing. She doesn’t know how to cook.”

My mother said, “Oh, yes, she can cook! She cooked since she was ten years old. And I didn’t teach her how to cook. She just went to the store and started cooking.”

And then after that went to the movies. And then he wanted to go someplace, and I told him, “No, I’m not going there. We’re going to the movie. So he grabbed me by my hand. I said, “We said we’d go to the movie, and that’s where we going.”

Make a long story short, he said, “OH COME OVER HERE.” Just like that.

I said, “What do you mean, grabbing me like that?!”

He said, “I don’t care if you don’t want to go. You’re going to be my wife.”

And I said, “Did I tell you I’m going to be your wife?”

He said, “No, but you’re going to be my wife.”

And sure enough, I was his wife. It was something about him that… I don’t know how to say this really, but it’s something about him that I really had loved.

A couple of months later, he gave me an engagement ring. I said “Engagement ring! Wow! He gave me an engagement ring!” So I hid it from my mother. I didn’t tell my mother. I hid it.

And I think it was a couple of weeks later, it was my birthday, so she said, “Well, what did he give you for your birthday?”

I said, “He gave me a ring.”

So she said, “A ring? That ring is an engagement ring. That’s not a birthday present.” Just like that.

I said, “Well, the birthday present is going to come later.”

She said, “That’s an engagement ring.”

I said, “Yes. I know.” I said, “I didn’t know how you’d take. You’re probably going to be beat me.” Because my mother didn’t spare the rod on me at all, because I was the only girl. I got more beatings than my brothers did. She wanted me to be a nice woman when I grew up, that’s what I got old enough to realize. That’s why she would beat me more than she did the boys.

My mother had remarried. My stepfather said, “I don’t know what no boy give a girl a ring, and ain’t coming to ask for a girl. What he mean giving you a ring and didn’t ask for you?”

I said, “Well, I don’t know.” Like I say, I was young. I didn’t know what’s going on with no engagement, what men had to do or whatever. But my mother and my stepfather, they were from the old school. That’s how they was brought up, that they had to ask for the woman and all that kind of stuff. I didn’t know about that.

So that died down, it went on and on. We made a date for the wedding and that was that. 

When I got the ring, I was 17 years old. My mother was very strict with me. Very strict. I was almost 18, I mean, 19 when I got married, though. I was very young and crazy. Didn’t know nothing about life, or men, or nothing like that.

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DEPARTURE

Rita W.

Well, my name is Rita, and I don’t mind giving my age. I’m 90 years old, so I’m not very good at talking, but I will share my story if anyone wants to hear it. 

My father always worked in New York in those days, as all the other men from this town I grew up in, Conception Harbour. The men would come to New York and work, and they would go home Christmas time. And they all had wives in Conception Harbour, the town I come from, and they would go home for Christmas. So mostly all the people in Conception Harbour that I grew up with, they were all born in September because their husbands all came on Christmas time! 

But my mother had died. She had cancer of the stomach, and she had a tube in her stomach. And my older sister was taking care of her and feeding her through a tube in the stomach until she died. And my older sister got married. And of course, she was only a couple of years older than I was, she was only 18 or 19, and she stayed in Conception Harbor with her husband, and my father sent my older brother home.

My older brother was in Brooklyn also. And they all did ironwork. They put up all the buildings in New York in those days. My brother had bought a house, a two-family house, and he lived upstairs; he was married with a wife and three kids. And my father lived downstairs and my father took me and my two sisters back from Conception Harbor to live with him. 

I think I was about 16 or 17 at the time, so not able to support myself. So naturally you did what your father told you to do. And my older brother flew to Conception Harbor to bring us back. When I left home, which was Newfoundland and is now a part of Canada, that was back in 1951.

My two younger sisters, one was 13 and one was 10, and I came to Brooklyn. And we came from that place in Conception Harbour and we had to go to Gander to get a BOAC plane to fly to Brooklyn. And when we got to Gander, it was 3:00 in the morning and the plane wasn’t due in until about 5:00am.

