Momma, You Were Born This Way

On this Mother’s Day weekend, I decided to pay homage to my mother … Venita.  My mother is the oldest of three children born to her Italian immigrant parents Vincenzo Torcini and Maria/Mary Landini in 1926.

Vincenzo left her life at 4 years old, shortly after the Great Depression entered. This left her mother faced with the burden of raising her young children alone, without any means to do so. After this abandonment, she suffered from what would most likely be considered a nervous breakdown today.  No welfare, free housing or valium for Mary. 

Years later my mother was told that the apartment they were living in had caught fire and her mother was under the impression that the children perished. That pushed her over the edge and lead her to the breakdown.

Scenarios like this were not uncommon especially amongst immigrant families during the Great Depression. Many of them could not find work to support their families, because they could not speak English. This frustration, piled on top of economic pressures led to abandonment and in some cases suicide.

This tragic set of circumstances left my mother and her siblings in the care of the Catholic Charities in Philadelphia. They were placed in an orphanage, followed by what was called a Shelter. This was emergency lodging that was set up in order accommodate all of the families that had become homeless following the Depression. Some were run privately and were set up to serve cases like that of my mother’s family. These children needed homes until their parents were able to support them again.

My mother and her brother, who were only 14 months apart, were separately placed into homes. Unfortunately, their sister and youngest of the three, died of malnutrition while waiting for placement. The children were taken to several different homes before settling into somewhat permanent residences. My uncle was raised by an Italian family in South Philadelphia, while my mother was raised by an Irish woman in North Philadelphia. To this day my mother refers to her as “the Irish woman who raised me.” She rarely refers to her by name, which was Ellen O’Malley. Ellen was a widow at a very young age, never had children of her own and never re-married. It was her single lifestyle that allowed her to open her home to these children.  Giving children to single that’s a switch. 

Ellen O’Malley a/k/a “Auntie” cared for my mother from the time she was 7 years old until she was 16. There were other children placed during her time with “Auntie,” however they had parents that remained in their lives with weekly visitations. These children were just waiting for their parents to get work to rebuild their lives, but this was not the case for my mom. Her father never did return, and her mother remained at the hospital until her death. This left my mother to just wait, wonder and hope.

Auntie did the best she could to raise her. However, she did not express herself in a maternal manner. This is understandable since the other children had mothers in their lives and she most likely didn’t want to impose.

Mom “Venita” enjoying lunch prepared
by Evan, one of her 8 remarkable

To this day when my mother talks to me about her own mother, I can hear the yearning of unanswered questions in her tone.

At 85 years old she is still left to wonder if her face resembles that of her mother or father. No pictures, no trinkets, no memories of her own and surprisingly…not one ounce of resentment.

What is her secret? How did my mother raise (4) children of her own without ever experiencing the love and nurturing of her own mother?

I have to conclude … Momma, you were born this way.  She is a humble and loving person who gained strength from her hardship that resonates into the enormous love she has for her own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

The reason I chose the title for this Blog is because my mother Venita enjoys Lady Gaga. You heard me…the same day the photo above was taken “Just Dance” came on the radio. My mom asked “Is this Lady Gaga? I saw her on The View in the cutest black and white outfit. If I were young, I would have that dress.” This was followed by “she’s a smart girl.”  I was so grateful she wasn’t referring to the Meat Dress. 

At 85 she is a hip hat wearing, organic eating, interesting, funny, strong Lady Gaga loving Democrat, who enjoys going to the movies, solving crossword puzzles, dropping hilarious one-liners and LOVING her family with all her heart. But most of all … she is my Mom. Enjoy the Ride!

45 responses

  1. You’re lucky to have such a great mom! Mine is also very cool–about the same age and putting younger folks to shame (she’s a party animal). Happy Mother’s Day to yours, mine, and all moms everywhere!

    1. Thank you very much Freddy! It is great having a cool mom isn’t it.

      1. Yes, cool moms rock!

  2. Michelle Gillies | Reply

    Your Mom sounds like a remarkable lady. You are blessed not only to have her, but because you know and appreciate how amazing she is. I often hear people complaining about their Mother and always wonder if they have ever considered some of the things their Mother may have gone through and if they had ever considered what it would be like if they didn’t have them in their lives.
    Thanks for sharing and enjoy Mother’s day.

  3. What a lovely post. Thank you for this. This brought both warmth and tears in my eyes. Every day should always be Mother’s Day 🙂

    1. Thank you for your comment, I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  4. This and the post on women voting are both excellent! What a messed up world it would be without women and moms, if there could be a world. The men would all probably just kill each other. Kudos!