But when it did come in, there was a BOAC that came in from Europe. You know, in 1951, all the planes would come down in Gander to refuel. And a plane came in to refuel, which was not the one we were scheduled to leave on. It just came in to refuel. And the attendant at BOAC asked my brother if we would like to go on that plane – it had four vacant seats. And he said yes, even though we had to separate, we weren’t sitting together. 

They sat me in a seat with another lady. And I felt comfortable on the plane, my very first time on a plane. How old was I, 16? I think I was 16 or 17, and I was tired. It was 4:00 in the morning and I felt kind of tired and sleepy, and I was dozing off to sleep, on and off. 

And each time I woke up, the light was blinking on the plane’s wing, and I thought it was a light on the ground. And I said, “When are we going to leave?” I had no recollection of ever flying, moving from the airport. I thought we were still on the ground, and I would doze off to sleep again. And each time I would wake up, I would see this light at the end of the wing. And I thought, ‘My God, when are we ever going to get to New York?’ 

And I sat comfortably with this lady. She was a lady from Paris. She was from France. And I saw the light on the end of the plane, and I still thought we were on the ground. 

And I asked her, “When are we going to take off? We’re still on the ground.”  

And she said: “Oh, no, we’re going to land. That was not a light on the ground, that was a light on the wing of the plane!” 

I had no recollection of any movement at all. I never knew the plane went up in the air. And when it landed on the ground, I had no feeling. I had no problem with my ears or anything, no trouble whatsoever. Since then, when I fly, I do sometimes have trouble with my ears, but I didn’t that one first flight, I never had any trouble with my ears.   

That’s my story for today.

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HOW WE MET

Margarita M.

My name is Margarita and I was born in Argentina. I came to the United States June 13th of 1967. That day I met my husband, my future husband. 

We are third cousins. His parents had come to Argentina to visit my grandmother, and my husband’s – my future husband’s – brother was getting married. So my in-laws invited me to come to the United States. And since I was going to school to be an English professor or teacher, whatever, I decided it was a good opportunity for me. So, I came. 

And when I got here, I guess my mother-in-law had told my future husband that this young woman from Argentina was coming to visit. He no longer lived with his parents. He had a bachelor’s apartment in Queens, and they lived in Roslyn. She said he should take her out or something. 

So he thought that, for some reason, I would look like his aunt, and his aunt was a big fat lady. Anyway, when I got there that night, my mother-in-law, the first night that I was in Roslyn, my mother-in-law had invited my future sister-in-law and my husband. So I dressed up. I mean in Argentina, you had all your clothes made, so you looked in Vogue magazine and you copied the stuff. So I dressed up very nicely, not like a party, just a nice skirt and top. And I was thin and kind of tallish. 

When I came in and he saw me – oh, he had made arrangements with his friends, especially one, to take me out – so when he saw me, he decided that I didn’t look like his aunt. Anyway, I went out with his friend, and his aunt who lived with them told me that he was miserable that day. And he never let me go out with anyone else! 

That’s how we met, the first night that I came to the United States. And it was funny because he would take me to Chinatown and have dinner for $6, $7. He thought, “Well, this little Argentinian, she must think that a $7 dinner is really impressive.”

And anyway, after three months, we got married. After four weeks, I called my parents in Argentina to tell them that I was getting married. I think my mother aged 30 years that day, because I’m an only child, and they were Holocaust survivors. And then at that time, they didn’t have the means to come and go, to come and go whenever they wanted. My grandmother was still alive, so they couldn’t leave her. 

That’s the story of my marriage. Well, now we are married 57 years, it’s going to be. And that’s the story of how I became Margarita M. 

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ONLY ONE TELEVISION

MIRTA S.

This is Mirta. When I was growing up, my mother used to say, “Oh, you’re like the tiger, you little girl.” 

Mother only had one television. And my brother and I, he was two years younger than me, he used to watch cowboys and boys, and I used to like to watch other things, you know, that had to do with girls.

She would tell him, “You have the television in the morning and your sister has it after the cowboy shows are over.” 

And one day, to me was past time. And I said, “Mom, it’s my time, and he’s still watching cowboys and Indians!” 

And mom said, “Relax, little girl, just let him finish, ok?” 

And I got so angry, and I feel so bad when I think about it now. We were living in a railroad apartment. You know what a railroad apartment is? Yeah. So I went running from the kitchen, through the living room, jumped on him and started beating him up! 

My mother had to run and say, “Girl, what are you doing?!” 

My brother was trying to protect himself from me, because I was a strong little girl and he didn’t want to hit me back. And she had to pull me away from my brother because of the one television that we had. 

Today we’re spoiled. Everybody has a television in every room, huh? I have one in my room, I have one in my bedroom and I have one in the little room that I have. And my daughter has one, two – she has also three. So we don’t fight about “I want to watch this and I want to watch that.”

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Miss Prim

Carole B.

Hi, my name is Carole. I was in the hospital, and delivered my second child, my second little girl. And my first child, Lisa, came to the hospital – she was almost four – with her dad, you know for that visiting day you have. 

I was in a nightgown and a robe. And my daughter looked at me and said, “Mommy, you have your pajamas on and everybody’s looking at you!! Why are you walking around with your pajamas on in front of all these people?! Mommy!?!” 

Never mind that – she didn’t even like the little girl! She wanted the little boy that had all this nice black hair. She said, “Can we take this one?” As if she was shopping for a turkey in Key Food, you know, in the glass window! Haha! She didn’t like the little girl that we had to bring home, she wanted the little boy with the nice black hair. She thought this was cash and carry, you know.

She was Miss Prim, Miss Little Prim. And you know what, she’s still so prim! Oh my God, if I walked around in a robe that might be open down the front, oh my God! They would come with the safety pin, haha! They were like nine and and five. “Where’s the safety pin, Ma, you need the safety pin for your robe!” Haha! They were very prim and proper.

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The White Coat

Ragaa M.

My name is Ragaa. I grew up in Egypt. My mother came from background of French, but she did never go to Paris. My dad was Egyptian, and I was born in Egypt, Cairo, Heliopolis. 

I was the first baby to come in the family, because my mother was the first to get married in her family and my dad was the first to get married in his family. They used to wake me up to play with me because they didn’t have any dolls or anything to play with. So everybody wants to wake me up to feed me, or to do something to me, or to play with me, or to hear my voice crying or singing or whatever, however. 

Today, I will tell you a little bit about what my father wished for me. My father always called me Dr. Ragaa, and he wanted me to go to medical school. He wanted me to be a doctor, to see me in a white coat. I succeeded and I passed in the high school, but I didn’t get the right figures, the right numbers, to get into medical school. So he was very happy.

He said, “OK, I will put you in Social Workers Institute because it’s only girls. You will not have to be with boys or anything. So that way, I will have my way.” 

Ok, all right. So I went to Social Workers Institute and I was very good and I passed and I finished and graduated and everything. 

And then when I got married, I went to England and I worked as a social worker at the Westminster Hospital in London. And there we have to wear white coats.

My father came to visit me in England, and one day he asked me, “Will I be able to come to the hospital to see you?” 

I said, “Yes, why not?” And I remembered the white coat story, but I didn’t tell him anything. 

He came to my office. I had two secretaries, one was typing for me. So I never knew how to type. So they were responsible to put all the cases in the folders because the doctors cannot read the handwriting of everybody.

So my father came and he saw me wearing a white coat and have the badge on the front of my coat: “Medical Social Worker. MEDICAL Social Worker!” He kept reading it silently. 

I said, “Dad, what are you doing?” 

“Oh, I saw you in a white coat, I’m so happy!”

This is the end of my story. I didn’t fulfill his dream, but when he saw me at the Westminster Hospital – that’s a name to be proud of in England – he never thought! You know, I didn’t speak the language perfectly. In Egypt we only speak a little English, more French and Arabic. But I was good to take a position at this big teaching hospital, I was the only foreigner amongst 17 social workers. 

And all the bosses, all the doctors said, “Call Ragaa ask her about this. Call Ragaa ask her about that.” 