    1. Thank you! Hahaha, too much testosterone in one location is never pretty.

  5. That was a beautiful post, your mother sounds INCREDIBLE 🙂

    1. She is indeed very incredible! Thank you.

  6. Thanks for sharing that incredible story. I was raised by Dad; Mom checked out mentally but that’s another story. I remember being worried that I wouldn’t be able to be a good Mom, not having had one. Turns out, instinct won the day.

    1. I know I’m glad it won! Good for your Tina!

  7. What a cool Mom you have Tops! You are so lucky, and she is so lucky to have survived the difficulties of her childhood to be so clearly a good and well loved mom herself.

  8. Great mother’s day story on one hip mom! You really are lucky.

  9. free penny press | Reply

    Well you had to go and make me cry.. what a beautiful woman your Mother is.. so much hardship and loneliness and yet that “spark” stayed lit..thank you for sharing this and tell you Mom, Lynne from sunny Florida said “Happy Mother’s Day” and the same for you as well.. Oh my I think your Mom is amazing!!!!

  10. What a wonderful tribute!!

  11. What a great essay. I’m all teary. This may be my favorite so far.

  12. You have given “LIFE” to your mother. This in and of itself makes her an unbelievable example for all of us. Amidst all of what she went through, she raised a family as if she had the best role models available to her through her life.

    At this moment I feel incredibly grateful…something I haven’t felt in a while. What a wonderful Mother’s Day gift for all of your readers. A heartfelt thank you! XO

  13. Fantastic article mate, keep the fantastic work, just shared this with ma friendz 869740

  14. Wow! This is a truly wonderful and heartwarming blog post. Kudos! I, like Tina above, was worried about raising kids of my own because I wasn’t raised by a “loving” foster mom and had no role model. Turns out, instinct won in my case too. I hope to be a cool mom like yours. She rocks! You are blessed 🙂

    1. Momma is a Scorp. the Great Depression wasn’t gonna take her down!

      1. Go Momma Scorp! She’s my hero!

  15. Great post…. many amazing moms developed from that era, including mine. They gained strength from their misfortunes and bad luck. We could all take a lesson. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Thanks for stopping by. We are very fortunate to have such wonderful role models, they don’t make them like that anymore!

  16. Reblogged this on Life With The Top Down and commented:

    Here is a repeat to honor my mother. My sisters and I will be celebrating with her tomorrow by seeing The Great Gatsby and enjoying a nice lunch. We are all very fortunate to have the opportunity to once again gather together and celebrate motherhood.

  17. What an amazing mom you have, you are very blessed. I’m always in awe of people who survive such hardships only to thrive later on. My gram went through so much in her life (she lived through the Depression) and she was the happiest person I’ve ever known. She just appreciated everything in life, the simple things, like family and love. Thanks for sharing your mom’s story with us. I loved reading about it (and her love of Lady Gaga!)

    1. Thank you! We are so pampered in comparison to that generation. I always say we would all be rocking in a corner if we had to deal with that level of hardship. She is very hip indeed!

  18. A lovely post and tribute to an awesome woman. I work with many men and women of your mother’s generation and I never cease to be amazed at their resilience. I’m sometimes privy to their stories and I’ve felt silly at times for whining about my relatively easy life.

    1. I know! Older people really put us to shame.

      1. I just hope we’re that cool when we’re older. I also hope there are a few whippersnappers around who appreciate us.

  19. Your wonderful mom needs all her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to pour out the enormous reserves of Love that she couldn’t express as a child! There’s lots more where that came from, I’m sure! xoxoM

  20. Your Mom’s story is so sad, yet so heartening because she came up “good”, with all the right instincts to be a great mother to you and your siblings. You all have reason to celebrate and to honor her on Mother’s Day and every day.

    1. Thank you! It’s amazing how much you appreciate when you become a parent yourself. I called her constantly with my concerns and she had no one to call.

  21. I just had to comment, again… I have often wondered how our parents became “great” parents with no parenting classes, no countless books written on how to raise their children…. I agree with “They were born that way!”

  22. This is a beautiful tribute to your mom. Thanks for sharing, BTG

  23. Oh, Tops, I remember this from last year. It is such an inspiring story. I’m so glad you reblogged it. You should make it an annual tradition!

  24. Lisa, your mother sounds wonderful! Very nice tribute to her.

  25. What a lovely tribute o your mother. She has had such an extraordinary life. What a rich spirit!

  26. You’re lucky to have such a great mother when she didn’t have a role model of her own. She must have been a great person inside.

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