I said, “What is this? Why are they using me like a dictionary? Why do they do these things?” 

They said, “Because her husband also is a doctor and she has a LOT of knowledge.” 

Ok! That’s my story.

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THE FIRE

ANNE S.

Hi, my name is Anne. I’m telling a story about my days I’ll never, ever forget – always in my head as if it’s just happened. 

I can’t remember my exact age, if I was five or if I was six, but I remember that my sister and her friends were cooking in the backyard, making like an outdoor cook. And you know, you’re little, so you sit down there; I sit down there and they have this rice in the bowl, and I was playing with the rice.

And I remember very well that one of the girl’s sisters, one of the girls, sent her brother to bring kerosene oil to throw to light the fire. But they had a mechanic shop, so instead of he bringing kerosene oil, he bring gasoline! 

So when they pour the gasoline on the wood, and they scratched the match, the fire went haywire and everybody start running! You know I am as little as I was, I just stand up looking. And one of the girls were running and unknowingly she just take her hand and push me back. And I fall right into the fire. And I was sitting there and I’m screaming. I guess I was screaming, I can’t remember, but they said my hands were up in the air and I was screaming. 

And I sit down and the fire was surrounding me, like burning me. And it burned me on my whole left side and on my tummy, almost very close to my navel, almost very close to my belly button. 

Now, one of the guys was having lunch, and when he saw me in there, (saw my hands, he said), and he just take one of these kinds of rice bag we used to have in Guyana, kind of bag. And he grabbed the bag and he jumped into the fire and lift me up and bring me out. And then instead of bringing me out, there was a drum with water. And he put me in the whole drum of water. When I came out, this is what I heard. But I could remember all my pains and aches. 

So then after he pulled me out from the water, they bring me and they start putting flour or whatever they start putting on me. But then people decided to call my dad. 

Well, in Guyana, we didn’t have phones at that time. So the person at the house that I was at, the guy, he was like a father to us, he was my dad’s best friend. So he comes and he said, “No, put her in the car. We’re going to take her to the hospital. She needs to go. We can’t take care of this.” Because my whole left side was all in bumps, like you know when you get burned, how it gets. 

While he was taking me, I guess he think about stopping, because my mom and dad had business in the market. So I guess he tends to think he might as well stop and tell them what’s going on. He did that. So when we got there, when my dad came out of the car to see me, when he see me, he jumped into the car and he told his friend, “Don’t take me to the public hospital.” I remember that word, they’re going to KILL me there: “They’re going to kill her if she goes there.” So the two of them was arguing and he said, “No, I don’t want her to go there.” 

So he had a doctor’s name and he took me to the doctor. And then the doctor, he treated me, and then he come home, because it was such a bad burn. The doctor used to come home every other day. My dad used to have to pay him money so he could come and look after my foot. And he came home, but I was in bed, like more than a year and a half. 

And my feet was all rottening. Every morning, I remember my mom used to spread – at that time in Guyana, you used to get cloth, they were selling cloths, I think, for six or eight yards for a dollar, or how much I don’t remember, but that’s what she said. She said she used to buy the cloth because nobody had old clothes to give her anymore. And she would spread it, and then the next morning when she woke up, she had to pick it up and take it at the back and bury it or something, because my whole foot was rottening, all the flesh were dropping off. That went on for nearly a year, and then after that, she said it started getting a little bit better then. 

After that I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t walk. I used to drag on my bum. And my cousin, she says to me – my mom’s niece, she came over to stay with us – and she says one day she remember, as little as I was, I was dragging on my bum, and I was going next to the house, like the step where you could go out to the platform. And she said I was going there, and she asked me where am I going? And I said, “I’m going to jump there so I could die.” 

And she came and grabbed me. Yeah, she came and grabbed me. 

Then after that, now they take me to all the doctors because I couldn’t walk. And they wanted to take me to Cuba to do surgery, and my dad said, “No surgery. She’s not going to stay in no hospital.” 

So some doctors from America here went down and they did this electrical treatment and this rubbing, and I don’t remember what it was. But anyway, I started walking very limp, but they try, and now I’m walking very good! I’m walking very good now, but there’s a lot of pain in my foot. 

Sometimes when I’m in lots of pain, I say, “God, I had all these pains already that maybe you really bring me on this earth for something that I have to live it through!” 

That’s my piece of story. Thank you. I really had a hard time then. That was the story of my little young days. And I remember that story. I could even remember the clothes that I have on. You might think a four-or-five-year-old would not remember, but that I remember. 

I remember that fire. Like, right now, as I’m talking to you, I can see the fire. 

I think that time they had a cloth named polyester, a shiny slippery cloth, and it had flowers, and I had a new dress on with that and these seersucker underwear panties. Just like how my waist is burned and the panties burning, I have all the marks on me. 

I have lots of scars. I have the whole one side leg, scars on the whole one side, and on the tummy going around, a half an inch from the belly button. 

It is sad, and it’s very emotional. Every time I’m talking about it, I could see myself sitting in that fire, and I could see the clothes I’m wearing. I could imagine my clothes and how I sit down in the fire, like if nothing was going on. 

The guy who pulled me out, he says, “You sit down there like nothing was going on in your life.” But I was so little, I don’t know what you could do! He says all he could see was my little hands raising in the air. 

All of you seem so nice. You always have understanding and love, and everybody has a nice little story. 

God wants me here, so I’m here.

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TONSIL TROUBLE

Rita W.

My name is Rita, and this is my story. When I was seven years old, a knock came on the door. I was living in Newfoundland at the time; my mother was still alive. And a knock came on the door, with a taxi driver saying that he came for Rita, to go to Markland Hospital to have her tonsils out.

It was a law made by the authorities in Newfoundland at the time, and my mother was listening. The law was the law. She said, “Oh I’ll get her ready.” And she got me ready and put me in the car. Seven years old. And I went to Markland Hospital, which was about a two hour drive away, to get my tonsils out.

And the reason that man came for me was because my cousin, in the town, had the same name as me: Rita. And when the driver of the car went to pick her up, she ran upstairs and got under the bed and wouldn’t get out from under the bed and wouldn’t go to the hospital. So the driver, he needed three people in the car – he already had two people – and when the other Rita wouldn’t get in the car, he knew my name was Rita, so he came to my house!

And I was only seven years old, and at the time, you had to be 11 to be taken to the hospital, to have your tonsils out. I don’t know what law made it, but the law was at the time: when you became 11 years old you just automatically had to go and get your tonsils out. And of course everybody there obeyed the law. So that was the reason he came and got me.

And then when I did go and have my tonsils out, it was only supposed to be a one-night stay and then the driver of the car would take you home the next day. But I needed a blood transfusion, and I was kept in for three days. So I had trouble. 

Your parents didn’t go with you to the hospital, no way. I just went with the two other ladies that the driver of the car took. You had to have three people at the hospital at the same time. And the other two were in the car already and then he came for me. I had the same name; that’s why I went to have my tonsils out. You wouldn’t get away with it today, no way, no way.

But I got home after three days and recovered completely, naturally. And the next year they made the law that nobody had to get their tonsils out. They did away with that law. It was no longer mandatory to have your tonsils out. 

And to this day, I’m friendly with the other – my cousin – Rita, and she had trouble all her life! And she had always got mad at me saying, “You shouldn’t have gone in my place. I should have gone.” We always made jokes about it. She had trouble with her tonsils all her life, and I didn’t. But we’re friends, and she’s 94 today. She’s four years older than I am. 

And when I came to this country and when I got married, I had four children. When my first child was born, I said to the doctor, “What about tonsils? What do you do when the child has it?” He said, “You have to be upset with tonsils at least four times a year before they would think about taking the tonsils out.”

They did not automatically take tonsils out. Why they did that in Newfoundland, I don’t know! But in this country I learned right away, and my four children never had to have tonsils out. The pediatrician always said they had to be troubled at least four times before we would think about taking tonsils out. And none of my children ever had to go and have tonsils out.

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